A number of times each year I’m asked why I stopped writing children’s books. After all, I was launched with two enormously successful ones,” Edgar Allan” and “Lisa, Bright and Dark.” Both were New York Times’ Book Review Books of the Year.
The answers are not secret. As I grew older, I also grew further and further away from my own childhood, and my memories of it. Although I am firmly of the opinion that most young people today go through exactly what we did so many years before, which is why grown-ups write children’s books…their memories of the events and tribulations of childhood are vivid enough to organize into stories…what has changed so dramatically is the landscape in which today’s American children grow. The fact that it has taken me this long even to imagine writing a blog indicates that what to today’s kids are commonplace enough tasks and events, to people my age these are rareties and faced with trepidation.
Another reason for “abandoning” children’s literature is that as I matured, I was less interested in children and naturally more interested in people (and characters) of my own generation.
I told the last person who asked the question (which was yesterday, at the post office) that if I found an idea I couldn’t forget, one that grabbed at my mind as well as my heart and that I couldn’t shake, I certainly would write another children’s book.
I had a wonderful career in publishing in New York years ago and wouldn’t change that for anything. And I’m still having it, as part of a community in which not only do I keep writing new material, but I also get to take part in local events, edit other writers’ works, act as a publishing consultant, and teach what I want to very receptive classes. Recent topics have been a History of the Booker Prize books; Evelyn Waugh; Kingsley Amis; John Cheever; John Updike; a history of trade publishing; and currently the life and works of Graham Greene. Which is to say, I’m busy and content. But if you read “Treadwell,” you’ll find part of my fascination with people who are not young today, who face more difficult and often final problems. Many of these continue to fall in love, feel ever more strongly and positive about their lives and their companions, and who are devoted to becoming, in their family’s eyes, the best person they can be.
To me, this is as much a struggle as learning to share, to read, to think, to act kindly.