One of my favorite topics at author conferences–and one of the few things I feel qualified to advise authors on, really–is helping authors understand what their work is about over the span of a career, regardless of trends, audience, or any other externalities. If an author knows what she cares about and what her work adds to the larger, longer conversation, she’ll always have something solid and safe to return to when it’s time for a new book. Margaret Willey is among my favorite examples of an author with a clear vision of her career, and thus I’m so pleased with this The Horn Book review of her Beetle Boy, which, in typical fashion, puts its finger right on the matter:
“Willey crafts a delicate psychological landscape through carefully timed flashbacks, showing how injuries (and small kindnesses) from the past inform future relationships. Relentlessly honest, and also hopeful.”
“How injuries (and small kindnesses) from the past inform future relationships” is something I always find in Margaret’s manuscripts.
It should be noted Horn Book is good at this long-term thematic awareness. Roger Sutton‘s review of Margaret’s previous book with me made reference to her very first YA novel, published in 1983, when I was five. And seven years ago, I bought the rights to Marilyn Sachs’ then-out-of-print The Fat Girl (Dutton, 1986) because Roger mentioned it in a blog post about (I believe) Chris Lynch’s masterpiece Inexcusable. We sold many, many thousands of copies of that “old” book in its new edition (we changed nothing but the cover [and what a cover you made, Lisa Novak]).
All hail historical perspective.