Moments – It’s a bit of a flash. NPR Interview with Cynthia Rylant


Cynthia Rylant is the prolific author of over 100 children’s books. When asked about her writing process, she simply  believes it is a gift, the gift of language, she’s been blessed with…

“I really can’t explain it. When I first started writing, you know, I tried picture books. And, you know, I soon discovered that when I write, it’s a bit of a flash. It’s all of a sudden and kind of inspiration. And that’s true for all of the picture books. The poetry books, I’ll write a book of poetry in a day, and I’ll be done with it.”

In a “moment” an idea for a poem or book comes to her, which she sets to writing. If a short piece, the storytelling process may take only a day to complete.

The following is an excerpt from her November 10, 2013 interview with NPR host Arun Rath, How Cynthia Rylant Discovered The Poetry Of Storytelling”:

NPR -Cynthia Rylant is a renowned author who has written for all age groups and been honored with both Caldecott and Newbery prizes for her work.

Her latest book, God Got a Dog, is a collection of poems that only took her one day to write.

“One poem … just came out of the blue, and I sat down and I wrote it. And then after I finished writing it, I got an idea for another God poem, and so I wrote that one. And so it started in the morning and then by the end of the day, I was finished writing the book,” she tells All Things Considered host Arun Rath.

Driven by these bursts of inspiration, Rylant says her talent was “bestowed” rather than learned, and shares how her modest and isolated childhood shaped her work.

Here is the audio recording in full (6 mins 38 secs): NPR’s Arun Rath Interviews Cynthia Rylant.

Moments – Who he really is.

“After spending an adventurous day all over Whidbey Island and the surrounding areas, that evening we came across a restaurant ‘Flyers Restaurant and Brewery’, which looked appealing to both Coulter and I to stop at and fuel up our bellies.

Coulter and JuliePart way though our meal, I see Coulter’s eyes continue to focus on something behind me.  So finally I asked him what he was looking at.  Coulter told me to turn around and see that “famous guy” with the hat on.  Trying not to be too obvious, I slowly turn and the only person I see wearing a hat is an elderly gentleman; he is clearly a Veteran with a WWII baseball cap as well as a jacket that represents the same.  Turning back to Coulter, I asked him if the “famous” person he was referring to is the elderly man with the WWII cap.  Coulter confirms this and goes on to ask me if it was okay if he talked to him and ask for his autograph.  I told Coulter that OF COURSE he could talk with this man, shake his hand, etc.

After our meal we slowly made our way to his table, apologized for interrupting his meal but making clear that we just wanted to thank him for his service.  This gentleman stood up, his voice barely audible, and thanked Coulter and I for taking the time to greet him. He not only told us but showed us what he wore proudly… his WWII Medal of Honor that he received for his duty and action in France.  He went on to look directly at Coulter, take his hand, and thank him deeply for being brave and coming over to talk with him. He also went on to tell Coulter that he could come and talk with him anytime, and that  it was HIS honor to meet Coulter!!

Of course, I was moved by this entire exchange of conversation but felt that something much deeper was being said between this gentleman and my son, something that will stay with and in Coulter for a very long time to come.

As we were both walking away slowly there was no conversation between Coulter and I, just feelings, then Coulter spoke what was already on my mind, “Mom, can we pay his food?”  All I could softly say was, “Of course we can.”   My eyes and heart were equally overflowing with amazement of who my son REALLY is!  I am so in love with this young man and so honored to be his mother!

As we made our way over to our waitress, giving her cash in abundance of what I felt his meal would cost, her eyes now filled with tears as she told us that she and couple of other servers watched Coulter and this elderly gentleman talk together.  She went on to say that they were all moved by the conversation, which they watched from afar, and told us that a lot of people nod to the frail gentleman that visits the restaurant periodically, or they just look, but that very few actually approach him or take the time to talk with him.

Not only can we can learn so much from our elders and Veterans but also the pure innocence of children.   I am so proud of Coulter –  his heart, his bravery, his innocence!!  So many today are wrapped up in what “famous” looks like, but Coulter recognized “famous” for what it REALLY is!”

Moments Contributor – Julie Burdick

Happiness Teeth

Christie LeeDents du bonheur” (happiness teeth) as the French call them, are what dominated my expression every time I smiled and laughed as a young girl. I did not consider the most prominent teeth in my mouth to be “happy”! I was gapped-toothed with a slight overbite until the age of 14, painfully shy, and covered my mouth when I grinned.  Somehow the photographer for our eigth grade class photos managed to get me to smile with hands folded in my lap.

By the time I was a sophomore in high school in 1962, my parents thought it best to sent me to an oral surgeon that summer to remove the tough, muscular webbing forcing my two front teeth apart (diastema). I got up out of the dental chair wearing an awkward dental appliance to wear day and night to slowly coerce my two front teeth back and together. I still remember the sensations of pain and pressure, popping that pink, hard-molded acrylic into the roof of my mouth, the metal bar sliding over my teeth. I only took it out to brush it and my teeth, and to eat. At the start of my junior year, while taking a lunch break as I worked on a project in the art room, I slipped out my retainer and quickly wrapped it in a piece of paper towel from off the roll by the sink. I remember the sinking feeling, then panic, at home later that night, the moment I said, “Oh, no! What did I do with my “bite plate?!” I rushed back to school the next morning to rummage through the trash, but it was not to be found. My parents couldn’t afford to replace it. That was the last I saw of my retainer, which left me with a lasting, although ever so slight, twist to my left front tooth – the kind of subtle difference one feels when you slide your tongue across your teeth. But like everything in life as I was discovering,  things are rarely, if ever, “perfect”.

Over time, the habit of covering my mouth eventually stopped and I became less and less self-conscious; shyness took much longer to overcome.  As a youth, I let something as small as the space between my two front teeth take up significant space in my life. I wish I had met happy gap-toothed kids along the way. I might have understood that it was okay to be different, I could be happy being “me”.  As I matured, I grew to appreciate inner beauty and countenance more than physical appearance, with a growing awareness of my own.

The beautiful actress Amanda Seyfried shares a similar experience growing up:

“I was super-outgoing until I was around 10. I got a bit older and started getting shy. Way too shy. I felt so extremely ugly. When I look back, I was not ugly …I was cute and had a gap in my teeth. But I wish I could have enjoyed that part of my life and be more confident.”

Other gap-toothed women known for their unique beauty are Anna Paquin, Lauren Hutton, Condoleezza Rice, Brigitte Bardo, Esther Rolle, Madonna, Natalie Cole…. I imagine that for many of these women and men, it never dawned on them when they were young that they were pretty or handsome. For others, what makes them different may be their eyes, their nose, their ears, their height, their disability…. We have an opportunity to reflect back to each one we meet what makes them uniquely special, even beautiful.

If you have a similar experience, please share it with us. Leave a comment.