Monday, December 3, 2007

More Cool Introverts in Children's Literature

Hardly anybody ever writes anything nice about introverts. Extroverts rule. This is rather odd when you realise that about nineteen writers out of twenty are introverts. We are being taught to be ashamed of not being 'outgoing'. But a writer's job is ingoing.

For months now we've been running a marvelous quotation from Ursula Le Guin in our sidebar, and we thought it was high time we give this amazing woman her due.

Ursula Le Guin was born in Berkely, California in 1929, and is the daughter of anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber and the writer Theodora Kroeber. Ms. Le Guin recieved her B.A. from Radcliffe and her M.A. from Columbia University. She later studied in France where she met her husband, historian Charles Le Guin.

She has written novels, poetry, children's books, essays, short stories, most often in fantasy and science fiction. Her works explore Taoist, anarchist, feminist, psychological and sociological themes. She has recieved several Hugo and Nebula awards and was awarded the Gandalf Grand Master Award in 1979 and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award in 2003.

Ms. Le Guin has an impressive body of work for children and young adults:
The Catwings Collection 1988-1999
The Western Shore 2004-2007
Very Far Away from Anywhere Else 1976
Leese Webster 1979
The Beginning Place, 1980
Solomon Leviathan's Nine Hundred and Thirty-First Trip Around the World, 1984
Fire and Stone, 1989
Fish Soup, 1992
A Ride on the Red Mare's Back, 1992
Tom Mouse, 2002

On writing process:
Ms. Le Guin's attitude toward creation is of discovering, not controlling, of listening, not forcing. She likens writing to archeology-- "the material, the story is there: it exists. You find it; you mine it out; you carry it up in buckets or in teaspoons, lay it out upon the table, push around the potsherds, ponder where they fit; fragments of gold leaf, bone, corroded flesh, the rim of a cup in buff grey or brilliant green, a knot of hair and faded threads, or on exquisite glass vessel entire . . . There is a story here, but it is up to the writer to make it whole."

"The mindset for writing, for me, is silence of the mind. An unbusyness. A listening. A bit like sitting on a California hillside in the evening hoping the deer will walk by."

On at what point she will share a work in progress:
"When it is done, as far as I can tell. With my husband first. Then my editor."

On whether is is hard for her to get useful, honest critiques:
"No. I am just afraid of them."

In an 2003 interview with Erika Milo, of West by Northwest magazine, she was asked:
"You once said, 'artists are performers-- they want a response.' What is is like to balance the desire for response against being an introvert?"

"Well, sort of fun, actually. The Hermit Crab creeps out of her shell and becomes a Ham for an hour. Then returns to her shell, happily, and slightly enlarged by human contact."

* * * *


R.L. LaFevers said...

Wow Mary, great profile! I love that she shares her work with her husband and then her editor.

And I especially love her last quote "and slightly enlarged by human contact."

Great, great stuff!

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