Besides the closet, there were two other safe places in my young life: our neighborhood library and my grandmother's garden. You wouldn't think that the two have much in common, but they do.
Both a library and a garden are silent places, and I needed silence. From my earliest memory, there's been a committee of voices, my muses, carrying on serious, and sometimes silly, conversations in my head, so going to the library and daydreaming over a book was sheer bliss. And in my grandmother's garden—actually, gardens—I could dig in the earth or cut a bouquet or simply lie down between the rows and listen to the silence.
Remembering those long afternoons spent looking up at the sky makes me think of another common vein running through the library and the garden. There is an order in each one—the systematic shelves of catalogued books, the regular rows of named vegetables and flowers—that calms me, reassures me. The chaos in my head, that ongoing conversation, is allowed to run its course without interruption.
I carried a diary with me everywhere, even at a very young age, and, daydreaming in one of my safe places, I would write down my thoughts. They would read like gibberish today, but those early scribbles were the first tentative breaths of the writer's life I was to lead.
And that statement takes me to hope, the third quality that the library and the gardens had in common for me as a girl. If you have ever finished a book and said to yourself, "I can do that," or "I want to grow up and be just like that person," then you understand my excitement, returning an armful of books to the library, anxious to check out more. And anyone who has ever planted seeds and watched them grow knows what I mean about the hope in gardens.
And to this very day the library and the garden remain my favorite places. I have five gardens and an orchard in which I work, almost daily, from early May until the first frost. Then much of the late fall and winter is spent in my library, daydreaming and reading and writing, on the second floor of our home. Like a small animal in hibernation, I make a warm nest in the old wing chair with my grandmother's quilt and the lamp and my beloved books. It is paradise.
Sarah Stewart's Rules for Aspiring Writers
• Study Latin
• Read the great poetry written in your native language.
• Find a quiet place and go there every day.
• If there's no quiet place where you live, find that within you for a few minutes each day.
• Put your ambition into writing, never into making money.
grew up in Texas and studied Latin and philosophy at an unfortunate
number of colleges and universities. She has held the position of
teacher, speechwriter, and ombudsman, among other, less notable, jobs.
All of her books have been illustrated by David Small (her husband) and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. They include: The Money Tree, The Library, The Gardener (a Caldecott Honor Book), The Journey (2001), The Friend (2004), and the upcoming The Quiet Place. Sarah and David have many more collaborations planned. She has reviewed children's books for The New York Times, has edited copy for The Texas Observer, and occasionally has a poem published in an obscure journal. In November 2007 Sarah received the Michigan Author's Award, the state's highest honor that the librarian's association may grant to an author.
Sarah Stewart and David Small, share their historic home on a bend of the St. Joseph River in Michigan with a cat named Mabel, who happens to be in charge. The children, Ginny, Mark, and L.D., flew out of the nest some time ago.
Sarah Stewart is represented by Holly McGhee.