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Learn How A Heart Can "Grow Up" – Wings by William Loizeaux

(Photo by Beth Loizeaux)
A.B. I have to say, right away that Wings moved me beyond words. Why does this story have such an immediate emotional impact on people?

W.L. "I think–or at least I hope–that Wings speaks to a time in our lives that is especially meaningful, that time when we are still children, open and vulnerable, and when we discover our first love and first loss. I suspect that for many of us, this occurs when we care for a pet or a wild animal in need. As we attach ourselves to living things, we come to sense their fragility and impermanence. Our hearts grow up. That’s what happens to Nick, the ten-year-old main character of the book, as he cares for a baby mockingbird he calls Marcy.

I also think that the beautiful, softly shaded pencil illustrations by Leslie Bowman greatly enhance the book’s impact. So unpretentiously, they evoke the pain and joy of Nick’s world of feeling. Perhaps that’s the key to it: the quiet intimacy of both the words and pictures."

A.B. I've read that a childhood experience spurred the story of Wings for you. Was this a story you wrote as a child? Or was it a memory that you couldn't forget until now?

W.L.  "Yes, Wings was inspired by my own experience of caring for a wild mockingbird during a summer when I was a kid. But no, I didn’t write the story as a child–I wasn’t much of a writer then! Rather, the story clung to me, long into adulthood, and when my own daughter, at about Nick’s age, rescued a wild bird, all my boyhood feelings for a small creature reawakened, as if I was that boy again. That’s when I knew I should write the story."

A.B. For boys, Wings struck me as a right of passage experience; with growth, development, vulnerability, caring and all of the qualities that make growing up uncomfortable better able to be tackled. Please share your thoughts on this.

W.L. "I’d like to think that Wings shows a way for boys to move into, and maybe through, those uncomfortable passages, not by girding themselves with the armor of toughness, but by remaining emotionally open, responsive, and even tender. Albeit tentatively, Nick grows into greater independence and individuality–you might eventually call it "manhood"–through his love and care for another vulnerable creature that will achieve its own freedom. And of course, the calm understanding and guidance of adults, like Nick’s widowed mother and her friend Glen, are crucial to Nick’s safe passage."

A.B. Who do you identify most with in Wings? Or, do you see a little of yourself in each of the characters? Why?

W.L.  "Mostly, I identify with the Nick. Wings is not an autobiography or memoir, but the awkwardness, wonder, and just plain fun of Nick’s life when he cares for Marcy are based on memories of my boyhood. Another part of me aspires to–but has yet to achieve–the patience and wisdom of Nick’s mother. And yet another little part of me has always wanted to be as cool, confident, and easy-going as Derek, the dashing thirteen-year-old in Nick’s neighborhood. I’m afraid I will never achieve that!"

A.B. What's the one important thing you would like your readers to take away after reading Wings?

W.L. "Well, could I mention a couple of things? I’d like readers to be reawakened to the wonders of the natural world around us and to our nurturing capacities, especially those of boys. Then, I hope Wings provides young readers with a glimpse into and perhaps a way of understanding the tangle of love and loss that comes with growing up. As Nick’s mother tells him after the bird he has nurtured has flown away into the world, "You loved what you’d lose with all your might. And the love, I think, is worth the sorrow. You can’t have the one without the other." I believe she’s right about that."