Two Thumbs Up and a Smiley Face

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Everybody knows the book The Little Engine That Could. Published in 1930, over the years, that little blue engine has taught billions of kids to keep on trying, to not give up. 

"I think I can, I think I can," was popularized by the train engine that managed to make it up the mountain. A bigger, more powerful engine broke down; other locomotives were asked to take over, but each of them refused. The little blue locomotive was asked, and it agreed to try. Because it kept believing it could, because the little locomotive kept encouraging itself, it suceeded in making it over the mountain.

But now there's another version of the The Little Engine That Could... perhaps a better version for this era.

I first learned of the recently-published book--Three Little Engines--on the CBS Sunday Morning show. One story from last week's show focused on the book and the author... and it was inspiring.

Bob McKinnon, the author, grew up in a struggling family. Raised by a single mother, he was the first in his family to graduate from college. However, his success made him angry.

McKinnon was angry that some people had opportunties while others did not. In his book, the larger locomotives (the yellow and the red one) each have their own obstacles. The blue one helps the other two locomotives. His message: we all have our own rails/obstacles, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength.

This post began with me intending on writing about why we as writers are sometimes reluctant to ask for help. However, I decided instead to write about why we should help our writing colleagues.

It promotes the art of writing. Giving your writing friends encouragment, helping them over a rough spot/phase makes them stronger writers. The more talented writers we have in our midst, the bigger our audience. When one writer shines, we can bask in their accolades a bit.

It's the right thing to do. We do nothing by ourself. Everything we accomplish, we do so with help from at least one person--and usually it's many people we get assistance from in order to achieve something. So, when we get help, it's only fair to pass it on to someone else. 

It feels good. Helping out another writer so their beginning is more compelling... so their main character is fleshed out... so their plot is well constructed--well, that gives us a feeling of satisfaction when we can help make that happen. 

I recently told my publisher she is a dream-maker. She makes dreams come true for people. The writers whose books she has published, the writers whose books she has edited--they dreamed of getting a book with their name on the spine or they dream of someday having a novel or a picture book published. Margo makes those dreams become reality. That takes countless hours and incredible talent and ingenuity and determination... and I hope it brings her a great deal of satisfaction.

In the CBS Sunday Morning piece, one young reviewer said Three Little Engines deserved, "Two thumbs up and a smiley face."

For me, helping other writers brings me a smiley face...

How have you helped a writer lately? What have you recently done to give a writing colleague some assistance? Sioux--who has gotten invaluable help from so many people (I named 65 people in my acknowledgements, and I still forgot a few)--wants to know.

Sioux Roslawski is a middle school teacher, a dog rescuer, a freelance writer... and the author of Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story. If you'd like to read more of her writing, check out her blog.


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I hadn't seen this book. I'll have to check it out for my niece's upcoming young reader.

And what a vital message. I do love the power of the original but really? Who makes it w/o any help at all?

Margo Dill said...

Sioux: Thank you for the kind words! I appreciate everything you are saying. And really it does bring me a great deal of satisfaction. :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

I'm with Sue...who makes it without help? Lift while you climb...

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--I would not have known about the book except for the show. I use picture books with my students, but they're not usually ones for really young readers.

And yeah. We ALL get by with a little help from our friends...

Cathy--I love that. "Lift while you climb." It might be an oldie, but it's a goodie... and a goodie I've never heard of.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--It's all true.

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