Who would ever choose to be a writer? Combine hours of sitting with the sweaty conviction that one is really a fraud in disguise, soon to be found out. I won”t even mention the role that chocolate chip cookies and cups of sweet tea play in helping me get started writing. But then — there is the magical moment when words begin to pour out onto the page — words which surprise and confound even me. I am as interested in seeing what happens to my characters as any reader; that is why I tell kids that writers write for the same reason readers read — to find out the end of the story.
Writing is also a way of taking past experiences, both painful and joyful, and transforming them on the page. Learning to Swim starts with a summer where I felt quenched and violated, but encasing that time in rhythms and images made the memories take on a cadence and a beauty, so that they became a gift instead of a tragedy.
In The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow, part of the “Dear America” series, I took my childhood bravery and stubbornness and put that at the core of the Navajo girl, Sarah Nita. It helped me to identify with her survival and to write about her courageous journey and that of her people.
In Love Thy Neighbor, also in the “Dear America” series, I write about a Tory girl and her family who live in a small New England village. The prejudice shown them and their gradual isolation and flight to Boston, come from my own experience of being different in a small rural village. Prudence (who is never prudent) does make new friends and a new life for herself.
Hard Hit, a YA collection of poems, explores the country of grief and survival. Mark, a 16 year-old boy and skilled pitcher, must confront the coming death of his beloved father with the help of his friends, family, baseball, and an idiosyncratic belief in God. I used my own experience of my parents” deaths to inform this journey.
I continue to wish that writing were easier, that it would flow out completely perfect, with no need for revisions. Writing, for me, is more like an aerobic sport: I must wrestle my way through pages, punching out unnecessary words, tackling self-important paragraphs, until I arrive at the end—thirsty, hungry, but hopeful that my words will speak to others, that they will set bells chiming in their heads, and remind them that courage, resourcefulness, and friendships will help us to survive. If I can do this with beautiful words and authentic characters, then I am lucky indeed.
Ann Turner began her writing career as a poet and has subsequently published more than thirty-five critically acclaimed books for young readers, ranging in age from kindergarten through High School. She was born in Northampton, Massachusetts and grew up in Williamsburg, a small, rural town nearby, where she currently lives with her husband and two teenagers. She graduated from Bates College in Maine and studied abroad during her junior year in Oxford, England, also studying at the University of Massachusetts, where she received an M.A.T. in 1968. She taught High School English for one year but decided that she would rather write books than teach them, depending on all the wonderful teachers to help put her books into the hands of children and teenagers.