Writing, Mice, and Winter


FREDERICK, Leo Lionni’s treasured twist on “The Ant and the Grasshopper” features a poetic mouse named Frederick. While the other mice gather food for winter, Frederick gathers sunrays, colors, and words. As his fellow field mice eventually discover, Frederick’s gathering colors and words is as vital as gathering corn and wheat. One pair nourishes the body. The other nourishes the spirit.

This awareness celebrated in FREDERICK is significant to all writers. And especially so when the calendar and/or family life becomes very hectic. At times, there is truly be no time to write for several days or even weeks.  But that does not exclude gathering colors and words. They exist no matter what the time, temperature, or schedule.

And, even when there is time to write, it is important to remain awake and open to life and the arts in all their expressions. Why? First, it is a vibrant way to live. Second, it continues to nourish our life and our writing. What we truly experience becomes a part of us. It is what we gather (like Frederick’s colors and words), and lets us create and share our creations.

Yuko Takao’s picture book, A WINTER CONCERT, offers additional support for our role as receiver as well as creator/writer. No one creates in a vacuum. Takao’s unnamed mouse protagonist attends a concert in the dead of winter. The pianist makes beautiful music that fills the concert hall and the ears and hearts of the audience.

“The concert ended but the music did not. It paved their pathways home. It colored their world.”

That night the music (the experience and awareness) still lingers in the mouse’s thoughts, and becomes a part of what she creates.

During both calm and hectic times this winter, may we be as open, aware, and self-nurturing as these two mice. When our writing time returns (and it will) we’ll have all the more to share.


FREDERICK by Leo Lionni. Pantheon, 1967.

A WINTER CONCERT by Yuko Takao. Millbrook Press, 1997 (1995).