Hudson Children’s Book Festival author Ellen Jensen Abbott writes about her library experiences:
There are many perks to being a teacher: the excitement and energy of working with youth; spending time reading and discussing great works of literature; spring break. But one of the perks has been central to my growth as a writer. That perk is the special access I get to my school library.
When I had just found the courage to call myself a writer, I knew that one of the most important things I could do to learn my craft was to read as many books as possible, especially in my chosen genre, YA Fantasy. I went to the school librarian who not only told me what books students were reading most avidly, she let me take out bags and bags of books during the summer break when no one else was using them. I had as many books as I wanted for the entire summer with no threats of library fines!
As I got further in writing my first novel, Watersmeet, I was back in the library to do research. It may seem strange to think of fantasy authors needing to do research, but I had to create a world out of my imagination while still keeping it believable. For example, my characters were foragers and practiced natural medicine, but what did I know about edible and medicinal plants? I did my foraging at the grocery store! In my library, I found several Peterson’s guides and learned about the curative properties of yarrow, how to make flour from cattails, and how long to cook elm bark. (The library at my school also has an archive that goes back to the school’s founding in 1799. I have a still-forming idea for a book about a Quaker boy growing up during the Civil War. I can read letters from actual kids from that era in the archive! Now that’s research!)
I even found my first audience in the school library. After watching me spend countless free-periods researching and writing in the library, the librarian got the idea of reading my manuscript to her sixth grade students. They would learn about the writing process and I would get reactions from real readers. After I gave a talk to the students, they even paid me a small honorarium out of library fines! Those students were my very first readers and the feedback they gave me was invaluable as I began to revise.
I still use the library regularly in all these ways, but there is one added call to my library now: I can see my books on the shelves—though I prefer it when they’ve been checked out!
Ellen Jensen Abbott is one of the many authors and illustrators that will be present at the Hudson Children’s Book Festival. She is the author of The Watersmeet Trilogy: Watersmeet, The Centaur’s Daughter, and The Keeper. Visit her website at http://ellenjensenabbott.net/
Meet Ellen at the Hudson Children’s Book Festival on Saturday, May 3rd at the Hudson Junior and Senior High Schools on 235 Harry Howard Avenue. And don’t forget to visit the tables for the Library and the Friends of the Library!