Why I Write for Kids

“You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grownups, you write it for children.”
—Madeleine L’Engle
Why do I write for kids?

What a great question.
Here's the thing, here are several reasons I enjoy and appreciate this age group. From a writerly standpoint it's because middle grade and even younger literature is some of the best literature available. Authors know that children crave concrete images, things they can see and hang their hats on. But authors also know that this a strange and wonderful time between childhood and adulthood. A time when kids can be so utterly child like in their manners and thoughts and yet in the next instant more profound than imaginable. This is what I like to capture in my middle grade books. The concrete fused with the abstract and thoughtful, with a touch of whimsy. Children are still willing to believe in magic even though they know it’s not real. I hope that through the use of magic in my books children will also learn something about faith. Because what is faith but believing in things unseen.

Reading Cake to the kiddoes
But, writing for children is serious business Psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim wrote in The Uses of Enchantment, "In order to master the psychological problems of growing up... a child needs to understand what is going on within his conscious self so that he can also cope with that which goes on in his unconscious. He can achieve this understanding, and with it the ability to cope, not through rational comprehension of the nature and content of his unconscious, but by becoming familiar with it through spinning out daydreams."

Occasionally, although thankfully not often, I am asked if I will ever graduate to writing for adults. This obviously from folks who don’t know about my books for grown-ups. And I usually respond by saying that first of all writing for children can be more difficult than writing for grown-ups in many ways and that it’s not fair to assume that children’s literature is in any way dumbed down or written in a childish way.

E.B. White said, "anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth." Who wouldn’t want to write for that kind of audience?

Cake, Love, Chickens and a Taste of Peculiar is a fun, magical book but it also deals with issues important to this age group. In Cake, 12 year-old Wilma Sue has moved to yet another foster home. But this time it's different. This could be for keeps. Except, all isn't what it seems to be.
More than frosting filled those cakes…
When Wilma Sue arrives at her new foster home, she keeps her head down as usual, anticipating the next move. But strange things are happening at the home of the oddball sisters, Ruth and Naomi. Was that really a goldfish swimming in the lemonade? Did butterflies really come out of the cake? As Wilma Sue bakes and delivers cakes, she begins to wonder if she might truly be welcomed into this “home,” as Ruth and Naomi keep insisting. Just as her heart begins to soften, a string of neighborhood crimes point to Wilma Sue. Will the sisters turn her out, or will she get her own much-needed dose of love, trust, and faith? 

The magic in Cake is that Wilma Sue learns that she is eminently worthy of love--no matter what. To give love and receive love. 

1 comment:

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Thanks for your post, Joyce. As a fellow children's author, I hear you! :)


MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA, MA
Truth through Fiction ®
Harbourlight Books-2012