Why I Choose to Write for Teens, Tweens and Children
No, it's not because I can't write for adults.
It's one of the most controversial topics in the writing world you've never heard of: the dichotomy between those that write exclusively for adults and—those that don't.
I'm going to say it.
Writing for children and teens is not the step below graduating to adult fiction. It is its own tier, full of expert storytellers who, for various reasons, choose to write for that audience.
It's no secret writers are competitive; and whether we intend to or not, we judge each other continuously. We compare and contrast ourselves worse than the Jones' and their neighbours ever could.
I get it.
It's low hanging fruit to look at someone's quality work and decide the reason they are writing for children and teens is simply because they do not have the talent to write for adults, that they haven't yet graduated to professional level writing. It's an easy way to talk yourself out of feeling "less than".
While it may be true that some of us hone our skills lower down, and perhaps a small fraction do use the YA label to cover up poor quality writing, it is not the default.
Like so many other things in life where we pit ourselves against one another, this writing line in the sand is a stereotype. And it's one no one is talking about—openly.
There are those that consider me talented, and probably those that consider me overblown. Provided the criticism is constructive and my target audience enjoys my stories, it really doesn't matter to me how I'm assessed.
Fortunately, in safe places like Vocal and my writings groups, public feedback is a blessing. I usually have to press for negative things to be pointed out to me. But elsewhere in life and online, many of us YA and children's literature writers have not been treated in such a friendly manner.
This needs to change.
I think it surprises the folks that enjoy my work when I explain that unless I'm writing non-fiction, I choose to write exclusively for children (CH), teens and tweens (YA). I will likely never switch, and I certainly would not consider the move a "graduation".
Whether you hold a bias you weren't aware of, or whether you are like many I've come across who, when presenting their work, minimize themselves and their CH/YA work in comparison to those who write for adults, this article is for you; I hope it encourages you to see things in a new light.
Why do I choose to write children's and teen literature?
The answer is simple.
Because I was a child once.
Because I got my writing techniques and talent from reading hundreds, if not thousands of books over the years.
No, that's not an exaggeration: my mom used to max out our library card, (thirty books a week), every week, for as long as I can remember. She continued to do so all the way into our early teens when we took over our borrowing. And yes, she also read nearly all of them, often many, many, many times.
Up until I became an adult, by and large the books were from, you guessed it: the CH and YA genres. Since the start of every writer's journey is their exposure to children's literature, I think you can see where I'm going.
Books have the capacity to alter your soul.
They can transport you to new shores, planets, places and into millions of different lives; you can live and die as a thousand different characters; you can feel the entire spectrum of humanity's emotional-rainbow—all without leaving your home. Thankfully, books can be made accessible to the masses through public libraries and put into any number of formats, so that no matter your wallet size or how your body functions, everyone can enjoy them.
Children and YA books, specifically, are invested ink for the future pen. They help us dream, process our emotions, seek help, discover ourselves and our identities. If you're really lucky, you'll stumble on a few that leave wordprints on your very being and direct the course of your adult life.
Literacy is truly the foundation of a society, in my opinion, and I take pride in teaching children and ESL learners to love reading.
I consider it a privilege to write in the genre of books that have the capacity to alter humanity. Children are our most vulnerable members of society, and I take my role very seriously. I am continually looking for ways to shape and mould my words so that they are inclusive, helpful, and meaningful for the readers that trust me enough to read them—beyond just creating a tale they enjoy. I deliberately place meaning between the lines in everything I publish for children and teens. I take thousands of extra minutes and moments to carefully write my stories using allegory, metaphors, similes, rhythms, alliteration, onomatopoeias and more. I aim to help them grow.
In my upcoming novella for tweens (9-12), I went so far as to painstakingly assess my vocabulary choices and include a glossary at the bottom of each page for any word that, based on my experience teaching, I know a child that age would highlight as "unknown".
In reading comprehension, it's fine to look those words up at the end of the task and then reread with definitions. But...in a story, it spoils the flow. The glossary technique is something I learned by teaching ESL students: I would read their novel ahead of time and hand write them a personal dictionary to refer to in real-time.
Did it take me extra hours during my own uni study time? Heck, yes! But it was worth every cup of coffee. The feedback from those days, the joy and pleasure a simple glossary with their tale brought them, is something I will never forget.
And you see, it's reasons such as above that forever and always, my literary home will remain with our youth. Adults welcome, of course!
Come hang with us.
About the Author:
Les lives a quiet life in Canada with her three rescue cats. She primarily writes children's and teen fiction but will delve into anything that gets the swirling words out of her brain. Her first book, Owl in a Towel, is available for purchase here. Her next book, Carrie and the Curious Caticorn Caper, is expected to be released in August 2022. Publishing inquiries may be directed to [email protected]
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