A sparkling look at how children’s book author and poet Atkins (Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon, 2012, etc.) writes and lives.
Atkins’ conceit is a simple but endearing one: a collection of her thoughts for each season of the year, not only about the vexing craft of writing, but also about the events happening in her life. She colorfully captures the solitary existence of the writer, struggling largely against her many self-doubts but also against a changing, inhospitable publishing marketplace. Atkins takes readers through the many fits and starts along the meandering road to the completion of one of her works; she then quickly switches to another book to occupy her mind while the first sits trapped in an agonizing publishing limbo. She artfully sketches her procedure as being akin to carrying a child to term and then hoping the offspring can find a place in the world. Despite also being a college professor (Writing/Simmons College), Atkins keeps the tone of her advice conversational and not at all lecture-ish, making it accessible for wannabe writers and casual readers alike. This isn’t a how-to book; rather, Atkins simply offers up many pointers she has learned during her decadeslong development as a writer. Running along a parallel track is what’s going on in her life as she deals with empty-nest syndrome and her best friend’s dying of cancer, along with the minutiae of quotidian life that can distract any creative person from achieving his or her ultimate goals. She offers lessons she has drawn from nearby flora and fauna, as viewed from her writerly perch at her Massachusetts home or from the locations of several re-energizing trips she takes throughout the book.
Every writer’s situation is unique, and each needs to find his or her own path, but this admirable journey through a veteran author’s process provides instructions that should prove valuable to most.