Posted by WVSS Librarian Lindsay Ward
West Vancouver Memorial Librarian Shannon Ozirny was buzzing as she introduced this year’s Booktopia speaker, Jacqueline Woodson, to West Vancouver Secondary students. It wasn't long before everyone in attendance shared her enthusiasm.
Woodson has written 31 books and won just about every award you can win in children’s literature. Her most recent book, Brown Girl Dreaming, is the story of her life growing up as a “brown girl” in New York and the American south. The book also details her genesis as a writer and the teachers and stories that influenced her as a child.
Woodson gave powerful recitations from a number of her books and talked about her process as a writer. Woodson says she learned to write by reading which is of course what every teacher librarian wants to hear! As a child, Woodson was influenced by reading Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant” because she said it was the first book that she read that didn’t have a happy ending. For Woodson, “as long as there is hope somewhere in the story, it doesn’t have to have a happy ending.” Surprisingly she says she doesn’t plan or outline a book, she just starts writing and sees where it goes. The trade-off of this is that she sometimes has 20 or 30 edits!
Naturally curious, Woodson says she writes because she has questions – not answers. She also believes that literature can be a powerful way to introduce complex or controversial issues because “once you read it in a book it is less foreign in real life.”
Her advice to student writers; “write it down before it leaves your brain.” She also advised students to stick with their writing when it all falls apart because that moment is inevitable for all writers.
The WVSS Library has copies of : Brown Girl Dreaming, If you Come Softly, Locomotion, Miracle’s Boys, From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun, Feathers, and Beneath a Meth Moon.