One Writer’s Journey

May 19, 2017

Creating Kid Content: Are You Ready?

Young readers – don’t fence them in.

Thursday I watched an interesting Ted Talk, What Adults Can Learn from Kids with Adora Svitak. Svitak makes some interesting points, especially for those of us who create for a younger audience.   (My plan was to link to it but that funciton seems to be “limited” today, so I’ll imbed the video below.)

When adults get “creative,” they put limiters on it.  Thus, the quotation marks.  An idea that is too big or like something never seen before will often by labled impossible and be dropped.  Adults look at how much something costs, weighing the cost benefits of an idea.  They wonder how it will ultimately benefit them.

Young creators, in contrast, reach for the impossible.  They consider whether an idea is fun or awesome over whether or not is plausible or practical.  Kids think in terms of perfection (perfectly fun, perfectly amazing) and abundance (what if everyone could have X) where an adult would immediately look at how practical the idea is.

Given the differences between how adults and our young audiences think, it isn’t surprising that adults think in terms of limits and rules and what kids can handle.  Svitak would appreciate it if we would just knock that off, thank you.

What does this have to do with our writing?  This is me, not Svitak, talking but I have to imagine that she would encourage us to push our perceived limits.  When writing (or illustrating) for young readers, consider the following:

What would make this story more fun?  Silly?  Laugh-out-loud fabulous?

What are my perceived limits where this story is concerned?  Perhaps it has to do with what my reader would understand or who my characters are.  What would happen if I stepped beyond that?

What would happen if instead of the current setting my story was set someplace extreme?  Someplace high or low, hot or cold or simply out of this world?

What does my audience already know about this nonficiton topic?  Why only that?  How can I make my story bigger, better or more extreme?  (While other kids were hearing The Wheels on the Bus, her father was reading them Pioneer Germ Fighters by Navin Sullivan.  Yes, it is a book for young readers but it wasn’t a book for preschoolers.

What limits have you needlessly put on your audience and your work?





February 1, 2017

TED: Learning about Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:48 am
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tedMost of you already know that I’m something of a TED Talk fan.  TED talks were originally about Technology, Education and Design.  They have expanded and cover just about every topic you can imagine including story.  Here are some of my favorites that, as fellow writers, you might find interesting.

Sisonke Msimang’s talk on the power (and limitations) of story.  Click here.

Novelist Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s talk about the dangers of only hearing a single story about a given place.  Click here.

Eman Mohammed’s talk on telling hidden stories and gender norms.  Click here.

How Tracy Chevalier looked at a painting and wrote an entire novel.  Click here.

Film maker Andrew Stanton on the art of storytelling.  Before you click here, TED warns viewers about graphic language so I shall too.

Director Shekhar Kapur on creative inspiration.  Click here.

Writer and director J.J. Abrams talks about his love of mystery.  Click here.

Novelist Amy Tan on where creativity hides.  Click here.

The next time you need a bit of inspiration, click on one of these talks and see how someone else works.  I always come away ready to write and I get you will too.


May 3, 2016

Why We Need Children’s Books with All Kinds of Characters

As a young reader, I was lucky.  My parents were readers.  My grandparents were readers.  In short, the adults in my life supported my love of reading.  I was lucky because I could see myself in a lot of the books that I read whether it was the Little House books or Meg Mysteries.  But I also managed to get my hands on a lot of books that gave me a glimpse into other worlds.  I still have my copy of High Elk’s Treasure by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve.  I don’t remember these books being hard to find but I know myself well enough to know that I would have sought them out.  That’s probably part of why I was reading exclusively adult books by about 8th grade.

Today I saw an amazing Ted Talk with author/illustrator Grace Lin.  To watch it, scroll down the page.

In this talk, Lin discusses the important roles that children’s books play as mirrors (show us ourselves) and windows (showing us a glimpse of a bigger world).  For each reader, means something slightly different.  A caucasian middle class reader has no problem finding caucasian middle class characters (mirrors) but it is also important for this same reader to read about characters whose experiences are different (windows).  The same is true no matter the background of the reader.

Mirrors help our readers respect themselves.  Windows help our readers  respect other people.  Each book that you write can serve both functions depending on the reader.  Mirror and window.  I have to admit that I’m now looking at my bookshelf differently than I ever have before.



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