Page 25 - WCM 2023 Winter Flip
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 represented in books. She described an assignment from Clifton where she was directed to write a children’s book. “I wrote a bi-lingual picture book, Maria Teresa, and sent it out to a publisher who took it. It started my writing seriously, although I’ve always been a writer since I could hold a pencil. The Boston Globe published my essay.”
These two events bolstered Atkinson’s confidence that writing was a viable endeavor. She’d switched
to novel writing for adults, but a mentor, Mame Medwin, suggested that children’s literature may
be a more organic genre for her. It was this advice that concretized Atkinson’s writing for latency-aged children. “It’s heaven to have this community of writers. It’s one of my favorite things about writing: a group to discuss craft, our favorite books, and support from one another. And then the ‘aha moment’ of finding that I was truly a children’s author. I think
it’s because I’m a child at heart, I can tap into my childhood self and communicate from that place. Marion Dane Bauer wrote a book for children on how to be writers. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. She started a program at Vermont College. It was my dream to go, and I finally did get into the MFA program for Children and Young Adult Fiction
where I wrote Owl Girl. I found a literary agent, but for lots of reasons I got many rejections and was so discouraged. I wanted it to be published, and finally Maine Authors Publishing took it. It’s done well. I think my best book is Tillie Heart and Soul. It got a starred review from Kirkus. And then there’s Mario’s Notebook, which I couldn’t traditionally publish, so
I self-published it.” Atkinson explains that having written a book about a young boy from El Salvador, when she herself cannot trace her heritage to Latin America, creates an issue of cultural appropriation. “The publishing world can be heartbreaking and dispiriting,” she says, “but I’m in love with the process and will always write.”
Writer Natalie Goldberg insists that, “Writers live twice.” Similarly, Isaac Asimov says, “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” I don’t profess to have had the pleasure of breaking bread with a vast group of brilliant writers, but I have immersed myself in the writer’s life, and I can say with confidence: If there
is anything else you do well and enjoy – do that. Writing is hard - it is much harder, in fact, for the writer. I, for one, will remain indebted to those of us who whistle for the mad dog. Y
A children’s writer at heart, Mary Atkinson studied first in Spain, and also hosted a bi-lingual radio show in the United States.
 Shellie Leger

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