I’m taking a cue from the gurus over at Nerd Fitness and the lovely ladies of Blue Sun Studios. One of the first quests Nerd Fitness asks their new recruits to master is the same as the underlying principle of Blue Sun Studio’s Journey to the Center of Your Heart workshop: finding your Big Why. So what is your Big Why? It is your personal truth or purpose. It’s the motivating factor behind everything you do, whether it be fitness, writing, or even just living a mindful life from day to day.
As I start down this path of full-time freelance writing and editing, I started thinking about my motivation. Why do I edit? I edit because I have a love for language and words. I enjoy learning the nuances of the English language, and I know that there are many writers out there who aren’t as excited about grammar rules as I am. I love being able to help a fellow writer be able to present the best version of their story possible to the world. Why do I write? I write because I enjoy stories. As human beings, we have used storytelling as a way to share ideas and teach concepts for centuries. Stories are a way of bringing people together and building community. I love being a part of that. Now comes the hard part. Why do I write for children?
The idea that writing for children is quick and easy and a great source of income is a common one. After all, the stories are shorter and the language is simpler, right? Wrong. Granted, there are just as many (if not more) poorly written children’s books out there as there are in any other genre. I’ve read some of them. Well, I’ve tried to read some of them. I’ll admit that I’ve put a few of them down without finishing them, and that’s just sad to me. Just because a book is geared towards children, or even young adults, doesn’t give a writer a free pass to be lazy. In fact, children tend to be more discerning than adults. If they don’t like your book, they’re more likely not to finish it than an adult is. Writing books for children is, and should be viewed as, an opportunity to teach language. They should have just as much, if not more, depth and imagery than adult books. In order to create lifelong readers, books should engage the active imaginations of children. They should create a sense of wonder and awe, and if done well, can help them learn something along the way.
It is a challenge to write for children and do it well. There needs to be a balance between language and content. Writing needs to be concise and yet convey imagery and symbolism that they can relate to and enjoy. While the language needs to be simple enough to be understood, a writer should never talk down to the reader or seem preachy. Then comes the gauntlet of gatekeepers: the editors, publishers, teachers, librarians, and parents. All of these well-meaning adults standing between your book and your child readers. If your book doesn’t pass muster with them, you won’t have to worry about what actual children think of your fabulous story.
So why do I write for children? I write for children because I enjoy the challenge. I love sharing stories and language with young people. I love the light that comes into their eyes when you ask them about a book that they love. It makes my heart happy to be able to share a love of reading and to help cultivate young imaginations. After all, I’m just a child at heart.