September 20, 2015

It's All About the Words by Joylene M. Bailey

As I read through the blog posts this month in preparation for my post, I read time and again about teachers who awoke, inspired, and encouraged the creative spirit. That got me thinking about any teachers who might have encouraged me.
And I came up with … nothing. 
Zilch. Nada.

My memory of teachers includes the one who argued with me about the way to pronounce my own name (Seriously? It’s MY name. I think I would know how it was pronounced.), and the parade of teachers over the years who kept telling my parents that I needed to be more outgoing. My marks were always good though. Maybe that was supposed to be encouragement enough.

No, when I think back to who (or what) started it all for my creative spirit, it would have to be the words themselves. They caught me and held on to me.

How could I resist One fish two fish red fish blue fish
or Hop on Pop which, incidentally, ends with the words “My father can read big words, too. Like Constantinople and Timbuktu”. Just the sound of Constantinople and Timbuktu shot a thrill through my veins.
Thank you Dr. Seuss!

Lucy Maud Montgomery inspired me in my growing up years, with a strong female character and hilarious situations. But beyond the story, again it was the words - a surprising turn of phrase, or one word that flipped the entire scene from where you thought it was going.

I was an adult with a family of my own when I came across the author who would become my all-time favourite. Here again, it was because of the words she used, but mostly because of the words she didn’t.
Patricia MacLachlan can tell beautiful stories in very few words. Her prose inspired me to take poetry classes so I could learn to say more with less. No wasted words.

The memory is this: a blue blanket in a basket
that pricks her bare legs, and the world turning over as
she tumbles out. A flash of trees, sky, clouds and the
hard driveway of dirt and gravel. Then she is lifted up
and up and held tight. Kind faces, she remembers, but
that might be the later memory of her imagination.
Still, when the memory comes, sometimes many times
a night and in the day, the arms that hold her are
always safe.
(from Baby by Patricia MacLachlan)

From the beginning, words have been my greatest inspiration for creativity.
The sound of them.
The surprise of them.
What they say and what they don’t say.
How they entice and incite.
I dare you NOT to look between the covers of a book entitled 


Joylene Bailey plays with words at her home in Edmonton. You can find more of her words on her blog.


  1. Joy, when you wrote about the turns of phrase that catch, that shift, that surprise, my stomach did a flip. I know exactly what you mean, but never put it into words before. You have such a way of capturing your reader - me - and drawing me into your thought process. I love your writing!

  2. I wanted to turn the page!

  3. Anonymous4:33 am GMT-7

    Interesting how your teacher wanted you to more outgoing! I am glad you kept focusing on words!

  4. I love it that it was the words that caught you--they are such fun! And Anne and Dr Seuss have been favourites for me as well.

  5. "The Day the Crayons Quit." I LOVE that book. Not only the words but the colours got me on that one. I understand your word fetish. I have it too and it's wonderful. Keep writing because I always enjoy what you write.

  6. I too am a lover of children's literature and I was happiest when I could turn children on to the adventure of reading good books. I have short-changed myself on Patricia McLachlan, as Sarah, Plain and Tall is the only one of her books I have read. I would have loved to have you in my class, Joylene. Thanks for this lovely post.


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