Maurice Sendak changed children’s literature in 1963 with the publication of Where the Wild Things Are. Mr. Sendak is considered by many to be a genius as both a writer and an illustrator.
As a big fan of Mr. Sendak’s work, I was excited to watch his interview with Stephen Colbert a few weeks ago. (If you’re not offended by PG-13 material, you can watch the interview here and here. Disclaimer: The views expressed in these clips do NOT represent the views of Thinking Through Our Fingers!)
I found that I was both amused and appalled by Mr. Sendak, which was probably his goal. To me, the most shocking part of the interview wasn’t anything about Mr. Sendak’s political views or sexual orientation (both of which are pretty irrelevant) or the nudity from In the Night Kitchen. It was this:
SC: What do you think of the current state of children’s literature?
I think this was so shocking to me partly because it’s the polar opposite of my opinion, and partly because it seems to be the polar opposite of how writers treat each other.
The publishing industry may be highly competitive and cutthroat, but all of my experience with writers (both aspiring and published) has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. The writing community seems to be just that- a community of people who work together and take care of each other.
Writers are constantly critiquing each other, not to tear each other down, but to help each other grow. Writers give blurbs for each other’s books, praising the competition and promoting for them. Writers attend conferences and teach newbies like me how to be better writers, and sometimes mentor them even after the conference is over.
While these are symbiotic relationships (when you give feedback, you get feedback; when you give a blurb, you get your name on someone else’s book), nobody seems to be keeping score to make sure they’re getting their end of the bargain. They just keep on giving.
In the end, Mr. Sendak is still a genius and I am still a nobody. I wish him continued success and a great measure of happiness. And I hope he’ll join the community rather than tear it down, because we could certainly use someone with phenomenal talents like his.