The NCBLA Board of Directors
M. T. Anderson
People write for children for two reasons: Either they have children, or they are children. I’m in the latter category. I loved my childhood, and I write for children so that I can recall it.
I grew up in a small town surrounded by apple orchards and woods that had grown up where fields once stood. My town was one of the first to oppose the British during the Revolution. I spent my childhood playing in the forest, naming the streams and the valleys formed by quarries. I was not the only one to wander in those woods, and I was always stumbling across weird assemblages of refuse in glades and on hidden paths: automobile chassis overgrown with sweetfern; hideous curtains of unspooled cassette-tape hanging across ravines; a window leaning on an old, burnt washing-machine festooned with yarn. These artifacts arose naturally out of the landscape like story itself. The forest seemed to be bursting with fantasy. The wood led right up to our back door like George Macdonald’s Fairy-Land, but with bikers, keggers, and free-range junkies.
I didn’t live near many kids and I was socially inept anyway, so my fantasy world was very involved and quite internal. I apparently became a little too dreamy and distracted so much so that in fifth grade, my teachers became concerned that I was borderline autistic or had some serious learning disability; and my grandmother, seeing me whisper to some imaginary androids in the woods, became convinced that I was possessed by evil spirits. For the next ten years or so, she would regularly exorcise me.
My love of fantasy became a love of literature. I began to write plays for my friends to put on. When I was about eleven, we did a dramatic version of Beowulf with a giant foam-rubber dragon puppet and lots of gruesome alliteration. It was supposed to be Anglo-Saxon. Around the same time, we did A Midsummer Night’s Fever, which was supposed to be A Midsummer Night’s Dream recast with John Travolta. I don’t remember much about it except that Puck sang in a high-pitched voice like the BeeGees.
There’s not much more to tell. The important thing to do if you want to be a writer is first of all to read read everything romance novels, nineteenth century novels, Sanskrit prayers, Greek epics, Chinese poetry, installation instructions for plumbing, trade magazines for pet shop owners everything and second of all, to write. Staring into the woods dreaming, after all, will only get you so far.
M. T. Anderson teaches at Vermont College; he is the fiction editor for 3rd bed, a journal devoted to surreal and absurdist literature.
Books by M. T. Anderson:
The Game of Sunken Places
Handel, Who Knew What He Liked, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Me, All Alone, at the End of the World, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
The Serpent Came to Gloucester, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Strange Mr. Satie, illustrated by Petra Mathers
Whales on Stilts, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
You can find these books at your local library.