A few years ago, I gave a talk at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. The presentation was part of the museum's family program to get kids involved in art. I talked about the process of making a picture book and the works of art that have inspired me. At the end, I showed an excerpt from my book Bunny Days. I read the first story in the book about a group of bunnies who get muddied and are helped by a bear to get clean via washing machine. The children seemed to enjoy the story.
There was one woman though who was puzzled. She intended to attend a different lecture, but wound up in my audience. She said "I don't understand. Are you trying to teach kids how to spell? What is the lesson here?" I wasn't quite prepared with an answer. "Well," I said, "there isn't a lesson here. I would say this story is for entertainment, for fun, for joy." The frown still stuck to her face. "For joy? Where's the joy?" I didn't have an answer for her. If someone can't find the joy, you can't find it for them, can you? Perhaps it is a question that a person can only answer for themselves.
The lady's question has stuck with me. I think it's a fantastic question. Where's the joy? When I start writing a story, the possibilities seem endless to the point of intimidation. A story can go in so many ways. My head starts spinning with questions like "What do kids like? What do they want to hear?" And then I remember "Where's the joy?" and it pulls me back on track. I'm back on the path to finding the story that is in my heart; the part of my heart that gives me joy. Only then does my story feel genuine and I feel good about what I am creating. Hopefully, the joy I make for myself can resonate with others, but I can't make any promises. What I can do though, is pass on the lesson that I learned. Occasionally stop yourself and ask "Where's the joy?" I hope you find it.