I have to admit, I’ve never understood it when fans go nuts over a posthumous release of a song or book. Yes, its nice to have one more piece of work to experience. I get that. But what’s the fuss?
Then Monday a book cover on Twitter caught my eye. When I saw that the author is Pat McKissack I almost fumbled clicking through to read the Horn Book review.
Unlike many people who write for children, I didn’t come into this through teaching or working as a librarian. My BA is in anthropology, my MA in history. I earned my second degree because I wanted to learn to research so that I could be a better writer. But I didn’t study writing in college.
Between degrees, I got married. I worked days. My husband worked nights. When I spotted a continuing ed class taught by Pat McKissack on writing for children it seemed like a pretty good idea. I had no idea who she was or that she was a name in the field. Yes, I was that green.
I started writing for children in this class and I haven’t stopped. Recently I found one of my stories and reread it. Oh, no. Really? I showed that to Pat McKissack?
It was, simply put, dreadful.
Pat looked past what I had managed to get down. She looked for what the story could be. And she encouraged us all to read, to stretch, and to keep writing. Our work was so different but I always remembered what she taught me. Even when you write from life, you have to change it to make a good story. Then you’ll have to change it some more because your editor will spot the places where you didn’t communicate clearly or something you said might mislead the reader. If Pat needed an editor to make her work sing, it seemed only logical that I too would have to make changes.
When she died in April 2017, we hadn’t been in touch for some time. But I remember thinking, no more books. There will be no more books.
Then I saw this one.
And now? Now I get it.