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Helen Oyeyemi: SOL 23

Write. Share. Give. Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers
I've been reading a lot of books by Helen Oyeyemi. I discovered her because I am researching for a    book I'm working on about how gifted children can be developed into talented writers. Helen published her first book in high school. That's a lot of writing and perseverance for a high school student, but the gift is that she keeps publishing stuff and she uses various fairy tale techniques and her writing is damn good. I could close each of her books at the end and open it right back up to get something totally different. In my research, I read a profile of her on NPR. This quote struck me.
Oyeyemi was something of a child literary star, having written her first book at 18 "instead of studying for A-levels." But now that she's almost 30 and on her 5th book, the label is beginning to chafe. "It's getting embarrassing because I'm getting older and older. I'm 29. I just have to brush it off now," she says. "Otherwise it's going to stop me from doing what I want to do. I want to get better. I want to write things. I'm seeing this as a long game — I want to write as many books as I'm allowed to publish."
And was so interested in how she thinks and that she likes the praise but she doesn't want it to detract her from getting her writing done. It gives me pause. It stops me from waiting for gold stars, or more comments, or someone complimenting me on how much I write. It reminds me to see writing as a long game and to get better so that I can write as many books as I'm allowed to publish--or just one, how about at least one?


  1. Here's another author to add to my list--I'd heard of Boy, Snow, Bird, but not the others. Thanks for sharing your reflections on the long game of writing and also on this author and her writing journey.

  2. Your thoughtful reflection on this writer reminds me of a comment you made about comments. Whether or not something we write is good. In the end, those comments/compliments have a double-edge. I believe we need a lot of maturity to process them well.

  3. This writer clearly knows what she wants!

  4. Kimberly - I really want to read a book by her now. I have never heard of her. I completely agree with your reflection. I think we need to always write with an audience in mind, but in the end we write for ourselves. Thank you for allowing us to reflect with you today.

  5. I love the opening quote and your take-away lesson from the interview. Now I need to add her books to my wishlist! Thanks for fueling the inner fire to write; hope publishing is in your near future!

  6. Once again you have added to by reading list. I am in agreement about comments. Recently a comment read "This is the best poem you've ever written." Sounds nice on the surface, but it's also terribly intimidating. Will I ever be able to write another best poem? I think comments that are specific serve me better. Of course, I am not going to throw out any comments. Admittedly they are nice to get.

  7. Helen's quote that you shared is speaking to me this morning. Thanks for sharing your reading life. Wish I had one of her books right now to settle down with on this cold and snowy morning in Colorado.

  8. Enjoyed your slice about this amazing author. I will definitely get books by her to read now.

  9. I like that idea of the long game. And getting better and better at something. Writing really is something that can be so personally satisfying when we know something feels right. That is maybe the best comment - our gut feeling. But then again, I have been surprised when something I am kind of "iffy" over gets praise. We just don't know how things might impact us or others.

  10. Another book to add to my list, Kimberley - she sounds like a thoughtful writer.

  11. I heard an interview with her on NPR on Monday. I didn't realize she had written other books. Thanks for the insight.

  12. We need to rest on the wings of those we admire in order to eventually be able to fly in our own right. Mentors and muses are critical to our growth as writers. The search for writers one admires and trusts goes on. There in lies the notion of the long game. That way we never enter into a teaching situation entirely alone. We are able to bring our heroes with us. How comforting is that?

  13. So good..."I want to get better. I want to write things. I'm seeing this as a long game — I want to write as many books as I'm allowed to publish." Thank you for sharing about this author.


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