Suzanne Morgan Williams
Many of you know that since 2001 I’ve made several trips to the Canadian Arctic. At first I went to do research, but later the trips were to follow up on friendships and my love for the culture. While I was there, I was able to interview Inuit elders about their experiences, their interaction with “southern” culture (read that the majority culture of Canada and the USA), and their hopes for their children. One man, Mariano Apilaujuk, touched me deeply. He taught me to truly listen, perhaps for the first time, and also this:
“If you have something to learn, listen. If you have something that needs to be shared speak. If you don’t understand something, ask.” That seems simple, but I’d bet, you can think of many, many times when instead of listening to others, we create our rebuttal, or think of our own experiences to share instead of hearing what is being shared. If you follow this advice, you will talk less. But there is a corollary.
“If you are an elder, it is your duty to share what you’ve learned. And not only to share it with those younger than you, but to share it at exactly the right time, and tell them exactly what you believe they need to know.” Many of us are now elders in our writing community, in our families, and in our towns and cities. In light of the recent election in the US, I believe the time is right to share this with you:
For those of us who are, say over 50, it is our duty now, to share our stories. Perhaps younger folks don’t remember what the Ku Klux Klan is. Perhaps they didn’t have friends whose parents survived the holocaust. Perhaps they don’t remember the Civil Rights Movement or the Vietnam years. Do they know what it was like to see a friend sneak away to Mexico for an illegal abortion? Or to have a grandparent to die suddenly, because they didn’t have access to medical care? Perhaps they can’t believe people were denied jobs because they were women, black, brown, or gay? Perhaps they don’t know what our soldiers endured in World War II or Korea or Vietnam to ensure that we can speak our minds freely. Please share these stories, face to face, in e-mails, on the phone – however – to the younger folks you know who might not remember, and who might only believe someone they know and trust. We are elders now and it is our responsibility to pass on these stories. They are real and important.
You are the Regional Teams. You do important work helping others to share their truths. Please remember that the next time you are frustrated at the price of coffee per person at your venue or when the website gives you grief. You are helping authors and illustrators to find their voices, to speak, and children to learn – hopefully to be tolerant, kind, compassionate, and sharing. Peace.
Suzanne Morgan Williams is the author of the middle grade novel Bull Rider and eleven nonfiction books for children. Bull Rider is a Junior Library Guild Selection, is on state award lists in Texas, Nevada, Missouri, Wyoming, and Indiana, and won a Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City. Suzanne’s nonfiction titles include Pinatas and Smiling Skeleton. The Inuit , Made in China, and her latest book, China’s Daughters. Suzanne has presented and taught writing workshops at dozens of schools, professional conferences, and literary events across the US and Canada. Suzanne is RAE from Nevada Region SCBWI and was SCBWI Member of the Year in 2012.
Visit www.suzannemorganwilliams.com and connect with Suzanne.