Tag Archives: author advice

How to deal with negative criticism, the Maurice Sendak way

Came across a link today to a terrific interview with the late, great Maurice Sendak. Authors and illustrators often wonder what the best way is to deal with negative criticism of their books, so I thought I’d share Mr. Sendak’s first-rate advice:

Interviewer: What kinds of things do children write to you about?

Maurice Sendak: Usually it’s awful, because they don’t feel the urge to write themselves—a few of them do, but usually it’s “Dear Mr. Sendak, Mrs. Markowitz said would you please send a free book and two drawings?” When they write on their own, they’re ferocious. After Outside Over There, which is my favorite book of mine, a little girl wrote to me from Canada: “I like all of your books, why did you write this book, this is the first book I hate. I hate the babies in this book, why are they naked, I hope you die soon. Cordially…” Her mother added a note: “I wondered if I should even mail this to you—I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” I was so elated. It was so natural and spontaneous. The mother said, “You should know I am pregnant and she has been fiercely opposed to it.” Well, she didn’t want competition, and the whole book was about a girl who’s fighting against having to look after her baby sister.

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Writing a Life: How to Write a Biography for Children

guest bloggerAlan Schroeder photoIn this guest post we welcome Alan Schroeder, author of In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage and Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage to discuss what it takes to write a biography for children.

Writing someone’s biography can be a tricky business. First—and this is important—you’ve got to be enthusiastic about the person you’re writing about. Otherwise, it won’t work. Readers will know that on some level you’re not engaged and they won’t enjoy reading the book any more than you enjoyed writing it. I was asked once to write a biography of the Three Stooges. I said no, because I’ve never found their humor to be funny. Sure, I could get the facts right, but that’s not enough. You have to have passion.

Image from BABY FLO
A snapshot of Florence Mills and her dad in ‘Baby Flo’

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