Friday, March 16, 2012

Existing in a constant state of battle readiness...

A writer spends a large part of their writing life defending their work. The very act of submitting to a publisher after a rejection from another, is an act of defending the quality of your work. "Yes it is good enough to be a book," you repeat, sometimes repeatedly. Doubt is common. If the work is published, the writer must then defend the content from those who disagree about its audience, its packaging, its value, its quality, its price and its credibility. Writers are desperate for people to buy and read their books and then live in fear that people won't like them. If you are a writer for children you must also defend your work against those who believe books for children are the very poor relation; the simple minded cousin even, of books for grown ups. The last time I looked many books for children contain characters, plot, voice, tone, realistic dialogue, setting, effective pacing and a satisfying conclusion. Many show a sure hand with writing technique. Many deal with issues important to their readers. Some are so good one forgets there is a writer controlling the words on the page (and I include picture books here). Strike me dead if all these things aren't also features of books for adults. If a book for children is very good it magically becomes 'crossover' where adults are willing to adopt it as one of their own, preferably with an adultised cover. Yet writers for children do two things that writers for adults don't. They exercise greater control over content for an audience still learning about their world socially, intellectually and emotionally. And they must appeal to both children (as audience) and adults (as audience; as publishers, as gatekeepers - librarians, teachers, parents - and purchasers). Children's writers are interested in the human condition too - but it's the human condition as experienced by children that they explore. Is seeing children's literature as inferior therefore seeing children as inferior versions of adults? That would be a shameful attitude. There are inferior children's books just as there are inferior adults books, but I feel I must defend children's books against the blanket view that in general they are inferior to adult books.

And with the number of books increasing dramatically as frustrated writers publish their own, to the accompanying cries of concern over a drop in quality, the need to defend one's work only deepens. So if writers seem a little defensive these days its only because they are living in a constant state of battle readiness. Just don't make any unexpected loud noises behind us.

1 comment:

Old Kitty said...

Love your fightin' talk! Yay! take care