I started writing for kids when our kids were little. I found inspiration while hanging out with kids on playgrounds, in school, and at soccer games. I kept our kids in mind as I wrote. When they grew out of picture book age, I lost them as audience but kept their younger selves in mind, along with their friends, my own younger self, and the children my sisters used to be. Maybe that’s why one editor kindly described my voice as “classic.” With school visits dwindling, perhaps I should spend more time at the playground.
When I worked as a managing editor for an educational publisher, a reading specialist assigned reading levels to all our books. We also assigned each one an interest level, which was intended to attract reluctant readers to subjects that might appeal to them even if did not correlate with the reading level. This category included many high-interest topics for boys: amazing sports feats, weird facts, adventure stories. How well did it work? I can’t say. I thought of it as just one more marketing tool.
My writing group is remarkable in many ways, but what applies to this topic is their ability to pick out words, phrases, and concepts that seem too adult for a poem or picture book manuscript. Yesterday, I sifted through my filing cabinet and recycled a paper grocery bag full of old drafts. I was struck by the number of gently worded rejection letters, several of which referenced this problem, especially in my poetry collections. Although we should not focus too much on audience when we write, we should pay attention when we revise. Maybe some of those old poems are worth taking another crack at with a young audience specifically in mind.
Here’s an example:
We piled into the car, rode to the library, and picked out our favorite books to read and share.
The revised version:
We piled into the car. Mom drove us to the library. Each of us checked out a stack of books. We read our own, and then we traded.
Notice that I added words and also varied the sentence structure.
It’s Poetry Friday! Here’s a poem I found yesterday when I cleaned out my files.
My Singular Garden
My garden is a skinny one
with just the right amount of sun.
I planted one delphinium,
one violet, one trillium,
I wish I could continuum,
but I have reached the maximum.
Teacher Dance. Enjoy!
Today is the last day for our 2015 Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market Book Giveaway! Enter here.
Finally, don’t forget to V O T E !
JoAnn Early Macken