This was originally posted to my old blog, The Blathering, on June 24, 2008. It still holds up!
So, you may be wondering, why do I write for children? Or you may not be wondering, as it’s obvious to most people who know me that my inner 10 year old, the one who loves bad puns and fart jokes, isn’t buried very deep. Actually, it’s a question people don’t seem to ask as much any more—not since Harry Potter became a phenomenon and made “children’s books” both more respectable and more lucrative. (Ah, you may think, maybe she’ll be the next J. K. Rowling? “I’d rather you’d been the first one,” says dear hubby, anticipating early retirement.)
Still, it’s a good question. Why, in addition to my inner 10 year old demanding to be heard, do I like to write for kids? Maybe it’s because when I was a kid books were such an important part of my life. I loved nothing better than to immerse myself in a story, and some of those books have stayed with me even thirty years later. I was reminded of this at a writers’ conference this month. Author/editor Patricia Lee Gauch was one of the speakers (a very good one, btw) and afterward she was available to sign books. I saw two women in their 30s come up to her with old, grubby copies of Christina Katerina and the Box, a picture book Gauch published in 1971. Even decades later, these readers were excited to meet the author of a book they loved to bits as a child. Now, what writer wouldn’t want to have that kind of reaction to their work?
Your view of the world as a child can stay with you for a long time, I was reminded again during a visit to the doctor last week. My knee had started this annoying clicking and cracking—nothing horribly painful, but I wanted to make sure it was safe to train for taekwondo nationals next week. Amongst the cautions and exercises and advice the doctor gave me, she threw out this little comment: “… for sports people like you.” Sports people like me? I was thrown off for a moment. I’m not a sports person. I was always one of the last to be picked for sports teams when I was growing up. I was a dork, my nose always in a book, not someone who joins teams or runs races. How could I be a sports person?
I guess people change. And for children (and our own childish self-images), that’s not always an easy or obvious lesson to learn. But books do help—they make readers aware that there’s a bigger world out there, filled with all sorts of intriguing possibilities. Maybe Max can tame his wild things. Maybe a klutz can grow up to be a black belt. Maybe anything can happen. So when I write for children, I see a world of possibilities to choose from, and hopefully I can show that same limitless world to readers. (That is, assuming I get some someday. My imagination tells me it’s possible!)