Literary Birthday – 11 February – Jane Yolen

Happy Birthday, Jane Yolen, born 11 February 1939.


  1. Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.
  2. Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.
  3. Children’s books change lives. Stories pour into the hearts of children and help make them what they become.
  4. It’s never perfect when I write it down the first time, or the second time, or the fifth time. But it always gets better as I go over it and over it.
  5. Get up from your desk and wander outside occasionally. To be a good writer one needs to be a good observer, and there isn’t a lot to be observed at desk level.
  6. Love the writing, love the writing, love the writing… the rest will follow.
  7. Ideas are the cheapest part of the writing. They are free. The hard part is what you do with ideas you’ve gathered.
  8. If you want to write, you write. Talent is simply not enough.
  9. The main plot line is simple: Getting your character to the foot of the tree, getting him up the tree, and then figuring out how to get him down again.

10 of Jane Yolen’s 20 Rules of Writing from Ingrid’s Notes

  1. Eschew the exclamation point!
  2. Go easy on the adverbs.
  3. Don’t let characters float on the page. Anchor them with action. No talking endlessly!
  4. BIC = Butt In Chair. HOP = Heart On Page. PNF = Passion Not Fashion. You may never be the best but you can always get better.
  5. No one expects a happy ending unless it’s a fairy tale. We need a meaningful ending. It may not be easy. Hard choices are good.
  6. Not everything should be simplified. Complexity adds richness.
  7. Exercise the drawing/writing muscle! Don’t get flabby! One page a day and you have a 365 page book by the end of the year, or that many picture books. Exercise!
  8. Read what you have written out loud. It will help you to see what you have missed.
  9. Dealing with the dreaded writer’s block. It is all in your mind. The solution is to stand up, walk, eat, do other things! Distract yourself. If that doesn’t work, start a new writing project. Don’t go read a book, you will get that author’s voice in your head instead of your own.
  10. Not every project will be completed. Moaning about this is for sissies.

Jane Yolen’s rules of writing were presented as the closing keynote address at the SCBWI New York Winter Conference in January 2010. Read all 20 rules here.

Jane Yolen is an American writer of fantasy, science fiction, and children’s books. She is the author or editor of more than 280 books, including The Devil’s ArithmeticSister Emily’s LightshipLost Girls, and Owl Moon.

Source for Image/Source for quotes

by Amanda Patterson

Posted on: 11th February 2014