Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Martha Writes For Children

"What's your book about?"

The dreaded cocktail party question.

I have a pitch at the ready: "A teen spy infiltrating a graffiti artist ring finds her loyalties torn between the mission and the artists who inspire her to redefine herself."

Sometimes I get wide-eyed excitement.
But sometimes I get, "Oh. You write for children."

Yeah. I write for people. Age thirteen and up. What's it to you?

I don't understand why black turtleneck-wearing literary types* have it in for children's literature.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote for children.
Mark Twain wrote for children.
JM Barrie, Lewis Carroll, and even hoity-toity William Blake targeted children.

That dog-eared Salinger whine-fest hipsters lug around their college years? Originally published for adults. But today? That would be considered a book for children.

Children's literature has the best of all worlds.

The immediacy of action thrillers.
The poignancy of romantic tearjerkers.
The thematic impact of literary juggernauts.
Books, you know, being bought and read.

The inevitable follow-up question comes: "When will you write an adult book?"

But why would I write an adult book?

I already have the best audience in the world.

* Nothing against literary types who wear black turtlenecks. I even have friends who wear black turtlenecks.


Sophie Littlefield said...

not only am i finding it a greater challenge to write a book worthy of children, but my sharpest editor is not only a child but one living in this house. if you can satisfy that audience, then those are pearly laurels indeed. (uhh, that might not have worked. sprightly green laurels? not sure.)

Mysti Berry said...

Maybe those poor lost souls read poorly written, patronizing YA books and are still scarred, not realizing that a book is bad because it's bad, not because it has a particular kind of protagonist or story.

We didn't study any books in my MFA program that had teen protagonists, but we didn't denigrate them either! My first instructor in the program was Judy Greber!!!

Martha Flynn said...

Oh, Mysti - where did you get your MFA?

Sophie, seriously, you need to rent out her services.

Gigi Pandian said...

I thought since I'd tackled a mystery for adults that I could pull off a mystery for kids. Who KNEW it was so much harder?!? And I think you've summed up WHY -- because it has to have all of those elements (immediacy, poignancy, thematic impact) all clearly laid out. One cannot be obtuse when writing for kids. They'll call you on it.

Unknown said...

Action, romance, theme - your books have all that and more. And you totally 'get' kids.

Princess cannot wait to read it. She begs me regularly to have the chance to read your work :)

Anonymous said...

The great thing about kidlit is it explores feelings and themes from a time when we're unsure of our place in the world, discovering things for the first time, and molting inside and out! I mean, adult lit has some great passages about scenery, a lot of nostalgic introspection, and okay - some delicious characters and stories. But I still choose the former every time :)

P.S. - That spy graffiti torn allegiances novel sounds amazing. Cuz it is.