Why I Write

Why I Write

My friend and colleague asked me a simple question: Why do you write? I paused—for a lonnnnng time. The easy answer was, “It’s my job. Also, writing makes me happy.” But that only touched the surface. Sometimes, writing makes me very unhappy because I can’t seem to put into words—the right words—what I’m really trying to say. Writing helps me feel a mix of joy, frustration, anger, delight, sadness, and gratitude. Underneath all that, writing fuels a sense of connection.

My maternal grandmother was a published poet. Not a famous one but a dedicated one. I never got to know her as well as I would have liked because she lived far away and she died when I was young. From the 1930s to the 1970s, she was writing about the natural world, wartime, love, and motherhood. Knowing, as a child, that she was a writer opened a door in my heart. I liked to think that a love of the written word was encoded in my DNA. Her poetry has forged a link between us that lasts.

My grandmother Glenda Greve, with baby Janice (my mom), 1944
My grandmother Glenda Greve, with baby Janice (my mom), 1944

For many years now, I’ve written nonfiction for children, primarily books that help kids understand their feelings and learn how to build social-and-emotional (SEL) skills. But why? I think the main reason is because when I was young, I felt my emotions so deeply but never wanted to show them. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry; I didn’t want people to know I was lonely; I didn’t feel allowed to show anger; I didn’t want to ask for help. For me, this started very young: that hiding. It was like a not-fun game of pretend. When I became a mom, I promised myself that I would make room for all of my children’s emotions. I wanted them to know that having intense up-and-down feelings was a normal part of life. And not to hide it! Writing for children seemed like a natural extension of what I was doing at home. I’m lucky to connect with kids and families around the world through my SEL books.

I love helping kids. I love writing for them too. I read children’s picture books, middle-grade fiction, and young-adult fiction all the time. Kids are my people! They’re who I think about each day and who I love spending time with. Put me at the kids’ table, and I’m happy. My own two kids are grown now: one is a children’s librarian and the other wants to perhaps become a teacher someday. Maybe I did something right when I was constantly shoving children’s books into their hands and saying, “You’ve gotta read this.” Because read this can lead to feel this—a good story takes you on an emotional journey. Joy. Frustration. Anger. Delight. Sadness. Gratitude. All those feelings, because of words on a page. It still amazes me!

So, back to where we started, why do I write? I write to remember. I write to teach. I write to feel. I write to help. I write to come out of hiding. I write to connect. I write because what master storyteller E. B. White once penned to a reader of Charlotte’s Web is the whole truth:

“All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” No one could say it better than that.

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