Aaron’s Kidwriting Page | Aaron’s Home Page
Search | New | Contact | Subscribe

Kidwriting Quotes
Choice Sayings on Writing Children’s Books and Publishing Them

Compiled by Aaron Shepard


For more resources, visit Aaron Shepard’s Kidwriting Page at
www.aaronshep.com/kidwriter

Copyright © 1997-2011 Aaron Shepard. May be freely copied and shared for any noncommercial purpose as long as no text is altered or omitted.


“The time has come for writers to become inaccessible again. The reason is not some kind of ‘mystique’ that makes people curious (though it helps), but the fact that no real writers ever lay down anything real in public—they work in solitude, they think hard, and their thoughts are rarely nice or ‘friendly.’”

—Andrei Codrescu, Publishers Weekly, Jan. 31, 2011

* * *

“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact it’s the other way around.”

—Terry Pratchett

* * *

“Writing, for me, is a little like wood carving. You find the lump of tree (the big central theme that gets you started), and you start cutting the shape that you think you want it to be. But you find, if you do it right, that the wood has a grain of its own (characters develop and present new insights, concentrated thinking about the story opens new avenues). If you’re sensible, you work with the grain and, if you come across a knot hole, you incorporate that into the design. This is not the same as ‘making it up as you go along’; it’s a very careful process of control.”

—Terry Pratchett, in back matter for A Hat Full of Sky

* * *

“The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars.”

—David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear

* * *

“Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors than piracy.”

—Tim O’Reilly

* * *

“When critics say a writer is beginning to come into his own, they mean he has finally discovered the single theme which bulks largest in his intellect, his imagination, and his emotions.”

—Robi Macauley and George Lanning, Technique in Fiction

* * *

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that, just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him out to the public.”

—Winston Churchill

* * *

“Words are like harpoons. Once they go in, they are very hard to pull out.”

—Fred Hoyle

* * *

“You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grownups, you write it for children.”

—Madeleine L’Engle

* * *

“I’m not writing to make anyone’s children feel safe.”

—J. K. Rowling

* * *

“It is as easy to dream up a book as it is hard to write one.”

—Balzac

* * *

“Quantity produces quality. If you write only a few things, you’re doomed.”

—Ray Bradbury

* * *

“It does not seem to me that I have the right to foist a story on people, most of whom are children who should be learning all the time, unless I am learning from it too.”

—Diana Wynne Jones

* * *

“You have to understand, my dears, that the shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story.”

—Anthony de Mello, One Minute Wisdom

* * *

“I don’t want to write for adults. I want to write for readers who can perform miracles. Only children perform miracles when they read.”

—Astrid Lindgren

* * *

“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”

—Ursula K. LeGuin

* * *

“The tale is often wiser than the teller.”

—Susan Fletcher, Shadow Spinner

* * *

“In our time, when the literature for adults is deteriorating, good books for children are the only hope, the only refuge.”

—Isaac Bashevis Singer

* * *

“‘Thou shalt not’ is soon forgotten, but ‘Once upon a time’ lasts forever.”

—Philip Pullman, 1996 Carnegie Medal acceptance speech

* * *

“Words should be weighed, not counted.”

—Jewish folk saying

* * *

“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”

—Barry Lopez, Crow and Weasel

* * *

“If a book comes from the heart, it will contrive to reach other hearts.”

—Thomas Carlyle

* * *

“Story is the vehicle we use to make sense of our lives in a world that often defies logic.”

—Jim Trelease

* * *

“Of course it’s true, but it may not have happened.”

—Patricia Polacco’s grandmother

* * *

“People who don’t have stories in their cultures go nuts.”

—Rafe Martin

* * *

“To hunt for symbols in a fairy tale is absolutely fatal.”

—W. H. Auden

* * *

“Woo the muse of the odd.”

—Lafcadio Hearn

* * *

“In every generation, children’s books mirror the society from which they arise; children always get the books their parents deserve.”

—Leonard S. Marcus

* * *

“Adults are only obsolete children.”

—Dr. Seuss

* * *

“I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours and a fixed salary and very little original thinking to do. The life of a writer is absolute hell compared with the life of a businessman. A person is a fool to become a writer.”

—Roald Dahl

* * *

“As I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time are those who have given me something to say.”

—Katherine Paterson

* * *

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

—Arthur C. Clarke

* * *

“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”

—Linus Pauling

* * *

“To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.”

—A. Felson

* * *

“Art is the most intense mode of individualism the world has ever known.”

—Oscar Wilde

* * *

“You see, I was one of those people who do not believe in enchantments. And because of that, I must suffer to be enchanted myself, and to be chained and push this millstone around.”

—Richard Kennedy, as the Chained Lady, “Crazy in Love”

* * *

“Catering to the bored as if they were intellectual invalids only produces a lower and lower threshold of boredom.”

—Marilyn Gardner

* * *

“That’s the trouble with you sad-city types: a place has to be miserable and dull as ditchwater before you believe it’s real.”

—Salman Rushdie, as Blabbermouth, Haroun and the Sea of Stories

* * *

“It’s a fair-sized job to write a book that people can be bothered just to read; when they begin to steal copies, you are really getting some place.”

—Ruth Stout

* * *

“It makes your mind pop.”

—Laura Simms

* * *

“Telling the proper stories is as if you were approaching the throne of Heaven in a fiery chariot.”

—Baal Shem Tov, as quoted by Steve Sanfield

* * *

“God made man because he loves stories.”

—Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlev, as quoted by Steve Sanfield

* * *

“The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.”

—Harold Goddard, The Meaning of Shakespeare

* * *

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

—G. K. Chesterton

* * *

“Australian Aborigines say that the big stories—the stories worth telling and retelling, the ones in which you may find the meaning of your life—are forever stalking the right teller, sniffing and tracking like predators hunting their prey in the bush.”

—Robert Moss, Dreamgates

* * *

“I’m sure there are writers who are great businessmen, but I never met any.”

—Arthur Miller