A book of letters, inspiration, craft and insight

A friend of mine recommended Dear Genius - The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, some time ago, but it was only recently that I had a chance to read it. For anybody writing children's literature, it's a gift.  It's true that much of the content published today is very different to what it was when she was an editor and publisher at Harper & Row (during the 1940s, 50s and 60s) and we now communicate mostly through email, but there remains so much to be gleaned from this book.  


In the introduction to the collection, Marcus writes of a crumpled slip of paper that Nordstrom carried in her purse as a kind of  'professional credo, to be shared with authors and reread to herself' during her most tired and disillusioned moments. On the crumpled slip of paper was advice given to Agnes de Mille, by the legendary choreographer, Martha Graham. It's something I have shared with my critique group and have taped to my own computer today.

Ursula Nordstrom 1969. Photograph by Paul Wilkes

Ursula Nordstrom 1969. Photograph by Paul Wilkes

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.  It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."  

~ As quoted in Dear Genius, from Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham by Agnes de Mille.