Michael's Musings

Teacher Tuesday #6: Ms. Paterson

(Teacher Tuesday is a weekly feature in which I recognize someone who contributed to my education as a writer and human being.)

I’m in the midst of a crazy-busy week, but I refuse to skip out on today’s post. Today I wish to recognize another one of my author-teachers: the magnificent Ms. Katherine Paterson.

Newbery-winning author, Katherine Paterson

The lessons I’ve learned from Ms. Paterson’s work are many. To pluck one example from the pack, by reading Jacob I Have Loved, I gained a newfound empathy for my younger brother and sister when that book made me consider what it might be like for them to follow my lead through life. (Sorry, guys, for not reading this until I was in my mid-teens!)

But there is one Katherine Paterson book that I hold above the rest in the arc of my personal development. That MVP of a book is Bridge to Terabithia.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherina Paterson

Bridge taught me an invaluable writing lesson:

Never cheat your story, even if it’s breaking your heart.

As we write our characters, we fall a little bit in love with them. (At least I do.) As their shepherd, I don’t want to my characters come to harm. I don’t want to put myself through their pain. But stories often call for pain, and it’s a writer’s duty to answer that call. Even if it hurts, soul-deep, to do so.

The final quarter of Bridge to Terabithia is one of the most wrenching endings that I remember reading as a kid. It’s literally making me teary-eyed just to remember it as I’m typing. But, this book also gives me the fortitude to commit to the stories I’m telling, come what may. And for that, I must share my gratitude.

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