I recently discovered the book "Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White" by Melissa Sweet. I started reading the section on the writing of "Charlotte's Web." After White wrote the book, he spent a year rewriting the opening. He tried beginning with Charlotte the spider, Wilbur the pig, Fern's dad, and finally settled on Fern asking her father where he was going with that ax. This really struck me because we all struggle with different parts of our writing, and to see one of my favorites struggle with a part of one of my favorite books made me feel that facing challenges while writing happens to even the best writers.
I planned to write about this book last week for this column, but then E.B. White's former house went up for sale, and I was mentally moving in. Plans change, and I needed to write about the house.
After finishing my piece about E.B. White's house, I returned to "Some Writer!" and kept reading. As I turned the page, I saw the photo of E.B. White swinging on Fern's rope swing in the barn, the one I was mentally picturing my children swinging on just like Fern. I was immediately drawn to the photo and saw the note that it was taken by Jill Krementz on his farm in Maine. I started flipping through the pages and saw more photos taken by Krementz.
Just as I felt there were so many things calling me to the E.B. White house when I heard it was for sale, now I felt even more drawn to it. I grew up riding horses, and when I was about eight, my mom gave me a copy of Jill Krementz's book "A Very Young Rider." The book follows a young girl as she cares for her pony and prepares for competitions. Krementz also wrote similar books about a young dancer and a young gymnast. I remember turning the pages of my copy of "A Very Young Rider" and being so drawn into the book. Yes, because it was about horses, but there was another reason. That book was the first time I saw a story being told with actual photographs not illustrations and those photos were beautiful. It spoke to me in a way no other book had, and at that moment, I knew that someday I needed to somehow tell stories with photos.
I didn't plan to grow up to be a photographer, I don't think I even knew at that time that being a photographer was something I could do. I just wanted photos to tell stories. Often as I'm holding my camera trying to capture my story, I think of Jill Krementz and "A Very Young Rider." I think of how those photos spoke to me and how I hope someday mine speak to others. I do secretly want to write a children's book that combines my photos to tell a story.
This is the amazing thing with children's books. When you give a child a book, you have no idea how they might identify with it. They might find comfort in the pages. They might learn how they want to (or perhaps ways they don't want to) handle different situations. They might find a character with whom they identify. They might see that a character is going through the same thing they are and not feel alone. Or like me, they might find a part of themselves they didn't know existed, a part of them that is inspired to write or take photos or be an illustrator. They might find a whole new world they never imagined.
My mom gave me "A Very Young Rider" because I was a little girl who lived for horses. She thought I would identify with another little girl with horses, but because of that book, I grew up to be a photographer. Thank you Jill Krementz for showing me the power of photographs to tell a story.
Be sure to check out both the Jill Krementz "A Very Young...." books (there are copies in the local library system) and Melissa Sweet's "Some Writer!" I highly recommend both.