Why I Write What I Write: Love Stories
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written by Amy Hest
My cousin Nancy, who also happens to be my best friend, occasionally accuses me of being hopelessly romantic, and maybe I am. Though, on the surface, I don’t appear to be.
What I appear to be, on the surface, is a moderately friendly New Yorker who does what a lot of other New Yorkers do. (Even the seriously unfriendly ones.). We walk our dogs and stand on long lines for a very New York thing called hot bagels. We complain about the weather. And other things, too. Such as, our upstairs or downstairs neighbors. Sometimes, it must be said, we complain about the upstairs and downstairs neighbors. New Yorkers like me meet up – often before the sun comes up – for extended coffees with old friends and wind up talking about … well, everything. Especially our dogs. Children. And other members of our families. Families! Drama! Families! We shake our heads, sigh our big sighs, pronounce judgments, and pour out our stories. Sometimes we cry in plain sight. Every now and then, we laugh. Reliable storytellers, that’s what we are. Facts blur. Here and there, possibly and exaggeration. No matter. The stories keep coming. Nearby, coffee drinkers give us the look. The one that means you are talking too much … talking too fast … but please … won’t you please speak up so we can hear you!
The stories I write are about the people (and dogs) I know. They are real, and also made up. Everything blends – the real and made-up parts – and they come from the heart. My people. My dogs. My heart. My stories. Forty years of them. Each and every one is in fact a love story. I have written a great deal about dog love. Grandparent love. Parent and friend and teacher love. Along with the love, of course, comes conflict. Lots of it! Because all relationships – even the best of them – are rife with conflict. That is life. And it is that part of life – the ups and downs and many conflicts – that I choose to explore.
In my newest novel, The Summer We Found the Baby, there’s a lot going on: a brother goes off to war. A baby is found. A baby is taken. A dog eats a cake. A library is built. A town gathers on the beach for a painful memorial service. Someone’s tonsils come out. A mysterious car shows up on the beach. A young mother is so scared. Another mother is so scared. A kid drives a car. Sisters argue. Friends argue. A dog runs away. Like I said, a lot going on. Background, all of it. Background for the main event. Because between the lines of everything that actually happens is a love story.
We all have a story to tell. All of us can be writers. You don’t have to dream up exotic plots. You don’t have to invent exotic characters. Just look around. Look at your very own family, for starters. Every single person in your family is someone who could pop up in your story! Now look some more – at the people and pets and neighbors and classmates you know, the shopkeepers and teachers and bus drivers and coaches. Watch carefully. Listen. You will hear and see stories. They are everywhere. Look for the small moments, the conflicts, and of course, the love. Then write, write, write.
So, I suppose my cousin Nancy is right. I am hopelessly romantic.
And in spite of that – or perhaps because of it – the stories I write – 40 years of them – are, each in their own way, love stories.
About Amy Hest
Amy Hest is the author of many beloved books for young readers, including Remembering Mrs. Rossi, Letters to Leo, and the Katie Roberts novels. She is also the author of many picture books, including Kiss Good Night, When Jesse Came Across the Sea, and the Baby Duck books. Her more recent titles include The Summer We Found the Baby, Buster and the Baby, On the Night of the Shooting Star and Are You Sure, Mother Bear? Amy Hest lives in New York City.