Monday, October 3, 2011

Dreaming Big and the Magical Flame of the Story

It doesn't matter that I can't read much children's literature anymore ... or that I'm not a fantasy-reader. I always know that attending the annual NERTCL luncheon will inspire me. And T.A. Barron did not disappoint.

Thomas (I learned on the Web that his family and friends call him Tom) Archibald Barron's accent does not give away the fact that he was born in Boston, MA where his first years were spent among the Eastern Massachusetts apple orchards. His family moved, lock, stock and [apple] barrel to Boulder, Colorado where it was apparent that his mother's love of learning and and writing and reading followed him. Years later he created a very special award for young people and he named it after his mother, the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.

Barron's story is so much like so many other authors and is one the I never tire of hearing and he tells the story well. It is one of success that is often achieved only after years of perseverance. He sent his first novel off to 26 publishers and received 26 rejections. It only after a serendipitous acquaintance with Madeleine L'Engle, his continued writing and finding the love of his life, Currie, that Barron was able to leave his other successful life - that of Princeton and Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar and a investment company president behind. And he has never looked back.

"What was scary to me," says Barron, "is knowing that I had a dream that I didn't try hard enough" to reach. Follow your passion, is his advice.

Barron himself tells us that the recipe of a wonderful life is to ask yourself 'what you love in the world and give the 'world what it needs.'

During the luncheon talk which was rich with story and personal history, T.A. Barron shared his initiatives of Dream Big (a video that we all received) and the concept of The Heroes Trail (and book by that name, also received by each luncheon participant.) His ideas that young people can be inspired by 'the glimpse of heroic power that comes from stories' and by the example of others is immensely powerful. His metaphor of the flame ran through his entire talk reminding us that as librarians we are responsible for carrying that flame to our readers and for passing it on and on and on.

Mr. Barron shared an emotional moment with his audience with a story of a little girl and a starfish. Overwhelmed by an unfathomable amount of starfish washed up on a beach, this little girl realized that all the starfish might all die unless they were returned to the sea. While she despaired, she was taunted by an observer who told her that there were too many starfish on the beach and that she couldn't possibly make a difference. Holding one starfish up in the air, and reaching inside for wisdom that all of us really have inside us, the little girl tossed that one starfish into the sea. "I have made a difference. I have made a difference for that one." A story told by a master storyteller with words that we need to be reminded of all the time.

Had I had the silly idea that fantasy and children's literature are irrelevant to me, I would not have had the chance to listen to T.A. Barron, to be inspired by his work and his life story, and to realize once again that I have the power to make a difference. "The sharing of stories," Barron says, "is as essential to being alive as breathing. They are uniquely powerful vessels that carry big ideas."

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