Weekend Edition – Too Old, Stealing Ideas + Great Reads and Writing Tips

You’re too old for that.

pin lengleI was in the children’s room of my beloved library earlier this week and was horrified to hear a mom tell her son to put a particular book back because he was “too old” for it. She said, “That’s too easy for you.” I actually winced.

I’m sure this mom was very well-meaning. I’m sure she just wanted to encourage her son to try something a little more challenging. But, you are never – NEVER – too old for any book. I’ve shared it before, but I’m going to share again the wonderful quote from the fabulous Madeleine L’Engle, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

I am, by chronological reckoning, a full-fledged adult, but I will never, ever stop reading so-called children’s books. Some of my most profound reading experiences have sprung from the pages of middle grade, young adult, and even picture books. Adult readers are, as a group, less able to suspend disbelief than children. We have more specific expectations and are often unable to enjoy a story if it doesn’t fit neatly into the assumptions we have about such things.

Authors who write for children, have a greater challenge and a more diverse palette. Children will not stick around for a story that is less than mesmerizing. They will not abide characters or storylines that boring or predictable. Though they are willing to believe all kinds of crazy things, they will abandon a book if it doesn’t make sense within the context of its own world. In short, children are much harsher critics than adults who can easily be swayed by beautiful prose, public opinion, or author celebrity.

I will never tell my daughter that any book is “too easy” for her, and I hope with all my heart that she never considers herself too old to enjoy the magic of the stories that have captured her youthful imagination.


What I’m Writing:

steal artistThis week I did manage to do a little bit of noodling on ideas for a fiction project. Instead of doing a freewrite, as I have been attempting to practice for a few minutes each day, I used my allotted time to jot down some notes about a story idea that had been rattling around in my head. I am giving the idea some time to ferment before I decide if I’ll pursue it further, but it is still buzzing in my brain a bit (which is a good sign).

As I scribbled in my notebook, I was struck by all the different things that had come together in my head to form this seed of an idea:

  • The team structure and dynamics of the Robin Hood-esque band of “bad guys” turned good on the TV show Leverage
  • The three-woman point-of-vie structure of my latest book club read, Finding Colin Firth
  • The tone and “feel” of the movie Practical Magic (one of my favorites), based on the book by Alice Hoffman
  • A series of characters and plot ideas plucked from two different story ideas that I’ve been circling around for the past few years
  • A recent and rather serendipitous meeting with two local friends and the unexpected conversation that ensued

My point is that each story you create is made up of a mash-up of your thoughts and beliefs, experiences, and all the other stories you’ve ever heard.

As artists, as writers, we often get mistakenly caught up in the notion that we must create something “original.” This is folly. There is nothing original. Every story has already been told thousands upon thousands of times. The best you can hope for is to find a new way – your way – to tell an old story.

I listened to a great podcast this week all about the idea of repurposing different things in “mash-ups” of your own creation. James Altucher interviewed writer and artist Austin Kleon about his books, Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work. On the episode, How to Be a Creative Genius (also available on iTunes or via Stitcher), these two talked about what it means to be creative, how to find your inspiration, and the importance of sharing your work … every day.

I have not yet read Kleon’s books, but they are now on my list to check out. Lots of food for thought in there. Lots.

What I’m Reading:

healthy smoothieI have something a little different to share this week, a sort of a cook book called The Healthy Smoothie Bible. Here is the review I posted to Amazon and Good Reads:

When I first became interested in juicing and healthy smoothies, it was Farnoosh Brock who inspired me to take the plunge and give it a go. Because of her deep knowledge and unbridled enthusiasm, I gained the confidence to start my journey into what was then a strange, new land. Through her online community, I learned so much and got tons of support. Today, I enjoy healthy smoothies four or five times a week and it has changed my life. 

The Healthy Smoothie Bible is perfect for both newbies and seasoned experts. Farnoosh has done a wonderful job of compiling not only an impressive collection of tasty recipes (including some from her community), but also includes some great “behind-the scenes” information that you need to really “get” healthy smoothies. From the different types of machines to the wide variety of ingredients and their properties, this book covers it all. She even shares specific brand names for particular ingredients so you don’t have to worry about being confused by all the options on the market.

This aptly named “bible,” includes sections on the lifestyle benefits of healthy smoothies; how to select, prepare, and store your ingredients; which tools you’ll need in your kitchen to make smoothie prep a snap; and which smoothie recipes are best for different kinds of needs (from detox to meal replacements to a quick fix – there’s a helpful “smart recipe tag” page that lets you quickly find just what you’re looking for). And after all that, there’s still room for 108 fabulous recipes! 

Before I integrated healthy, green smoothies into my diet, I had a variety of health issues that had gone undiagnosed for years. From general discomfort to a couple of incidents that landed me in the emergency room with a morphine drip, these pesky issues had become an unpleasantly persistent part of my world. With Farnoosh’s support and guidance, I successfully brought green smoothies into my diet and am delighted to say that all those health concerns have vanished. Instead of having to resort to a long-term “diet” of over-the-counter meds, I am able to “treat” myself (both in terms of my health and my happiness) to natural, fresh food that makes me feel good. 

I gave this book 5 stars not just because I’m a fan of Farnoosh and her dedication to helping people live healthier, happier lives, but also because it really is an all-in-one resource for anyone interested in learning how to make the best, most delicious, healthiest smoothies. Whether you’re just starting out or have been at it for a while and want some new flavors and recipes to try, this book will be a great addition to your kitchen library.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin by the light of stories

I hope that you always embrace the stories you love without guilt or shame or fear of ridicule. And, I hope that you always WRITE the stories you love, because those are the stories the world needs. 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

47 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Too Old, Stealing Ideas + Great Reads and Writing Tips

  1. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    A very interesting blog which covers a number of interesting areas for writers and readers alike. This post about age discrimination when reaching for that book on the shelf – I was pinching my father’s Harold Robbins at age 11 and read War and Peace – I still popped into The Famous Five and modelled myself on the tomboy George – since my second name was Georgina. I don’t think it did me too much harm but I did know a great deal more about Hollywood than I should have at age 12!

  2. I agree how we’re never too old for any book we might want to read. I still enjoy children books, even the ones with more illustrations than texts, and I also enjoy children movies or TV shows. As long as I like the story and its execution, I can enjoy something meant for kids or for grown ups. It’s the beauty of the diversity of stories we have access too.

    Good luck with your new fiction project! I like the idea of mash up a lot and we definitely draw inspirations from many places!

    I’m drooling over that smoothie book!

    Thank you for the links! 🙂

    I’ve been able to dab back into further writing over the past ten days, including two upcoming guest blog posts elsewhere, notes for an upcoming blog series, and started to draft a book proposal. Still slow due to lingering burnout but feeling better and a bit more productive again!

    Have a great weekend!

    • Oh, happy day for a productive groove. That’s wonderful.
      Thanks for the well wishes on my project. It’s slow going, but a girl has to pay the bills, too.

      (PS – Definitely check out Farnoosh’s smoothie book if you can – fabulous stuff. Just had a smoothie a moment ago and I feel great!)

  3. Thanks for the diverse post. I really like Kleon & appreciate hearing about this podcast. Will check it out. I also am a big fan if children’s books. I reread my daughter’s books. She is 30 now, but her pop up book, Dinner with Fox, by Stephen Wyllie continues to delight me.

    • “Dinner with Fox” – the title alone has won me over. 🙂

      I hope you like the podcast – there was, I think, a lot of inspiring information in it. I’ll definitely be tuning in again.

  4. I (secretly) read Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart in my mid-20’s & never mentioned it to anyone for fear of ridicule…until I sat next to a lady during a plane ride who was voraciously reading it herself; she was prepping for her middle school class. We both decided that children’s stories are anything but juvenile or boring. Thanks, Jamie. 🙂

    • Love those books!
      I am never ashamed to be reading a “juvenile” book. I think they are some of the most creative and imaginative stories available today. For people who are a little embarrassed to be smitten by, say Harry Potter, the Kindle and other ereaders can be a boon – no one needs to know what you’re reading. 😉

  5. Oh, yes, if a story is a great story, it’s great at any age 🙂

    I’ve also been meaning to read Steal Like An Artist for a while now. I think, if I remember right, he’s an artist that creates blackout poetry. That’s where you take and existing text, like a news article, an blackout everything but a select set of words, finding a poem hidden in the existing text. I’ve read those poems and they’re great.

    • He is! I’d never heard of that particular art form, but it’s pretty fascinating. What a unique way to create art.

      • Indeed. I’ve done some blackout (or erasure) poetry myself and you really start thinking about how words are assembled in a different way than you normally would. The restrictive nature of the erasure poetry is kind of liberating.

      • I’ve often heard it said that restrictions and boundaries can actually set creativity free. Pretty interesting approach. TKS for sharing!

  6. Great post Jamie 🙂 I agree with you that most if not all creative work involves a measure of repurposing and ‘mash-up’ (it happens all the time in music for example). I actually wrote about ‘mimicry and appropriation in art’ on my blog earlier this week. I’m a huge fan of Austin Kleon and own a copy of his Show Your Work which I credit for giving me the ‘push’ I needed to share my fiction/poetry.

    • “Mimicry and appropriation” – sounds like something you could be indicted for. 😉
      Thanks for sharing your opinion of “Show Your Work.” Now I am even more intrigued to check it out.

  7. Great post – in all its parts. I would agree that we’re never too old for any book. And while I’ve encouraged my kids to pick out more challenging books, that’s just what I tell them. “We’re going to be in the car for 3 hours. Maybe you want a book that will keep your attention longer.” I subscribe to the “3 Bears Rule” my fabulous mother-in-law (who taught Reading Recovery for 40 years!) told me: 1/3 of what kids read should be below their ability level, 1/3 at, and 1/3 above. So too easy, too hard, and just right. In this way they experience so many different aspects of reading – from the joy of sliding through lyrical prose and gazing at pictures, to the challenge of struggling with new vocabulary.

    • I love the 3 Bears approach. That’s brilliant. I think I do that with my daughter, but without being all that intentional about it. We just bounce back and forth between so-called “age appropriate” books and the picture books we both adore and then some YA that is just beyond where she’s at by chronological age. Seems to work just fine for her. 🙂

  8. Reblogged this on quirkybooks and commented:
    Hi everyone

    I got back in the early hours of this morning from London, having been to The Business Show at the ExCeL centre, for two days. I heard from some super authors that have had their books published by Wiley, who publishes the Dummies series.

    I read this post and felt compelled to share it with you. This is a fantastic post about not being ashamed to read whatever books you like and creating originality out of stories that have been written before, using your own ” mash up”.

    Look out for my interview with Author Ian Kane, coming soon to this blog. His new book is called “Rising Storm” and is part of his “Fading Empires” series. You are going to love his book, love his answers and love him.

    Wrtite soon

    • Sandra, Thanks so much for reblogging and for your comment. Your love of the Mr Men and Little Miss books made me smile. Anything that makes you relaxed and chilled is a Good Thing. 🙂

      • Thanks. I will always love those books. Part of my bedroom looks like a kids bedroom and other parts look like a business. That is reflective of my personality, what I like to do, read and write. I enjoy writing how-to business type books and kids picture books. I have a serious and fun/kid side to my personality. I love being quirky. It suits me. Thank you for creating an awesome post.

      • I think you’re office and mine may share some characteristics. 😉
        Love the quirky. That’s what makes life fun!

    • Exactly. Many of the simplest things actually require the most sophisticated skills to accomplish.

    • That’s a wonderful example and really makes sense given L’Engle’s comment in the quote I shared.

  9. I agree. I heard someone say on a podcast that people who read YA are people who have just never grown past that developmental phase in their life. I gasped in shock. I too, will never be too old to pick up a childrens book. Never.

  10. The quote about writing for children makes me think of some classic children’s books like The Secret Garden and the Anne of Green Gables Series. They were written for children / adolescents, but really, there is so much depth for adults. And even books for very young children sometimes have a profound message. Sometimes I think you have to be an adult to really appreciate the wisdom or even the humor of children’s books. A lot of the best parts go right over the heads of the young readers! Loved your post! ~ Sheila

    • Definitely! I think that way about well done “kids'” movies, too. The Pixar movies are particularly adept at combining something for the kids with something for the grown ups – Toy Story and Finding Nemo, etc.

      • I haven’t yet seen “Frozen,” but I’m dying to. Maybe this weekend … 🙂

  11. Ooops, I have to admit I’ve said to my (lazy) younger son at the library: ‘No, that book is too easy for you!’ because he insists on borrowing books that are way below his reading ability (he is actually a very fluent reader but wants very short books). So now we have a deal: he has to borrow one ‘proper’ reading book for every pile of comic books and shorter, unchallenging ones.

    • When a child is just being lazy, encouragement to branch out is totally appropriate. I just hated to hear a child be discouraged from reading a book he clearly loved. Mixing it up is great, though. That’s how to have the best of all worlds!

  12. Pingback: Blogging + Links: Feminism, Science Fiction, Fandom, Writing, Social Media | Natacha Guyot

  13. Love this, especially “You’re too old for that.” Some of the most influential books I have are children’s books because I associate them with my childhood–the nights spent reading them with my dad over and over again. I’m proud to say I will NEVER grow too old for “I Love Me” and the “Berenstain Bears” series. Thanks for the post 🙂

    • I think it’s so true that the books we read as children sort of “imprint” themselves on us and stay with us our whole lives. I still play out scenes in my mind from books I read as a child. Those stories become part of our personal history – pretty powerful stuff.

  14. Lovely post, Jaime! I hope that kid is sneaking the books he wants from the school library or under his bed. : ) Especially love the various inspirations or “seeds” you are noodling around for a possibly project–sounds good already! Best!

    • Thanks, Jenna!
      I hope he’s getting the books he wants, too. And thanks for the thumbs up on my project ideas. I’m enjoying the process.

  15. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Your Writing Matters plus Good Reads and Writing Tips | Live to Write - Write to Live

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