There needs to be Mid-Grade poetry

This post is going to be a call to arms! There, I said it, and I mean it. We need to encourage the creation, sale and reading of poetry for mid-grade readers. I’ve blogged about this before, but figured it’s time to speak again.

Here’s what I see. There is, of course, a wealth of poetry for readers from Young Adult through Adult. Always has been and, I assume, always will be. This poetry is geared towards the adult sensibility, the adult mind. I’ll skip giving examples as they’re far too numerous.

On the lower end, there are fabulous examples of poetry for children, young children, from X.J. Kennedy to Jack Prelutsky to Douglas Florian to Shel Silverstein, and the list goes on. This poetry is targeted at the the juvenile reader/listener, meant to heard as well as read. And, often, these are illustrated poems, which adds to the reader/listener’s appreciation. BTW, I add “listener” as many of these poems are meant to be read out loud to a young child, to introduce them to the printed word.

But, I ask, where is the academy of poets for middle grade readers, specifically those ages ten to twelve? These individuals have mastered the art of reading, but they are not as mature as YA readers. Books written for this age group do not encompass the themes found in YA and beyond. As far as fiction and non-fiction goes, it appears that MG readers are wells served, but not so for verse.

So, when it comes to prose works, there is a continuous transition from picture books, to easy readers, to chapter books, to MG, to YA and then adult. But for verse, there is a glaring gap in the MG range.

This, to me, creates a disconnect. We train readers to develop a deeper ability to read and appreciate the nuances of prose, but not so for poetry. How do we show readers that children’s poetry and adult poetry are merely points on a continuum rather than two distinct genres?

This is not to say that there are not poets who write for the MG market. There are. And over the next few weeks I hope to spotlight those brave souls who have been able to see collections of MG poetry through the rigors of the publishing world.
Nuff said!


The value of short stories

Well, I’m gearing up a few projects, mostly MG, but I’m also starting to get involved in anthologies through Goodreads.

I love writing short stories, and reading them, but the market for shorts is difficult these days. It’s not like decades ago, when there were monthly and weekly magazines that regularly published short stories. Not the case, anymore.

So, being able to write stories under 10K words for anthologies is a godsend. Whether or not they make gobs of money (please, I’m not against money) is, for me, not the point. What is important is to be able to stretch those writing muscles the way visual artists have been doing so for years.

Writing short stories is akin to a visual artist creating sketches, or quick paintings. These “short” forms require all the skills and abilities for larger works, but the time spent on each is limited. It is, IMHO, highly meaningful practice of ones art. May short stories live forever!

Which brings me to the issue of why short story collections do not sell well in the MG/YA crowd. Is the problem that folks are not writing shorts for these audiences, or incapable of doing so? I find that hard to believe. Consider the fact that many authors are now being asked, by their respective publishers, to create short works to be sold strictly as ebooks. They’re priced fairly low, to entice new readers for these authors.

Is it that collections do not sell? Hmm, this could be a circular problem, if it’s true. How so? Consider this. What if books don’t sell well because they’re not marketed well, and they’re no marketed well because they don’t sell well. Can we say chicken versus the egg? (BTW, the egg comes first, scientifically, but that’s another story.)

For adults, especially in Science Fiction & Fantasy, my area, anthologies are part of the bread and butter of what we do. But not so for younger groups. This is not to say that anthologies are not edited and sold. They are, but no where near the level that they are for adults. For me, this is something that needs to change.

Why? well, a great way to get kids to embrace reading – and I’m talking about kids who do not read a lot, yet – is to get them hooked on short stories. Shorts are a fabulous gateway to reading full length novels, and great way to be exposed to a large array of authors, many new to a reader.

And from a writer’s perspective, some story ideas do not merit a full length treatment. Haven’t you ever read a book and thought how thin the plot was? Perhaps that story would have been better presented as a short, or perhaps a novella. Novellas are perhaps even harder to sell than short stories.

Perhaps, some day, soon, short story collections/anthologies will once again become both popular and profitable. One can always dream!

Nuff said!