Why Writing Kidlit is Hard – A half formed thought by Mackenzi Lee
Today I had a job interview. In the middle of it, I had a brainwave. I did not share this brainwave with the interviewer, because it’s still sort of half formed in my head, and I didn’t want to look like a totally inarticulate moron1 if it didn’t pan out.
So here’s what I was thinking about writing for kids, and why it is so hard. Because it is. For those of you who read picture books and think, “I could do that!” Try it sometime. I dare you2.
As adults writing for children, we are looking back on our childhood and remembering what it was like to be a kid. But kids have never been anything but kids. They don’t have to look backward, they just look around.
So when adults write, we3 bring with us our insights and baggage from both childhood and adulthood, and the perspective that comes with it. But kids don’t have this reflective vision. That’s why writing for kids is so hard, because kids don’t have that ‘extra perspective’ that comes through in your writing, so it becomes really easy for them to spot people who are faking it. As a kidlit writer, you have to find a way to take yourself back to a time when you weren’t looking backwards at yourself.
But I think that’s also why so many adults are drawn to kidlit. It’s very appealing to be able to go back to a time when you didn’t have adult worries. We can go back to a time when things made more sense, or experience the problems that we felt at the time were so earth changing, but in the end really weren’t. Or sometimes, in certain YA books, they are earth changing. We don’t want to have to look back at our youth, so we can experience it all over again through kidlit. .
Wow, yes, really good I didn’t bust this one out in the middle of my interview. This might not have gone over that well. I will stop now.
- In other news, Microsoft Word just autocorrected moron to Mormon.
- Okay, it’s hard to write a good kids book.
- We…Oh no. Guys, am I an adult?