Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Mollie Hunter

Book Review – Talent is Not Enough

Here is the long-promised review of Mollie Hunter’s book on writing for children.  First let me warn you that this is not a “Christian” book, it is not a book for those who merely want to entertain children, nor is it a how-to book.

But it is an inspiring book. Mollie Hunter has a rare insight into the heart of a child; it is apparent from her book that being a mother was closer to her heart than being a writer. She began by writing stories for her own two children and learned from their reactions how to write words that reach the heart of a child.

She writes about the trend in children’s writing to cover topics that were once taboo. Her conviction is that since some of these topics are part of some children’s experience, it is OK to write about them if it is done with sensitivity. Then she delivers this caution:

“The distinction between the normal and the abnormal – this, to my mind, is where the dividing line should be drawn in themes for children’s writing, with all that lies on the side of the normal classed as suitable, and all on the other side as unsuitable. This, it seems to me, is where the convention of care must operate most strongly – particularly in those tender pre-pubertal years. Otherwise, the law of diminishing returns is immediately activated, and the writer will only succeed in rubbing the young reader’s nose in the dirt of the world before the same child has had the chance to realise that the world itself is a shining star.”

For insights such as this, and her thoughts on the use of language, I would recommend this book to those who aspire to write for children.

A large part of the book is taken up with thoughts on folklore, Scottish folklore in particular but her perspective can be applied to all folklore. She shares historical evidence that fairies and elves were real people, not Disneyesque caricatures with gossamer wings, but real people who were shunted aside in the migrations of peoples into new areas, yet still lived in isolated villages not far from the newcomers. These people may have been somewhat smaller in stature, or maybe not, but the difference in their customs and lifestyle gave rise to the tales that have come down to us. This insight in itself is worth the price of the book.

Talent is Not Enough, Mollie Hunter, © 1975

Learning the craft of writing

The child that was myself was born with a little talent, and I have worked hard, hard, hard to shape it. Yet even this could not have made me a writer, for there is no book can tell anything worth saying unless life itself has first said it to the person who conceived that book. A philosophy has to be hammered out, a mind shaped, a spirit tempered. This is true for all of the craft. It is the basic process which must happen before literature can be created.

Talent is Not Enough, Mollie Hunter on writing for children, © 1976 Mollie Hunter, published by Harper & Row

I’ve always been writing – school assignments, letters, business reports, historical articles. I’ve always aspired to become a serious writer. I’m 73 now, I don’t suppose I have that many years left to attain that level. I’ve belonged to a writing group, attended writers’ conferences, read all kinds of books for writers. When do I stop learning and start doing? The reality is that they are not mutually exclusive, one learns more  by doing than by studying.

I’ve always known what I want to write, but it’s taken me a long time to see how to write in a way that will capture the interest of other people and not be combative or abrasive. I think I am finding my way to do that.  Part of that is what Mollie Hunter describes as hammering our a philosophy, shaping the mind and tempering the spirit.

Still, for the last while I’ve been in kind of a fog, perhaps afraid to step out and take the risk. Or perhaps confused because there are so many things I want to write. I have come to a conclusion now – I want to concentrate on two projects, one a book for children and the other a book that could be classed as Biblical apologetics. You will be seeing parts of that book in this blog in coming weeks and months.

I will do a review of Mollie Hunter’s book in the next few days, too.

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