While there are entire groups of people that I’ve missed, I tried to analyze the broad groups I’ve found to be most prevalent in the field of children’s writing: Young Adults, Parents, and Retirees. However, there is one age group that you may not run into at your regional SCBWI Conference or whose faces may not appear in many book jackets that I thought was far too important in the world of children’s writing to overlook. That group is children.
Children’s Book Writers who are Children:
How to recognize:
All children are writers. Does their head reach below your waist? Are there any baby teeth left in their mouth? They are a writer.
Children have active, uninhibited, and sometimes very random imaginations. Many children have such little constraint when it comes to storytelling that they might border on ‘pathological liars.’This is probably the greatest skill that children as writers can offer. They are so immersed in their imaginations that they believe their extraordinary tales are real.
Of course, for children’s book writers, children are also the audience. Even more than publishers, bookstores, parents, and schools, children dictate what books succeed. After all, who better understands what kids love, hate, want, need, and feel than kids?
An insightful New York Times article debates whether or not children should be regarded equally and professionally in publishing. Children and teens are still developing the basics of the craft of writing. Some also argue that they lack ‘real world’ experience, but I disagree. As kids go through their first failures and successes, friendships building and breaking, bullying, moving, and shifting family dynamics, they are often more in touch with the raw emotions they experience than adults.
I would say that a greater disadvantage is their vulnerability. As an adult who has endured years of skin-thickening, I still sometimes leave my critique group sessions feeling crushed. If a child received the same feedback, they might put tuck their pen in their drawer for good. Whether or not you think that children should attempt to get published, whether their stories lack grammar or conflict or logic or whether they bear an uncanny resemblance to the book they just read, encourage them.
I truly believe that the most important thing we adults can do for children is to let them know that what they have to say is valuable.