Tagged Ursula K. Le Guin

This one goes up to eleven.

China Miéville said this about Joan Aiken: “If that kind of writing hits you at the right time when you’re a child, the impact is like nothing else ever. Maybe it’s pure ego, but there’s something incredibly intoxicating about the idea of trying to do that.” *

This is true. Writing for kids is as intoxicating as it is wildly ambitious. It’s like shooting the moon in a card game, or deciding to land on the moon as a career choice. It’s the same kind of mad ambition that kids themselves have when they expect to become astronauts.

My agent Joe Monti once asked me the age of my inner child, and I said “Probably eleven.” Ten is double-digits, and therefore huge and important. Twelve is a number of great folkloric significance. Eleven is stuck in between, unsure, just figuring things out—but still ambitious enough to want to be an astronaut. And I have never loved books more than I did then.

When I was eleven I read Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of EarthseaLe Guin recently blogged about my first novel, Goblin Secrets. She said “I wish I could have read it when I was eleven.”

Maybe it’s pure ego to mention this, to jump up and down shouting that Ursula K. Le Guin approves of my book. Probably. I have, um, mentioned it on Twitter a couple of times (and also announced it in public places while running around in circles, arms flailing like a happy muppet). But there’s something else here, something I find overwhelming and intoxicating. She said eleven. She wished she had read my book at exactly the same age that I first read hers.

I usually devote this blog to earlier bedtime stories, but right now I want everyone to remember the books they read at eleven. Some of you will immediately think of Aiken and Le Guin. Now go pick up a copy of Wolves, or Earthsea, or whatever it was, and give that book to a kid of your acquaintance.

The impact will be like nothing else ever.

 

 

* The Miéville quote is from a Locus interview, but I got it by way of Amy Butler Greenfield’s Enchanted Inkpot post about The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

 

Ursula K. Le Guin

As I’ve written elsewhere, one of the very wisest voices in contemporary literature is Ursula K. Le Guin. Her fiction (and poetry, and essays) have shaped and reshaped my sense of story. She recently read my novel Goblin Secrets, and this is what she had to say about it:

It was hard to stop reading Goblin Secrets, and I didn’t want the book to end! The author’s imagination is both huge and original, taking us to a truly new place, rich with  lively, vivid scenes, fascinating people, and marvelous inventions. He doesn’t explain things, yet everything is clear. And he tells his fast-paced story in language that’s a pleasure in itself — subtle, tricky, funny, beautiful.  More, please, Will Alexander! 

-Ursula K. Le Guin

You know the happy dance that muppets do, with little muppet arms flailing? I’ll be doing that for the next several hours…

***

I don’t yet have a bedtime story memory from Le Guin, but on the topic of early influences she credits Lord Dunsany’s Dreamer’s Tales for showing her the way to her native country. Go find “A Citizen of Mondath” in The Language of the Night if you want to know more–and I know that you do.