Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo?

As you probably know, November is the month that everyone and her sister attempt to complete a novel via a challenge known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month — There are many reasons to applaud this effort, but the pitfalls are many also. This year, I plan to participate in PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month — instead.

I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2009. I even completed my 50,000 words. (Yay, me!) So I know what I’m talking about.  The only goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. No rules on whether there needs to be a plot or whether the end product needs to be coherent. There may be something about not typing the same word 50,000 times, though. This is all on an honor system, so any cheating only hurts the cheater.

PiBoIdMo is about coming up with 30 ideas for picture books. This is the one and only rule for this challenge. Beginnings of a manuscript are a plus, and it would be really great if the ideas were workable. Let me tell you, this is not as easy as it sounds.

Both challenges provide attainable goals. Goals are good. Goals teach us about deadlines, something that warms the hearts of editors and publishers everywhere.

Both challenges provide structure.  Or at least implied structure. There is no way I could meet either challenge without working on it every single day of the month.  And that’s really the point. I need to learn to work on my writing every single day.

But, especially toward the end of NaNo month, I found myself obsessing about the word count and caring less and less about what words I was putting on paper. I started inserting dream sequences. I went back and gave all the characters middle and last names. I sent all the characters on a road trip. Since PiBo is more about ideas and less about production, I’m hoping I can focus more about quality.

So I’m going to do PiBo this year. Wish me luck.

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Banned Books Week

This week, the American Library Association marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week. I was going to say “celebrates,” but it’s too sad to call a celebration.

Beyond the ethical considerations of telling people what they can or cannot read, just think of what would have been lost (and why) if book banning were easy. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was banned by Island Trees, New York School Board in 1976 for being “just plain filthy.” It is widely regarded as Vonnegut’s most influential work and beloved by millions. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, her powerful and revealing autobiography was cited as “deviant” by the Alabama Textbook Committee. Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen, winner of the Caldecott Medal was removed from a Beloit, Wisconsin elementary school in 1985 for displaying nudity. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, a Newbery Medal winner and darn good book, was cited in Lincoln, Nebraska for use of profanity because one character uses “Oh, Lord!” as an expletive. Judy Blume’s Forever… was banned for “profanity, sexual situations, and themes that allegedly encourage disrespectful behavior.” Judy Blume, an author credited with tackling numerous difficult issues and helping kids with those issues, is also one of the most challenged authors in history. Leading the crowd on tackling bullying, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier was challenged in West Hernando, Florida for being “inappropriate.” In 1995, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was challenged in two school districts because it dealt with racial themes. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series, another help for many children dealing with large issues, was cited as “inappropriate.” Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, still in publication after sixty years, has been called a “filthy, filthy book.” The Harry Potter series, which has encouraged literally millions to read was challenged for “witchcraft and sorcery.” Lois Lowry’s dystopian opus, The Giver, another Newbery Medal winner, was called “lewd” and “twisted.” Maybe they need to look up “dystopian.” arry HAnd the list goes on and on.

I admit there are gray areas with book banning. If a book is abusive and/or invasive to a living person, it may not warrant protection. (Think: your right to make a fist ends where my nose begins.) Along the same lines, a volume that is obviously inflammatory in a politically-charged atmosphere is at least irresponsible. Obvious pornography should not be available to children.

But, in general, the dangers of censorship outweigh the benefits. I, for one, can’t imagine the world without any of these books. Might as well ban learning. I’m sure there are those who would endorse this idea.

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