Friday, April 09, 2021

Mask Fatigue, a Poem for National Poetry Month

Image source: Canva


Mask Fatigue

I'm tired of masks.

Aren't you?

Those closed doors,

those mufflers,

those smile stiflers

that limit connection,

silence talk

and end up strewn about the sidewalk

and parking lot

by people who care not

for cleanliness

or decency,

at least not more than they care 

for themselves

and the way the masks make them feel caged.


I think that's why they cast them aside

without thought for the one

who comes behind them,

clearing carelessness from the ground

one mask at a time,

her weary frown hidden

behind a mask of her own.


© 2021 Rebecca J. Gomez 

Friday, March 26, 2021

12 Things to Love about Laura Sassi's LITTLE EWE

Click the image to purchase!

Little Ewe by Laura Sassi, illustrated by Tommy Doyle, is a charming counting book based on The Parable of the Lost Sheep. There's a lot to love about this little book, and since it's a counting book, I thought I would list 12 things to love about this darling story. 

1. The main character. Little Ewe is a playful, endearing, and just a little bit naughty. 

2. The book's illustrations, which have an old-fashioned feel reminiscent of the illustrations in The Pokey Little Puppy.

3. The end pages. I love the simple sketches of various scenes from the book.

4. The simple, flowing rhyme.

5. The counting!

6. The simple but satisfying story arc. 

7. Many children can relate to Little Ewe, who wants to do her own thing before heeding the shepherd.

8. The long-legged leaping frogs. What is it about frogs in children's books? 


9. The hungry, greedy badgers. I love their little faces as they feast on figs!

10. The delightful spookiness of the owl spread.

12. The moment when the shepherd leaves his flock, and the story takes a hopeful turn.

11. The ending, when the one lost sheep is found again. 


Be sure to look for Little Ewe at your favorite book store or local library! To find out more about Laura Sassi and Little Ewe, as well as her other books, visit her website, Laura Sassi Tales. You can also visit her social media:

Facebook

Twitter 

Instagram

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Whose Stories Are They?


When it comes to writing stories, the most important thing is what connects people, not what sets them apart. 

Stories are everywhere. All a writer has to do is pay attention to the world and stories will make themselves known. Maybe they’ll perch on her shoulder and whisper into her ear. Or force their way into her brain and run about wildly for a while before demanding to be released again. Still others may take over completely, manifesting as furious drafting sessions during which she’ll scribble in a notebook or dictate thoughts into her phone.

Once a writer does that--once a writer gives stories a voice--they are hers.


But not only hers.


The stories belong to themselves and to the people, animals, or experiences that inspire them. They belong to those who will read them and see themselves in their words. They belong also to those who will discover a small part of the world that they had never recognized before. They even belong to those who will criticize them.

Some of these stories may be true. Many of them are merely inspired by truth. Universal truths like how challenging it can be to work as a team, how even the young and small can be brave and strong, how scary the first day of school can be, how friendships can form between two people who don’t seem like they’ll ever get along, how a clever mind can be used to outwit a dangerous foe, and how these same themes can cross cultures and still be universally relatable.


Some people challenge the idea that stories are universal. Their voices are sometimes timid, sometimes friendly and pleading. Other times they are angry and loud. But they all share the same message: There are some stories that a writer should not write because they are not her stories to tell. They aren’t her stories to tell because they’re about people who skin tones and cultures are so drastically different from her own that she couldn’t possibly write a story that is true to their experiences.


Baloney.


When she stops to consider this message and its implications, it makes her shake her head. It contradicts what she’s always believed about stories, about humanity, about how and why stories about someone so different than her can still make her stop and think, “I can relate.”

The message that some stories are not her stories to tell is flawed. It’s flawed because it’s based on the premise that differences in skin tone and culture are too great to overcome. That any shared experiences--such as making a new friend, losing a pet, or being bullied--ultimately don’t matter, at least not when it comes to writing stories. This message seems to reinforce the idea of the “other,” encouraging people to point at their neighbors and say, “You are too different from me.”


The need for more diverse voices in publishing is undeniable, and it’s good that people are working to make room for those voices. It’s exciting to see the increasing number of books featuring characters in a variety of shades, from a variety of backgrounds. Children will benefit from reading more stories about people who are different, but also the same. Those stories will show them that people everywhere have more in common than not. That we all have hopes and fears, friends and foes, family struggles, joys and sorrows.


It’s why a young white girl can be enthralled by Ezra Jack Keats’ A Snowy Day, or a hispanic boy might love David by David Shannon, or a black boy might relate to the girl in Aaron Becker’s Journey. These books, and many others, speak to the universal human experience, especially in childhood. Perhaps not in the specific experiences portrayed in these books, but certainly in the hearts of their stories. 


If readers can relate to characters who are different from them, why should writers be ill-equipped to write about characters who are different from them? Especially when they are writing stories that aren’t specifically related to those differences?


Of course, the best writing is informed and influenced by a writer’s own experiences and worldview, but if that were the limit to what a writer could--or should--write, then the world of books would be duller for it.


Perhaps there are some stories that a given writer would be ill-equipped to write. But those stories aren’t the ones whispering in her ear or running around her brain demanding to be written. Those stories will find their writers.


And then maybe she, as a reader, will discover them and make them her own.