Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Lois Lowry

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

When I saw Franki Sibberson's post this morning regarding The Giver and the publication of The Son, I realized that I had discovered my slice for today.  My slices are often prompted by things I read from other slicers and writers.

What a gift Lois Lowry is to our world!  I remember finishing Number the Stars on an airplane as tears streamed down my face.  I recall reading The Giver as I stood in an interminable line to get something (driver's license? passport?) after our move to Seattle.  I read The Willoughbys with delight and loved that she wove elements from Victorian stories that so many of us grew up with into this book.  One of my favorite books to read aloud is Gossamer.  There's so much in this book about the power of memory.

I read two biographies of Lois Lowry one year in preparation for modeling how to become the subject of your biography for an oral presentation.  Those biographies prompted me to follow her blog and from that time I was hooked!  Her blog was one of the first blogs that I regularly visited in the blogosphere.

Imagine my delight when she visited Seattle in 2008.  Here's are the notes that I kept from her presentation and shared via email with my colleagues.

  • Notes from Lois Lowry presentation – March 15, 2008 
  • Reconciliation – (one of the great themes) requires coming to terms with something that has made you uncomfortable.  
  • When Lois visited with her dad (who had Alzheimer’s?) and had conveniently forgotten his daughter, Helen, who had died – Lois began to think . . . What if (which is what writers always do) everything bad could be taken out of one’s memory?  What if we could manipulate human memory?  This led to her book The Giver.  
  • She put Gooney Bird in 2nd grade because she never went to 2nd grade.  She went to school knowing how to read and skipped 2nd grade.  
  • Lois is very visual, studied photography and the visual aspect always ties in with her writing.  Many of the covers of her books feature photographs that she has taken.  
  • What character would she most want to have lunch with?  The blind character, the seer in Gathering Blue. 
  • Why does she read poetry each day before she writes?  It gives me a feeling each day of the eloquence and lyrical effect of poetry.  
  • Do you believe that there are different expectations for adult literature and literature for young people?  No!  While there are those who believe that all literature for children should be uplifting and happy, I think children’s literature should be honest about reflecting life.  Reading about things that are different is how we practice and rehearse our own lives.  
  • What tips do you have for the wannabe author?  Focus on the writing, how you love language and how words are put together on the page.  The real way to learn the most about writing is by reading! 
  • (interesting side note – she rarely reads children’s literature.) 
  • Why are your books based on secrets?  Lois thought this was a good question and gave it some thought.  All serious books have secrets, something that is unknown that keeps you turning the pages.  Probably all serious literature deals with secrets.  She said I need to think about this some more.  
  • In responding to a question about current culture (I didn’t get the question down), she replied that writers have to pay attention to today’s world and make things move along.  
  • What advice do you have for young people troubled about today’s world?  We can’t flee a society that is repressive.  Educate yourselves and vote for leaders who will serve us well.  
  • What is the main message that you want to send through your writing?  This question made her cringe because she doesn’t like books with a message.  The thing that is most important is the way we as human beings are responsible for each other and are connected to each other.  It is time to stop thinking of ourselves as alone in the world.  

When I reread these notes, it made me glad that I'm a notetaker and a notekeeper. Unfortunately, the clock beckons and I must end this post and get myself to school.  So look for a future post with more notes about her presentation at the National Book Festival.  

I'll close with this quote from a favorite post about teachers on Lois Lowry's blog. 
“Down those treacherous bright streets and the dark paths today’s children travel, they need our companionship, our respect, our outstretched hands.”

Click here to read her entire post about teachers - http://loislowry.typepad.com/lowry_updates/2008/01/teachers.html


  1. Books have such power on our lives. Just your thinking about certain titles brings to back to where you were and what you were doing in your life as you read that book. Thanks for sharing your notes from Lois Lowry. She is amazing!

  2. Should I admit this? I have not read Lois Lowry. Your sharing of her influence on you, as well as your notes on her talk make me think we should get acquainted soon. That is the power of writing.

  3. Thank you for this post. Sharing your love for Lowry's books and sharing your notes widened my world. I have read the Giver, now I am looking forward to reading more of her books and speeches.
    Thank you for your comment on my post. You are welcome to share the slice.

  4. I see a need to expand my reading list. Thank you for sharing your love for this author. I look forward to reading her work. Oh, and thank you for taking the time to share your notes from her presentation.