"My tongue is the pen of a skillful writer."

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dignity in the Details: Graham's Inspired "The Wind in the Willows"

Photo by Adele Annesi
As a former Scholastic editor, I'm interested in classic stories, particularly those with good illustrations. While visiting friends over the Thanksgiving weekend, I saw in their bookshelves the golden anniversary edition of author Kenneth Grahame's 1909 landmark The Wind in the Willows published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1959 with gallery quality illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard, and a lesson on the art and craft of writing in the preface by Frances Clarke Sayers. 

Sayers said this:

Photo by Adele Annesi
"Much of the success of his [Shepard's] mingling of two worlds is due to Kenneth Graham's inspired choice of detail. With a sureness that never transgresses the actuality of either world, he instinctively selects the appropriate object which makes the animal human. When Mole is being traced by Rat, having foolishly gone off to the wild wood on his own, it is not by his paw print that Rat indentifies Mole's trail, but by the imprint of his galoshes!"

Photo by Adele Annesi

The key to detail is select that which doesn't transgress the "actuality of either world." For writers who are blending worlds or genres, look for the appropriate object that identifies one world with the other, in this case shoeprints instead of paw prints.

Tip: What story are you working on that blends two genres or worlds? Consider how you can mingle the two in a way that connects one with the other without abrogating either. Share your results with us.

2 comments:

Connie Keller said...

What a great post! Thanks.

Adele M. Annesi said...

Glad it was helpful!