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Katherine Paterson

  • Sometimes it seemed to him that his life was delicate as a dandelion. One little puff from any direction, and it was blown to bits.

  • It's like the smarter you are, the more things can scare you.

  • But to fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.

  • Crazy people who are judged to be harmless are allowed an enormous amount of freedom ordinary people are denied.

  • ... the reason God made February short a few days was because he knew that by the time people came to the end of it they would die if they had to stand one more blasted day.

  • February is just plain malicious. It knows your defenses are down.

  • Punch after punch after punch. February is a mean bully. Nothing could be worse — except August.

  • Youth is a mortal wound.

  • I cannot, will not, withhold from my young readers the harsh realities of human hunger and suffering and loss, but neither will I neglect to plant that stubborn seed of hope that has enabled our race to outlast wars and famines and the destruction of death.

  • It might have happened sooner had I had a room of my own and fewer children, but somehow I doubt it. For as I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time and space are those who have given me something to say.

  • ... a work that intends to be art must first be entertaining.

  • The gift of creative reading, like all natural gifts, must be nourished or it will atrophy. And you nourish it, in much the same way you nourish the gift of writing — you read, think, talk, look, listen, hate, fear, love, weep — and bring all of your life like a sieve to what you read. That which is not worthy of your gift will quickly pass through, but the gold remains.

  • We humans have had from time unknown the compulsion to name things and thus to be able to deal with them. The name we give to something shapes our attitude toward it. And in ancient thought the name itself has power, so that to know someone's name is to have a certain power over him. And in some societies, as you know, there was a public name and a real or secret name, which would not be revealed to others.

  • Because we name, we name ourselves, and we can think of ourselves as separate creatures, apart from nature. We can, therefore, using our vision and our power to create language, develop science and art. But in this process of naming, of being able to take apart nature, to study it, to communicate about it, in the very process that becomes our glory lies an insoluble paradox. And that is this: nature is intricately and infinitely connected. The minute I name something and begin to regard it as a separate entity, I break this unbreakable unity. So that which makes it possible for us to seek truths about the universe and about ourselves has within itself the guarantee that we will never be able to find the Truth. Our knowledge must be forever fragmented, because that is the nature of systematic knowledge.

  • Once a book is published, it no longer belongs to me. My creative task is done. The work now belongs to the creative mind of my readers. I had my turn to make of it what I would, now it is their turn.

  • A great novel is a kind of conversion experience. We come away from it changed.

  • A friend of mine who writes history books said to me that he thought that the two creatures most to be pitied were the spider and the novelist — their lives hanging by a thread spun out of their own guts. But in some ways I think writers of fiction are the creatures most to be envied, because who else besides the spider is allowed to take that fragile thread and weave it into a pattern? What a gift of grace to be able to take the chaos from within and from it to create some semblance of order.

  • When people ask me what qualifies me to be a writer for children, I say I was once a child. But I was not only a child, I was, better still, a weird little kid, and though I would never choose to give my own children this particular preparation for life, there are few things, apparently, more helpful to a writer than having once been a weird little kid.

  • He [an earnest young reporter] seemed to share the view of many intelligent, well-educated, well-meaning people that, while adult literature may aim to be art, the object of children's books is to whip the little rascals into shape.

  • Thus, in a real sense, I am constantly writing autobiography, but I have to turn it into fiction in order to give it credibility.

  • The work reveals the creator — and as our universe in its vastness, its orderliness, its exquisite detail, tells us something of the One who made it, so a work of fiction, for better or worse, will reveal the writer.

  • The difference between writing a story and simply relating past events is that a story, in order to be acceptable, must have shape and meaning. It is the old idea that art is the bringing of order out of chaos ...

  • One thing living in Japan did for me was to make me feel that what is left out of a work of art is as important as, if not more important than, what is put in.

  • I'm growing more and more to believe that our fundamental task as human beings is to seek out connections — to exercise our imaginations. It follows, then, that the basic task of education is the care and feeding of the imagination. We used to know this. Indeed, the earliest form of education was the telling of stories. But nowadays stories have been relegated to the realm of the frivolous. Education has chosen to emphasize decoding and computation rather than the cultivation of the imagination. We like, you see, what we can manage. We can decide what year we're going to teach which fact, function, or word, and we can give a child a multiple-choice test at the end to see if he has got it. We want our mathematics and our mythology strictly compartmentalized, for we know instinctively that the imagination is a wild, hardly tamable commodity. There is no way to measure it objectively, so anything in the curriculum that has to do with the growth of the inner life of a child we tend to classify as a frill and either shove it to the periphery or eliminate it from the curriculum altogether.

  • This is what art is all about. It is weaving fabric from the feathers you have plucked from your own breast. But no one must ever see the process — only the finished bolt of goods. They must never suspect that that crimson thread running through the pattern is blood.

  • Peace is not won by those who fiercely guard their differences but by those who with open minds and hearts seek out connections.

  • ... a novel is not born of a single idea. The stories I've tried to write from one idea, no matter how terrific an idea, have sputtered out and died by chapter three. For me, novels have invariably come from a complex of ideas that in the beginning seemed to bear no relation to each other, but in the unconscious began mysteriously to merge and grow. Ideas for a novel are like the strong guy lines of a spider web. Without them the silken web cannot be spun.

    • Katherine Paterson,
    • in The Writer ()
  • Some folks are natural born kickers. They can always find a way to turn disaster into butter.

    • Katherine Paterson,
    • Lyddie
    • ()
  • ... it was the kind of laughter that caught like briars in her chest and felt very much like pain.

    • Katherine Paterson,
    • Lyddie
    • ()
  • Nothing smelled so good or danced so well as a birch fire.

    • Katherine Paterson,
    • Lyddie
    • ()
  • Peace is not a phenomenon of nature; it is a human concept. And it is not mere tranquility. I would suggest that the concept of peace has at least three elements. There can be no wholeness, no peace, where freedom is denied; true peace guarantees persons the freedom to grow — physically, intellectually, imaginatively, and spiritually. The second necessary element of peace is harmony — a harmony that is not the absence of conflicting themes or the elimination of differences, but the absolute incorporation of the voice of each individual into the whole. And as Martin Luther King, Jr., has said, peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice.

    • Katherine Paterson,
    • in The Horn Book ()
  • It seems to me that there are two great enemies of peace — fear and selfishness.

    • Katherine Paterson,
    • in The Horn Book ()
  • The wonderful thing about books is that they allow us to enter imaginatively into someone else's life. And when we do that, we learn to sympathize with other people. But the real surprise is that we also learn truths about ourselves, about our own lives, that somehow we hadn't been able to see before.

    • Katherine Paterson,
    • in The Horn Book ()
  • Hope ... is not a feeling; it is something you do.

    • Katherine Paterson,
    • in Horn Book ()
  • A good story is alive, ever changing and growing as it meets each listener or reader in a spirited and unique encounter, while the moralistic tale is not only dead on arrival, it's already been embalmed. It's safer that way. When a lively story goes dancing out to meet the imagination of a child, the teller loses control over meaning. The child gets to decide what the story means.

    • Katherine Paterson,
    • "Family Values," in The New Advocate ()
  • The thing I have learned through the years is that one idea 'doth' not a novel make. A novel must be several seemingly unrelated ideas that somehow magically come together to create the fabric of the story.

    • Katherine Paterson
  • You don't have to fight dragons to write books. You just have to live deeply the life you've been given.

    • Katherine Paterson
  • I am called to listen to the sound of my own heart — to write the story within myself that demands to be told at that particular point in my life. And if I do this faithfully, clothing that idea in the flesh of human experience and setting it in a true place, the sound from my heart will resound in the reader's heart.

    • Katherine Paterson
  • A library is a feast to which we are all invited.

    • Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson, U.S. children's writer, twice a Newbery winner


Full name: Katherine Womeldorf Paterson.