Monday, August 15, 2011

Writing as a Reader

I have spent my whole writing "career" (so to speak) writing the books that I wanted to read as a kid.  As the years have gone by, I'm mostly still writing for the eight-year-old I used to be... thirty-odd years ago. 

Now my six-year-old daughter is gaining the maturity to enjoy the books that first lit the creative spark inside of me.  This is a huge and exciting development in my writing life (and hers, too, I'm sure).  I've had plenty of kids give me feedback on my work, but these were not kids who lived with me, kids I knew nearly as well as I know myself.  My nearest audience is no longer a hypothetical "kids out there"; nor, more importantly, is it a younger me.  It is someone who does not dwell inside my head, someone who was actually born in our current century.

More than anything, watching my daughter this summer has re-reminded me of the power that we as writers hold in our fingertips.  A few weeks ago, she returned from a play date, having viewed a commercial for the movie DIARY OF A WIMPY KID.  Two hours later, she started to shake and cry. "The cheese part scared me!" she sobbed.

Weeks later, she can conjure up tears at the most subtle reminder of cheese, commercials, movies, diaries... Someday perhaps she will be a Method Actor.  Today, she is my tender, sensitive girl, who will laugh, who will cry, who will remember a clever turn of phrase from something she read eons ago.

Kids, we all know, are not little grown-ups.  Their reactions are anything but predictable.  Yesterday she said to me, "Does R.L. Stine write things that scare kids?  I hate R.L. Stine!"  (As though she knew him personally.)  In five years, she will probably adore R.L. Stine.  But right now, my daughter is a living and vivid reminder of the awesomeness of the task we set for ourselves as those who write for children.  Wow, what an opportunity.  Wow, what a responsibility. --Jeanne Marie


Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for this important reminder of our responsibility as authors, JM.

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

I hope you daughter decides to write with you. My 6 year old granddaughter is always giving me stories to write down for her. Then she illustrates. I hope this means she will continue to do this. I can't wait till Grace is old enough to read Tasha. Perhaps by that Time, I'll have gotten it right.