Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pleases and thank yous

In all the years I worked in children's services at the library where I'm still employed, my favourite story for telling was Elfrida Vipond's The Elephant and the Bad Baby. Mainly because of its lively story, wonderful rhythm, and great pictures by that wonderful writer/illustrator Raymond Briggs.

It tells the story of an elephant who carries away a baby to whom he gives cream cakes and candy and all the kind of goodies young children love. After all the rumpeta-rumpeta-rumpeting down the street, the elephant finally has enough, and comes to a thundering halt with the words, ''But you never once said please!"

In all the times I read this to receptive two to five-year-olds, I never thought of it as a story with a moral, but one that had all the elements that make storytelling such fun. Cumulative detail, repeated phrases, visual clues, and a rollicking story.

But it's the first book that came to mind today when I started thinking about manners.

As a fundraiser, I've been taught that donors needs to be thanked seven times. This does not mean they need to be inundated by thank you letters and phone calls. But small gestures of being recognized in publicity, invited to events, named on annual reports, etc. make all the difference.

Few donors will say that they give in order to be thanked (although many say that one of the reasons they do not give, is that they have not been asked!) .But research has shown that one of the main reasons donors do not give a second time to a cause or an organization is that they have not been thanked promptly or properly.

This year I donated a couple of copies of my book 101 Writing Exercises to Get You Started and Keep You Going to a literary contest which was part of a community festival. I have yet to hear if they received the books. Who they were awarded to. How the contest went. And I have not been thanked.

We spend a lot of time teaching young children their basic pleases and thank yous.
While most of us give to causes or organizations one way or another, we mostly do it as a result of being asked. And all most of us need in return is the basic courtesy of a heartfelt thank you.

Ever since I was a kid, my favourite part in almost any book has been the acknowledgement and dedication pages. Writers are great at acknowledging their debt to family and friends, the support they get from their peers, the influence other work has had on their writing, the information shared by the experts...

On the whole writers are very good at saying 'thank you'.

It's a habit that serves us well.