Adult-ery

Do you cheat on your writing and/or reading for children? How do you feel about that?

For example, I have an adult text to read to prepare for a new job, a saint’s musings to pray through, and a Jasper Forde gift from a friend in my pile. Yet what did I curl up with this past weekend? Harry Potter. My relationship with children’s fiction is just one I don’t want to leave. I do feel guilty about my infidelity –  why indulge in mature fare when I have several stacks of novels that can help me get the feel for the voice and market of the audience I want to write for?

Editorial Anonymous says not to write for children if you don’t have anything to say to them or about the experience. That’s how I feel about writing for adults. Now, I have several things I’d like to say to adults, but nothing that merits as literary fiction, a crime novel, sci-fi, or romance (ha!).

Yet what about the fact that most high school students (especially the older teens) read primarily adult fiction (the classics)? Is it difficult to get a 17-year-old to read about a 17-year-old? The common rule is to say that it’s more likely the 14-year-old younger sister is reading that book. Then there’s the Alex Award, given by the ALA to the best books in adult fiction that appeal to teenagers.

Is switching to an adult POV worth contemplating? How does one go about it? Or is it like any other love affair, and you just fall into it?

“You Don’t Count. You’re a Grown-Up.”

The lovely Jeanne Birdsall, author of the Penderwicks series,  spoke recently at the Brookline Main Library. As the oldest big kid in the audience, I was heartened to see at least fifty young fans, including a healthy representation of boys!

Birdsall demonstrated how best to give a presentation: have a conversation with the fans and answer their questions honestly and respectfully. No podium or easy chair for her. She sat cross-legged on top of the table.

Pointers!

– Be encouraging. Birdsall just so happens to be writing an introduction for the 50-year anniversary of the classic. She said she hoped one of the young ones present would write the introduction for the 25th anniversary of her books.

– Make the children feel important. When asking who hadn’t read the first Penderwicks book, she pished a mom by waving the hand down. Refer to the title of this post. “You don’t count. You’re a grown-up.” Such a line also illustrates to a writer how to keep in mind your primary audience.

– Relate to their age. “Be very careful whom you sit next to in the 7th grade.” Hers encouraged her writing and became her second husband.

– Explain the writing process in humorous ways. Apparently the Penderwicks came into being because Birdsall took one of her favorite books, Little Women, and kept what she liked, and changed what she didn’t. Meg didn’t have a life; Jo got all the good stuff, which wasn’t fair; Beth’s awful thing happened; Amy was annoying (and “little sisters rock”). Also, writers, take note. In describing her work space, she said: “There’s a bed where I can take naps when I don’t feel like writing. It’s pretty much perfect.”

– Answer questions honestly. She always gets asked by the mothers why Mrs. Penderwick had to be dead. This time, a child asked the question. Part of her lovely answer was that she was a fan of “giving children the power to form the family they want.” Also, it would’ve meant portraying the natural push and pull between mother and teenage daughters. “We’ve lived through teenage rebellion. That’s enough.”

– Give little spoilers.  She’s going to discourage character Jane Penderwick from going the self-publishing route.

Concluding thoughts: “That’s the thing I hope for. That the book I’m writing right now or have just written is my favorite. If it’s not, well, maybe I didn’t work that hard.”

Work hard, dear writers!

Would a MS Sound Any Sweeter By Another Name?

Unequivocally, yes.

Recently I spoke with the publisher at a small trade house. I brought up that “s”-word, which would be funny considering she’s a religious sister – if it were that “s”-word. But it was not. It was

Slush.

I, a writer, called those pre-published, unsolicited MSes, etc., slush. Because that was what I’d known from learning about the biz on the other side of the desk. The sister laughed and gently corrected me. “We call them ‘cold submissions’ here.”

Well, I said, as a writer, I am so grateful to hear that. Rather than being compared to that dirty, gray muck that ruins your budget boots, peoples’ writing are called what they are: pieces of work that haven’t been warmed by the loving hands of agents or editors.

Proof positive some editors respect and value your effort just as much as you want them to.