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I read the last page, close the book, feel a silly, delighted smile as I stare into the middle distance. Great middle grade fiction does that to me again and again and I find myself: astonished that a child can become fused to a fourth dimensional being (Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker); charmed when a blob of ink pops off the page and becomes sentient (Inkling by Kenneth Oppel); and gobsmacked by a knife that can cut windows between worlds (The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman).

That lovely suspension of disbelief gets harder as we age. Perhaps it’s because, as Antoine de Saint-Exupery says in Wind, Sand and Stars, “the clay of which you were shaped has dried and hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.” Reading and writing for middle grade awakens in me that sleeping creative that is still struggling to emerge and allows me to revisit my certainties and question my assumptions.

It takes courage as an adult to be as open as a child, to set aside our adult sense of what is real, and to be open to the possibility that there might be more. That we don’t have all the answers. I think Saint-Exupery was describing the adult desire for certainty that prevents us from asking the right questions and truly listening for the response. My hope is that in writing for children, my clay will soften and my words, and myself, will become more than I am. More of what I wish to be. That’s what I find when I read children’s books and that’s why I write them.

Each time I start a story, I push through the curtain of adulthood and reach back to a place of uncertainty and curiosity. When I do—when I finally let go of the confines of adult reasoning and logic—I’m rewarded with the shock of recognition that something impossible is not only plausible, but necessary and right.

Wishing you many opportunities to be gobsmacked by a book, by a person or by something beautiful in the world around you.

Lately, I’ve had this lump in the pit of my stomach. It's a feeling, not an actual lump. It appears when I hear about an author who has finished revising her manuscript for her editor. And I feel it when another author posts pictures of book readings and I see all the eager children in attendance. And it always hovers when I sit down to write.

At first I thought it was jealousy. After all, I want to do what they do. But if it's jealousy, how am I still able to root for these authors who are putting their words into the world? No, it’s not jealousy. Then I thought it was fear. Was I afraid to write my story or stand before a crowd? I've stood, sweaty, heart racing, and read in many workshops now. No, not fear.

Finally, I sat down with the lump and we had a little talk. I’ve been working for three years now to get my words into the world, to write my story and to stand before a crowd. So, what’s up, lump? Why are you here?

The lump cleared its throat and whispered, "I am neither jealousy nor fear." It leaned in closer and sighed.

I waited.

It grew bigger.

Still, I waited.

Finally, I heard it in my heart: ‘I… am longing.’

Oh, yes. That’s it. You are longing and I know you.

I nodded along with the lump. We had an understanding now. I would accept it for what it was.

It’s still there, but at least now I know what to call it.

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