Roger Sutton mentioned the next issue of The Horn Book Magazine at his blog, which was my cue to get going and finally read the September/October issue.
In a Horn Book article called Stars, Roger begins, "On a financial impact-per-inch basis, starred reviews are probably the most valuable product of The Horn Book Magazine." I'm sure that's true. In fact, I wonder how many people read the magazine only for the reviews. That would be too bad, because the articles are so...involving. Horn Book articles make readers feel involved in the kidlit world. Their authors write about things we've thought about ourselves (though not so eloquently, of course) and make us feel a part of what's going on. Or they write about things we've never given a thought to but will from now on, thus changing us.
Sometimes, I actually prefer the articles to the reviews.
In this issue Richard Peck wrote an article called What Makes A Good...Beginning? In it he said something that addressed a theory I've been kicking around, that perhaps writers read differently than other people.
Peck talks about spending an hour a week in a bookshop copying out first lines from other people's books. His current favorite comes from Feed by M.T. Anderson (who really needs his own website, imho). Peck says of this line "I'm not even jealous. It's not my kind of writing, so I can admire it with a pure heart, how its jaded, conversational tone pulls the young reader in."
I totally understand what he's talking about. I think writers sometimes read on two levels--there's the sucked-into-this-world-and-this-experience level that everyone reads on and the how-did-they-do-that? level that someone who knows there's a wizard behind the curtain reads on. I think that writers may be both involved and removed at the same time.
If you've ever known and spent time with an engineer, you've witnessed something similar. We see a dam and go "Oh. Big thing! Look at all that water!" They go "Oh. Big thing! Look at all that water!" and then want to talk about the spillway's capacity. They are experiencing what they're seeing on two levels.
Peck also describes a first-line workshop he did at a college youth writing festival. I both admired the workshop he put together and felt for him in dealing with those kids, having worked a similiar event a few times myself. I also liked the way he walked away from that experience with something he could use in his work.
Correction: Richard Peck's article was actually called In the Beginning. It answered the question, "What makes a good...beginning?"