Why Writing For Children Is One Of The Nicest Things You Could Ever Do
A few months ago, I was camping with my family by a lake in Italy. End of story.
No, actually… I am just teasing. That was a lovely moment in my life. But in my head, some silly stressy thoughts were whirring. See, I’d been working really, really hard for months to write stories for children, send stories for children to publishers and agents, and try with all my might to ‘make it’ as a published children’s author.
Then, my husband Gregor, in all his wisdom, asked me a question which stopped those stressy thoughts in their worn out tracks. And the question was this:
‘Why do you want to write for kids anyway?’
And then, I got it. Because the answer to this question is very simple.
‘I love it. I just love it. That’s why I write for children.’
‘Then just write for kids,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry about everything else. Just enjoy the process.’
I’ve always loved writing. Like my seven-year-old daughter, I think I was writing stories before I was properly reading. Because I had so many stories in my head, I wanted a place to put them. I didn’t ever plan to be a writer. But I kept on writing, writing, writing, in some form or other. I’ve written short stories, plays, and in recent years, a ridiculous amount of words for learning and training resources.
But reading to my kids each night, and sinking into book after book after glorious book made me sure about who I want to write for, and what I want to write. I want to write for kids.
And here’s a bunch of reasons why:
1. A kids book is also an everyone book.
Who doesn’t love a kid’s book? Where The Wild Things Are, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter are scorched into our cultural psyche. We go see films which recreate our favourite books. We keep our books for our children. I have very narrow preferences for adult literature. I so often put down a book for adults half way through because it just doesn’t grab me. But a kids’ book speaks at so many levels. So writing for kids is kind of writing for everyone who has a little bit of child left in them.
2. Kids are open and imaginative
You can take your story so many places, when you write for children. In my next book, Archie and the Bear, I tell the reader that Archie is a bear. But clearly, he is not. I am not playing a trick, or taking the mickey. I know that kids know Archie isn’t a bear. But kids will go there with you, almost every time. And to be honest, my imagination is limited compared to a child’s. I am looking to invent a contraption that I can fit on my daughters’ young heads, so that I can record their vivid imaginations, and steal them for my stories. If anyone has any leads, hit me up.
3. The children’s book industry is like a long and delightful hug
I should touch wood when writing this, but to date, every single person I have met in the children’s publishing world is a completely lovely human being. Going to the CBCA conference a few years ago, I was struck by how friendly and open everyone was. Big, happy, book-loving librarian smiles filled every corner of the room, and it was very cosy. My publishers are all such supportive people. Even rejection emails are filled with so much kindness, and feedback, and encouragement, it’s almost impossible to be sad. And there are so many established authors out there so happy to offer support and advice, when you ask for it.
4. A children’s book keeps
I am a little bit of a Buddhist, at heart, and don’t have too many attachment issues. That being said, it makes me kind of happy to think that no matter how fast and furious and huge and compelling the publishing industry is, a good book can stick around for years, and years, and years. Possum Magic is still up there as one of Australia’s best-selling books. It was published the year I was born, so I am giving away my age when I tell you that the book has now been around for 33 years! The Cat In The Hat is now 60 years old! A good kids’ book has longevity.
5. The children’s book industry is booming
After going to the Bologna and Frankfurt book fairs last year, I was blown away by how mega the children’s book industry is. There are so many people involved in publishing, and so many incredible books being published. But this is no charity. This is business. Kids’ books are selling. Joel Becker, Australian Booksellers Association, says kids’ books, as a category, has soared to more than 30 per cent of overall book sales, up from 23-25 per cent five years ago. More and more, bookstores are devoting specialised children’s book sections. In the US particularly, and in some great Australian bookstores, book sellers are running children’s book events, like author talks, and book launches. People are gathering to celebrate children’s books. I like a gathering, so I guess I’m in the right world.
6. Children’s books are the antidote to a superfast world
I say this holding a cup of tea in fine china in one hand, and a walking stick in the other, but, ‘What has happened to the world?’ I go to the beach, and everyone is on their phone. People text, rather than phone, because it’s faster and easier. We spend so many hours in front of screens. Apparently, more than 40% of the millennial generation will have a tech addiction. Years of blogging and social media has driven my personal interest, and at times, obsession with an online world. But the other side of that is stress, sometimes sleeplessness, and grumpiness. While each of my children’s books takes literally years to develop, from initial draft to holding book in my hand, I both like and need the slow-cooked and glorious pace of a children’s book. And then of course sitting down to read a children’s book with your child is a precious moment of downtime and connection, which rights all wrongs of the day.
Do you write for children? Why do you like it? Why do you want to write for children?
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