Write A Little Everyday, You'll Have A Book

Mar 13, 2013
Originally published on March 14, 2013 11:51 am

Katherine Paterson is the beloved author of many young adult novels, including Jacob Have I Loved, The Great Gilly Hopkins and Bridge to Terabithia.

The American Library Association recently honored her with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her "substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children."

Paterson, who has been writing for a half-century, tells NPR's Michel Martin that despite all the awards she has received throughout the years, this one means a lot.

"I should say, don't give it to me, I already have too much. But when they called to say that I was being given the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, I must say I was thrilled. And I didn't say, 'Take it back!' " says Paterson.

Paterson's most recent book is The Flint Heart, published in 2011, which she adapted from Eden Phillpotts' 1910 fantasy tale. A friend told her about Phillpotts' story, and with the help of her husband, she decided to bring it to today's readers.

The book was a departure from her usual style. Paterson's previous themes have portrayed children struggling with jealousy, anger and death.

Some critics have said Paterson's books tackle topics too serious for kids. "I think if a book has the power to move a reader, it also has the power to offend a reader. And you want your books to have power, so you just have to take what comes with that," she tells Martin.

Paterson says it's mostly adults who complain. She seldom gets letters from irate children, unless she has killed off a cherished character, says Paterson.

Martin asks Paterson how she has been able to remain so close to what it feels like to be young.

"I just feel that I carry that child around with me all the time, that she's still alive and well inside of me, and I try to listen carefully to her voice," says Paterson.

"The best thing about being a writer is it gives you readers who understand your deepest feelings and fears," she adds.

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And now is time for the occasional feature we call In Your Ear. That's where our guests tell us about some of the songs that are on their personal playlists. Today we hear from a Grammy-winning singer Angelique Kidjo. She's considered one of the continent's greatest living divas. Her music is known around the world for its rhythm and message. She says music is her outlet for both creativity and activism. Kidjo stopped by our studios during her last concert tour to talk about her life and music, and she also shared the songs that have inspired her over the years.

ANGELIQUE KIDJO: Hi, this is Angelique Kidjo and right now this is what is playing in my ear.


SHIRLEY CAESAR: (Singing) It might be the devil, it may be the Lord. You're gonna have to serve somebody. Serve somebody.

KIDJO: "You're Gonna Have to Serve Somebody" from Shirley Caesar is a song written by Bob Dylan. It means that whatever we do, we all have to serve somebody. It doesn't matter how powerful we are, how much money we have, what skin color we have, we have to serve somebody. We have to serve a purpose whatever we do.


CAESAR: (Singing) And since God gave me another name, I know I can walk again. You're gonna have to serve somebody...

KIDJO: And the other song I've been listening to is from Frank Ocean called "Bad Religion."


FRANK OCEAN: (Singing) If it brings me to my knees, it's a bad religion.

KIDJO: It's very interesting, his way of approaching love for religion. And if religion's love brings you to your knees and you are in the position of not being empowered but being subdued, then it's bad. Anything that you do in a way that brings you not to achieve your potential is something that is not good for you and not good for anybody in this society, basically.


OCEAN: (Singing) To me it's nothing but a one-man cult and cyanide in my Styrofoam cup. I could never make him love me. Never make him love me. No. No. Oh. It's a, it's a bad religion to be in love with someone who could never love you. Oh, only bad, only bad religion could have me feeling the way I do.


KIDJO: And also songs that I've been listening to lately are from Ali Farka Toure because he has been gone for a while now. It's an album of reminiscence for me because I have the chance to have him actually home for dinner one or two months before he passed away. And for me it's really in this hard time, he's the one that I look up to.


KIDJO: And, of course, Miriam Makeba is always something that I listen to on a regular basis.


KIDJO: She has been my role model. I learned through her how to harmonize and how you can use your voice as a powerful tool to talk about things that are universal that touch everybody. I have "Pata Pata" in mind because it's a song that everybody knows, everybody sings to touch each other. And for me in this era of communication, we don't speak to each other much. The technology is a very good invention, but does it bring us more together or does it push us far away from each other?


MIRIAM MAKEBA: Hoo, every Friday and Saturday night, it's Pata Pata time.

MARTIN: That was Angelique Kidjo telling us what's playing in her ear. To hear our previous conversation with her, please go to the Program page of NPR.org and select TELL ME MORE. And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.