Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Writing for children is not the poor relation of writing for adults

I think it's fair to say that children's writing is often seen as inferior to writing for adults. Many children's writers can tell you about the times they've been asked when they are going to write a proper book, a grown up one, for 'real' people. Children are viewed as incomplete adults in need of a lesser (or incomplete) literature. But age based immaturity does not = simple. That's just patronising, and rude.

On occasion I've told myself that I just prefer reading books for children and that is why I write them, but then I remember I've read and continue to read plenty of books written for grown ups - classic literature, literary prize winners, crime novels, thrillers, romance and more - and often enjoyed them and sometimes adored them. So it's not that that sways me to write for children.

The truth is I think writing is a vocation, a calling, a compulsion, or a curse if you like. I have a need to write that is not bound by rational thought or reason. If I try to escape it, it sticks a story worm in my head while whispering 'gotcha.' I write stories for children because these are the ideas that come to me and where my skills seem to lie. I don't ever remember a moment when I consciously chose to write for a younger audience over some other group. I just did. I think the die was cast when the curse was thrown. I think maybe writers for adults are the same. To ascribe some superiority to something you didn't choose seems a bit on the nose.

 You don't control it. It's how your vocation, your compulsion, has manifested itself. Some writers can write for both adults and children but they are the exception, not the rule, and their vocation has been generous (and to imply this means writing either is easy seems a little disingenuous). And I think some writers who do both are clearly better at one over the other and they have strayed from their calling. And some writers who attempt a particular kind of book because it must be easier than their other preferred form usually demonstrate why this is patently not true.

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