Are we kids at heart?

Are we, those of us who write for middle grade readers, kids at heart? The answer? Well, of course we are! But that’s not what I truly want to write about.

A more central question for me is do we need to be kids at heart to write for kids. And, do we need to read a lot of middle grade works to write for this audience? Basically, what makes someone a middle grade writer?

The first thing I believe one needs to be is a good storyteller, someone who can create and write down an engaging yarn. I’ve been a professional storyteller since the 90’s, and I can describe from experience what kid’s like to hear. But that is not necessarily what they like to read.

Story is story, plain and simple, but there are as many ways to convey a story as there are stars in the sky. But only so many of these tellings will connect with a middle grade reader. We, as MG writers, need to be able to identify how to write a story as well as what story to write. It is, I suggest, our ability to frame a story such that it does engage a MG reader, that allows us to be successful.

Still, that’s only half of the equation. The other half is to be able to create the stories that MG readers will want to read. Everyone has lots of stories fliating around in their heads. MG writers, I suggest, are abke to pick out the ones that a MG reader will enjoy reading.

How do we do this? Ah, that is a mystery, or at least something better answered by a psychologist. For me, the answer is that we write what we do because of the sum total of our experiences. These experiences can include reading gobs of MG books, but this is not a requisite. In fact, I suggest that you can be a successful MG writer without ever having read another MG book.

Of course, if you do read lots of other MG books, it helps to hone your writing skills, but I do not believe it is necessary for uncovering which stories to write down. We write what we know, and what we know comes from everything that makes up our lives.

What does matter is that given a unique combination of experiences, a writer is able to see through the eyes of a MG reader, such that she can write a story in a way a MG reader needs/wants it to be written. It is the sum total, not the specific elements, of these experiences that matters.

There needs to be a kid inside of a MG writer working hand in hand with the adult writer inside to create a successful MG book.

Nuff said!


Call for Submissions: Mid-Grade Science Fiction Anthology

This is a general call for short short submissions for a proposed mid-grade science fiction anthology. The working title is Almost Human, and each story’s protagonist should be “almost human”, though how is up to the author.

Each submission should be between 5,000 and 10,000 words, and take place in current times. That is, no historical stories, future stories, alternate histories or alternate universes. No matter the premise of each story, it should be scientifically plausable, given it is science fiction. No pure fantasy or previously published stories will be accepted.

Submissions should be sent as email attachments (doc, rtf, txt) to aniprof at optonline dot net, no later than April 15, 2012. A short, one paragraph bio should be included in the email. If accepted, payment will be two copies of the anthology, in addition to whatever arrangements are negotiated with a publisher. The publisher will receive first North American print rights. All other rights revert to the authors after publication.

Should Mid-Grade kids read poetry?

There is, with respect to both fiction and non-fiction, a wonderful transition in publishing from baby books, to picture books, to early readers, to mid-grade, to young adult and, finally adult books. Each of these areas is well represented and thriving, as best as possible in these economic times.

So, why do I not see the same for poetry?

First off, I am not saying that books of poetry do not exist for each reading level; they do. What I do notice is that for mid-grade (MG) there seems to be a noticeable dropoff in the percentage of poetry books to other types of writing being published. Again, this is just one person’s perspective; mine.

A quick browsing online for the terms “middle grade” and “poetry” brings up many hits. But be warned, quantity does not imply quality. Many of the “poetry” books listed are actually novels written in verse. These are fine books, and inviting kids to enjoy works in verse is admirable, but they are not collections of poetry.

Other collections seen are actually picture books, where the image is as important as the word. Great for younger readers, but what about volumes, sans illustrations, that focus on the written words of poetry, that invite the middle reader to appreciate and think about poetry for itself?

It almost seems, to me, that folks see children’s poetry and adult poetry as separate fields, with no natural transition possible between the two. Is this true? Can we not have serious poems written for a MG reading level? Or even humorous MG poems, if that’s what it takes?

I’m not asking for poetry books at theses midde levels to overtake fiction and non-fiction (though that would be nice, he says, chuckling). Poetry for adults is a hard sell, but every bookstore I know stocks a fair number of volumes for adults. Why is this not the case for MG kids? Yes, MG adventure, fantasy, and the like, are what sell, but can’t we find a little space for MG poetry?

Nuff said!

(Previously published in Aniprof says …)