Gee, and I thought blogs were for …

As you may or may not know, I write poetry, stories and books for kids up through middle grade. So, I decided to see if there were any other WordPress blogs I might wish to follow. I entered the search term, “middle grade,” and found …

Ads! Lots of posts that were essentially PR for the blogger’s books, or reviews of specific books. What I did not find, however, was any sort of posts that focussed on the art of writing for kids.

Yes, I know, we all use the Internet (notice the capital ‘I’) for getting the word out about our efforts, but is that all there is? Have we become nothing more than mere snake oil salesmen, hawking our wares from the back of a website? I would hope not.

Therefore, if you’re still reading this, I need to ask a favor. Can you please let me know of any blogs out there that are extremely light on both self-publicity and book reviews, and heavy on the art of being a writer. This inquiring mind needs to know!

Nuff said!

A Plea for More MG Science Fiction

There are two areas of Middle Grade writing that I often discuss in these blogs. The first is poetry, and why there is not a lot of true poetry for MG readers. I’ll try and cover that again in a future entry.

The second is one I feel is more pressing, as it impacts on the future interests, and possibly career choices, of our children. That is, the presence of good Science Fiction for MG readers.

Of course, there will be many of you who will start listing fantastic SciFi tomes, attempting to refute my argument before I’ve even begun. So, allow me to agree, that there are a fair number of excellent MG SciFi books in the marketplace. Charlotte’s Library (http://charlotteslibrary.blogspot.com/), and other blogs, do a fair job of listing new titles. Hopefully this will satisfy the “wait a minute” crowd.

But consider, who reads these SciFi volumes. Boys? Girls? I would suggest that the majority of MG SciFi readers are male. Oops! I can hear the “wait a minute” troops marching back. “My daughter reads nothing but science fiction!” I hear them scream. Yes, this may be true. In fact, my own daughter, now in her thirties, has always read two genres: science fiction and mysteries. No sparkly vampires for her!

But it stills seems, at least to me, that there is a gender divide with respect to what boys and girls read. BTW, for me, males and females do not become men and women until they’re at least eighteen years old. Until then, they’re boys and girls.

Getting back to the discussion, I see boys as being drawn to more fact based plots, ones that have the look and feel of contraptions. Girls, I would suggest, are more drawn to plots where the focus is on how people interact with one another. For MG readers, that might, perhaps, include some light romance (very light).

But let’s stop right here and examine the flaws in assumptions you may be making, based on what you’ve read so far. For example, that all science fiction plots are just full of nuts and bolts stuff. Oh how wrong you’d be to think that way. Many, many of the greatest SciFi books ever written have very little to do with things like science or technology. Instead, they focused on people, sentient creatures from various planets, and how they interact. Shouldn’t this attract girls?

And let’s put aside the false premise that all books with a romantic bent have wimpy plots. If a book, any book, has a wimpy plot, no one would read. No editor would ever say yes to purchasing it. Good writing is good writing, pure and simple.

No, the true fault I see is not in the books themselves, or the readers, but in those who publish MG, and also YA, books. There *seems* to be a notion that girls want do not like SciFi because it’s too, well, techy. That girls wanted softer material, and genres such as fantasy or the supernatural are perfect for their tastes. Don’t believe me? Just take a walk through your favorite brick and mortar chain bookstore and you’ll see what I mean; all those glossy dust jackets, usually in YA, with girls in slightly suggestive poses. And sparkly vampires! BTW, how come only vampires get to sparkle?

I just took a peek at the New York Times best-selling list for Children’s Middle Grade. The only book on the list that falls under the label “speculative fiction” is A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz and Jacob W. Grimm (Penguin Group), a collection where Hansel and Gretel end up in other Grimm tales. That’s not even science fiction!

So, if you are beginning to sort of, kind of, agree with me, then how do we go about getting MG readers of all genders to get interested in true science fiction (as opposed to pseudo-science fiction, which is actually more fantasy or supernatural than anything else)? We need to write more of it (of course) and work hard at getting agents and editors to attach themselves to it.

This last part also means convincing them that there *is* a market for the stuff. This, I’m sure you all realize, is the hard crux of the matter. No matter how “daring” an agent or an editor is, they still must deal with what they believe the market will bear. I suggest that for many, this vision is a weak one, and that MG readers will gladly buy and read lots of science fiction IF it’s well written.

Finally, allow me to get back to an earlier theme concerning how reading more MG SciFi can affect or kids’ futures. It is a fact that as kids get older, girls seem to shy away from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics). Yes, there is a fair number of girls who do pursue careers in STEM fields, but the majority of adults in STEM areas are male.

I believe this is the outcome of a self-prophesizing myth that girls do not do well in STEM and boys do. I also propose that this myth is part of the rationale behind not targeting girls as likely SciFi readers. If we want *all* of our children to be successful, in a wide variety of career paths, then we, as writers, should foster reading of all genres by all genders.

Okay, it’s time to hear from the “wait a minute” folks.

Nuff said!

Books and their movies

First, a confession. I have not read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. There, I’ve said it. I’m not proud of this, but it is what it is. Why haven’t I read this book? Especially when I also write MG SciFi? Well, maybe because I’m a slow reader, and there are so many other more current titles I want to tackle. Or maybe …

Well, let’s put that aside as my reading speed or choices is not the topic of this posting. Rather it’s what hapoens when someone gets the bright idea to turn a popular MG book into a movie.

This thought popped into my mind after having watched, last night, an adaption of L’Engle’s book. I watched it on Netflix. Anyway, the production was fairly good, the effects more than passable, but it made me feel like I was missing so much. Various motifs were repeated over and over, and character depth was something distinctly lacking.

Which makes me recall a saying I’d heard, many, many years ago, that the best movies come from short stories, that novels are better suited to something like a TV mini-series. And I agree. There have ben very few book adaptions I have bern satisfied with, mostly because in trying to be faithfull to “the book”, the movie folk had to slice and dice the book’s story into something of a reasonable film length.

A good, recent example of this is the Harry Potter series. In my opinion, the first two movies did not work as well a they could because the filmmakers decided to be true to the original text. I can only assume they were fearful of making Potter fans angry. Then the third movie came out, and I was pleasantly pleased at how good it was. Why? Well, first off, the filmmakers realized they were making a film that was based on a book. There were scenes from the book that did not appear in the film and vice versa. They made a film, not simply an adaptation.

Maybe that’s what bothered me most about A Wrinkle in Time. It felt like an adaptation rather than a true film.

Nuff said!

Hello world!

Okay, perhaps the title is a tad corny, but that’s what WordPress supplies automatically. I could have changed it, but it sort of fits, yes?

So, what, precisely, do I plan to do with this blog, as if the world needed another blog, another collection of words spouting from the fingers of someone who simply cannot stop writing? The answer? More words spouting from the fingers of someone who simply cannot stop writing.

But, in addition, I hope to explore, and discuss, all things related to Middle-Grade (MG) books, not limiting myself to any category or genre. I will, however, confess that I have a warm and cozy spot in my heart for Science Fiction,

And what, dear reader, can you do? Besides reading theses spoutings? You can supply me with suggestions, ideas for future blog posts including, but not limited to, the names and authors of recent books you’d like me to review.

Nuff said!