Sunday, July 24, 2022

 Writing for the Magic

There was a time when I thought winning the prestigious Newbery Medal or having one of my books named a New York Times Bestseller would be the absolute pinnacle of writing achievement.   As an aspiring young author, I used to tell myself that even if I never wrote another word, I would be blissfully happy if I could achieve (just!) one of those dreams in my career.

However, over the past twenty years, my thinking has shifted.  After the publication of my seventh book in 2020, I came to the realization that there is something better to set my sights on as an author. Something more real and more enduring.  

I like to call it: writing for the magic.

What do I mean by writing for the magic?   I mean valuing those moments when your writing causes something unexplainable or rare or coincidental…or yes, magical to happen.  

Here's a recent example: just a few days ago, I met a young reader named Amira and her family from Senegal who happened to be visiting my hometown of Akron, Ohio.  The family reached out to me after I did a virtual author visit in Rome, Italy where Amira attends school. We were all strangers to each other until that very moment...until a book brought us together from around the world.  Senegal. Italy. Ohio.  That’s book magic.   

And I’ll never forget the moment during an author visit in Michigan when 400 middle schoolers suddenly stood up, mid-program, and did a surprise dance routine inspired by my Elvis novel “All Shook Up.” The dance was the brainchild of their school custodian and planned on the spur-of-the-moment. That’s book magic.

And I can still recall the spine-tingling moment that happened during the research for my novel “Crooked River” when I suddenly realized that a real historical event and an ancient Ojibway legend matched…exactly. That’s book magic.

No matter what you write, my advice is to watch and wait for the magic. It’s always there.  Hidden among the words you write. Carried by your readers.  It may even fly around the world to find you.