Anthropomorphism... and insects
Anthropomorphism gets a bad rap. Beginner writers are told by publishers and editors, 'no talking animals!' 'no animals dressed as humans!' I squirmed for many years trying to wear the corset of these guidelines.
Around the end of my twenties, I stumbled across an article in the New Zealand Herald about Jill Mitchell, a seasoned writer/illustrator and her frog and dog characters, Zip and Mack. I made contact with her and she became a friend.
I remember I told Jill that I liked the story 'Free Wally!' best because it was about an insect. With insects all things are possible, they can jump enormous distances, walk on water, climb vertically, walk upside down, defy gravity and fly. Jill asked me why I didn't write more stories about insects? I reiterated the publishers' guidelines for fiction, no talking animals, no animals dressed as humans, no talking insects.
Jill said gently, "They're your stories, you have to like them. You could change all your characters to insects if you wanted... "
Talk about a lightbulb moment.
I went home and tried it. I rewrote all my stories, eliminating the humans. The stories came to life! It was the beginning of my love affair with and loyalty to anthropomorphic insects.
Yet the subject of anthropomorphism is controversial. It divides people and is still cause for derision by my peers. One man's meat is another man's poison so they say. When I showed the original version of 'The Or'in of Tane Mahuta' to an assessor, she said, "The story's great, but lose the insects!!". I had a well-respected agent read the story and say, "Every writer has manuscripts in the bottom drawer that don't deserve to see the light of day. This book is one of those."
I take heart however from Kate de Goldi's words when I shared with her my picture books and predeliction. She said, "Don't think about getting published. Write whatever your compulsion in your soul is to write. If you want to write about insects, there must be a reason for that."
Alice in Wonderland was published in 1865, and afterward a flood of anthropomorphic creatures followed. ~ Joe Bunting
If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within fifty years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within fifty years all forms of life would flourish. -Sir Ken Rowland
You are constructing the Neverland of your choice, whether your setting looks like Hogwart's school for wizards, or New York City. Set the parameters to match the boundaries of your heart. -Jane Yolen
There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment... -Annie Dillard
What did I know best that I had not written about and lost? What did I know about truly and care for the most? ~ Ernest Hemingway