Sincerely, Corey Ann Haydu

Getting Real | January 22, 2021

Dear Reader,

I am writing you this letter in March 2020, which means I am writing this letter on the tenth day of being quarantined at home. It’s a strange time, and a strange time to be thinking about why I write the books I write. But it’s also maybe the perfect time to do that, because the world is both incredibly small and incredibly large in this moment, and what I do know is that the only thing in my day that makes me feel like myself is when I get up in the early morning, before my toddler and husband wake up, to write.

I know there are people who hear about my books, and think—why would a kid want to read something sad? Why would we let them? But the saddest thing to me—the most harmful thing to me—is the impulse to pretend away the difficulties. To try to hide what’s hard. To tell a kid that what feels hard isn’t, that their burgeoning understanding of the world as a sometimes-painful place is wrong.

We live in a moment, right now, today, where it isn’t possible to pretend it away. Even my two-year-old is asking about why the world isn’t the world she knew. “Playground closed?” she asks. Yes. “Gymboree closed?” she asks. Yes. “School closed? Yoga closed? Play café closed?” Yes and yes and yes. The kids, the young readers of the world, live here, with us, in this world. We share it with them. It is awful to keep answering with the truth when the lie is so much sweeter. But we are both here. We are sharing the world. I can’t lie about what is.

When I was a kid, I lived in a beautiful house in a beautiful town. It was, allegedly, perfect. It was so perfect seeming that it inspired me to write my middle grade novel, Eventown. Just like the main character, Elodee, I lived somewhere that looked perfect, with people who seemed perfect, but I didn’t feel perfect. Still, everyone kept telling me how beautiful and perfect things were. So if they were right, if things were beautiful and perfect but I still felt this way—then I must be the imperfect and ugly and wrong thing.

I want my books to be the books that tell a kid that they are not the imperfect thing.

Or, rather, I want my books to tell a kid that they are imperfect in an imperfect world, and that is okay. That the world can feel wrong, but they are still right—so, so, so right—to be here in it. To be living through it the best they can. I want my books, and One Jar of Magic in particular, to say—I know you were promised it would be different than this. Let’s feel the loss of that. Then let’s feel the joy of the possibility of what is to come. And then, really, let’s fight for that. Let’s fight for the hope and joy of it all. Let’s fight hard. And fight together. And be honest about how hard that fight is and how much it matters.

The playground is closed. The world is the world. We can’t pretend the tricky parts of it away. But we can say, clearly, yes, they are here. You are right to have noticed them. And here is how you smile anyway. And here is how you love anyway. And here is how you fight for more anyway. And here is how you hope, always, anyway.

All my love, and all my hope…

 

Sincerely,

Corey Ann Haydu

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