While driving and listening as I do to Canada’s CBC radio broadcast, I recently heard Roch Carrier being interviewed about the 30th anniversary of his classic children’s story, The Hockey Sweater.
Mr. Carrier was asked to tell how the story came to be and he explained that he’d been offered the opportunity to write a CBC radio piece regarding how he identified as a Francophone Canadian. He accepted, but was attuned to creating fiction and ended up struggling with this assignment. He called CBC and told them he couldn’t do it—the words he’d written felt dull and uninspired. The programmer protested that a half hour had been scheduled for his work and at this late hour (two days from deadline) they simply needed anything he wanted to write.
Fine, okay, but what? He had a weekend to come up with a new piece of work and he’d been focussed only on considering what being French Canadian meant to him. And then, in the midst of the interview, he said something spectacular. He said that as he’d worked on unearthing facts for the assignment, “I had been walking in the field of my identity …of that time.”
In all the years I’ve been writing Young Adult fiction, I have not heard anyone express so simply and eloquently exactly what it is that we YA and children’s book authors do when we conjure the emotional places we tap into to create our work. And there it was. “Walking in the field of my identity.”
The interview went on and the only bit I recall from the rest was that The Hockey Sweater came to him swiftly, like a gift, plucked from his recollections of childhood.
A lovely gift indeed, as are these new words I marvel over. They continue to resonate, to make me ponder how frequently we walk in that field of identity, drifting back and forth, sometimes stepping on thistles or cow pies, sometimes lying down in the tall grass to watch clouds afloat, to listen for cricket songs, to blow dandelion seed to the wind. Some of those seeds travel far.
Mr. Carrier. My gratitude for your words.
~ K. L. Denman
A lovely film adaptation of The Hockey Sweater can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgydkfnUEi8