Dig Deep: Writing for the Kid You Were

My first grade class. I’m in the middle row, third from the end.

When you choose writing projects, do you think about the kid you were and what fascinated you?  I have to admit that when I’ve remembered to do this it has paid off.

I was a horse crazy kid.  Horse.  Crazy.  I didn’t have one and no amount of begging was going to get me lessons but if there was a horse in the vicinity that’s where I was.  I learned to ride from a family friend on a Tennessee Walker that was so big I couldn’t dream of reaching the stirrups.

What does this have to do with my writing life? My first regular gig was with Young Equestrian Magazine. When the editor put out a call for manuscripts, I sent her a query for a bio of Marguerite Henry.  Like every horse-mad girl, I had read all of Henry’s books.  I got the gig.

My grandad taught me to fossil hunt.  With him, I’d walk West Texas trails flipping rocks with the toe of my shoe.  He taught me to never grab a rock with my hand.  Rocks provide shade for desert reptiles.  I collected a wide variety of crinoids fossils and learned to observe animals and how they adapted to the high desert.

These enthusiasms led to The Evolution of Reptiles and The Evolution of Mammals.  But this tendency to question and observe also made nonfiction in general a natural fit.  From his childhood in the South, I learned to question authority.  If they said X, I knew there had to be a reason, someone who was served by believing this.  I’d have to gather the facts and make up my own damn mind. That’s more or less a direct quote.

What were the things you loved as a child?  Plants?  Animals?  Pretend play?  Chances are that any and all of the things you loved still draw children in today.  Write for the child you were.