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Tomorrow night our book group will be discussing A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary. It’s the first of her two memoirs and has added appeal for us Oregonians because the book takes place in and around Portland (two hours north of us here in Eugene). When I was growing up, I didn’t read Beverly Cleary’s extremely popular books. Mostly my nose was in Hardy boy books and Mad Magazine at that age. Even so, I’m really enjoying the book and will likely turn next to a couple of her better known children’s books, probably Ramona the Pest and Ribsy (unless you have a better recommendation).

I’m not quite finished with A Girl From Yamhill. But I just came to the place where her teacher had the class line up in alphabetical order as if they were books on a shelf. Beverly laments: After that, I found a place on the shelf where my book would be if I ever wrote a book, which I doubted.

Then four pages later she turns in a composition (she’s twelve) and her teacher reads it aloud to the class and says, “When Beverly grows up, she should write children’s books.” Beverly is, of course, “dumbfounded.” The rest is, as they say, history.

Mrs. Cleary turned 94 recently and I have to wonder if she still writes. This book was written when she was in her late seventies, and the second book some time after that. I’d love to see a third memoir by her.

One reason for blogging about her today is to mention a previous memory of her girlhood writing efforts that’s noteworthy. A writing contest was held wherein the children were to write an essay about any animal. Beverly, Oregonian that she was, chose the Beaver. She entered because her mother had drilled into her that she should always try, even when she doesn’t feel capable of completing the task. She won the contest (only to find out hers was the only entry), and she concludes the memory with this observation:

This incident was one of the most valuable lessons in writing I ever learned. Try! Others will talk about writing but may never get around to trying.

Wow, is that ever true! Some of my most memorable writing efforts were when I tried something that seemed hard, but which I really wanted to do in spite of the obstacles. My present project is that way. It’s a genre I’ve never written before and is about a ten on the risk-o-meter, but if it succeeds, I’ll be a very happy man. Early on I faced some seemingly overwhelming obstacles as I began the project. More than once I really wanted to pull the plug on the whole thing….but I just couldn’t. Sometimes I still feel like pulling the plug….but I just can’t. I’m trying something new and I’m going to see it through until God Himself pulls the plug. In the meantime, I’m learning, having a great deal of fun, and best of all, I really feel like this project IS God’s will and will ultimately be a blessing to many.

The point is, what in your writing career have you been afraid to try? Or did you try something once and got some discouraging reviews? Don’t let that stop you if it’s something you really want to do.

Keep trying! Or, if you’re bored with your present writing, try something new. Fear not!