Living in New Jersey, it is hard not to think about snow during winter.
Personally, I much prefer the singular idea of the snowflake as opposed to the general concept of snow.
Snow is not quite as endearing or beautiful as the single unique flake.
And we have all heard that no two snowflakes are alike.
Which seems simply impossible, really, given the number of snowflakes that have fallen.
Which is how many, you ask?
Okay – get ready for some math!
According to the Eastern Snow Conference of 2006, the number of snowflakes that have fallen in the history of the earth is 3 x 10 to the 38th power, a truly staggering number.
Much like the number of grains of sand in the world (approx. 7.5 x 10 to the 18th power) or number of stars in the galaxy (approx. 1 x 10 to the 24th power)
Impossible to comprehend.
But there are 1 x 10 to the 19th power water molecules in a typical snow crystal, which allows for the almost infinite number of arrangements.
Okay enough math!
These immense numbers are truly beyond the comprehension of this English major, so back to the unique, single, solitary snowflake.
No matter how unique it is, once mixed with other snowflakes, it basically loses its distinctiveness and becomes, simply, snow.
Which is often how I feel about books on a shelf.
Picture books specifically.
The unique, wonderful book that stirs my heart or makes me laugh or makes me cry becomes just another book, one among thousands, once it is placed on a shelf.
So much like the snowflake.
How can the brilliance of the book shine through when it is shelved, not by degrees of brilliance, but simply alphabetically, by last name?
How many amazing, engaging books have been missed because they were packed tight together in the blizzard that is the bookshelf?
As writers, we need to think of this.
How does our unique snowflake of a book stand out among the flurry of friendship books that exist?
Among the shower of school-themed books?
Among the hail of holiday books?
And, more importantly, how does our manuscript stand out in the slush pile?
Anna Quindlen said “Every story has already been told.”
How true is this?
But she also said, “… that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has every had.”
And how true is that?
So write your friendship story.
Type up that trip-to-the-zoo tale.
Scratch down a sibling story.
Sure, they’ve all been done before, but not quite like we will do it.
Our style, experience, and voice will make a story that has been told before new and distinctive.
We are all snowflakes.
Beautiful, individual and unique.
And so are our stories.
Disclaimer: all numbers are based on quick research and are meant for fun, not fact!
Beth Ferry is the author of Stick and Stone, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. and Land Shark, 2015. Pirate’s Perfect Pet is setting sail in the Fall of 2016. Her latest picture book, Swashby and the Sea, will be released in 2017. Beth writes and lives by the beach in New Jersey with her family and two lazy land sharks. You can learn more at http://www.bethferry.com.