Happy Birthday, Ellen Wittlinger, born 21 October 1948
- Read everything you can get your hands on, all sorts of different things—fiction, nonfiction, plays, poetry, newspapers, the toothpaste tube. And then, write.
- Striving for perfection leaves you frustrated most of the time. Happiness is doing the best job you can and knowing that it has been well-received by others.
- Once you open yourself up to them, ideas are everywhere—newspaper and magazine articles, in stories my friends tell me, in snippets of conversations I overhear at the mall or the supermarket. When I do school visits I’m especially open to what’s going on around me—you never know where you’ll find an idea that will spark a book.
- If possible, write every day. It doesn’t have to be great. A lot of it won’t even be good, but the exercise of writing keeps your mind limber the same way exercising your body keeps it limber.
- Don’t worry about publishing anything for a long time. You wouldn’t expect to play at Carnegie Hall the first year you took piano lessons–writing is no different. You have to practice a long time before you become proficient.
- You can only lie about who you are for so long without going crazy.
- That’s what I love about writing. Once you get the words down on paper, in print, they start to make sense. It’s like you don’t know what you think until it dribbles from your brain down your arm and into your hand and out through your fingers and shows up on the computer screen, and you read it and realise: That’s really true; I believe that.
Photograph: Ellen Wittlinger