Bach’s melodies — to me the most beautiful melodies in music — emerge from a tightly constructed foundation. Some people find them cold because of their perfection. But all fine works of music, dance, painting and literature are born not from vague inspiration but — as I see it in my mind’s eye — from a design as clean and spare as a house frame of New Hampshire birch. Children’s picture books are a short literary form like the sonnet. The soundness of their structure is therefore crucial — more important than in longer and more leisurely forms of writing.
Children’s author Rosemary Wells
The Well-Tempered Children’s Book
Essay published in Worlds of Childhood: The Art and Craft of Writing for Children
edited by William Zinsser
It is as true today as it ever was. He who seeks beauty shall find it.
Photographer Bill Cunningham
Thought-provoking article by David Denby in The New Yorker that tracks how movie censorship in the 1930s led to more creativity on the part of writers and directors:
The “morals” embedded in the [Hays] Code were foolish and hypocritical, yet these semi-inane standards had an extraordinary effect. Producers, directors, and writers were forced to create sex without sex, to produce sexual tension by working around the prohibitions, extending every manner of preliminary to sex. In effect, censorship created plot, and in the process yielded one of the greatest of American film genres: thirties romantic comedy, including the dizzier versions celebrated as screwball comedy. Sex became play—even, at best, a springlike flourishing of fantasy and grace, expressed, most romantically, in the movies of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, in which sex became dance and was transmuted into endless variations on the themes of seduction, submission, revolt, and happiness.
If sexual frankness disappeared, tawdriness went with it, and the old fables of domination were replaced by a new creation: the couple, two people matched in beauty and talent who enjoy each other’s company more than anything else in the world.
The firmament that connects readers and writers is older than the literate world; it goes all the way back to those stories that your relatives and family friends told when you were a child who saw writing as funny-looking chicken scratches on paper better suited for finger painting, when storytelling still had a voice and timbre, love and warning, a warm touch and lots of laughter.
To create anything — whether a short story or a magazine profile or a film or a sitcom — is to believe, if only momentarily, you are capable of magic.
I have always had more dread of a pen, a bottle of ink, and a sheet of paper than of a sword or pistol.
Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. Children are…the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth.
E. B. White
The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.