Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category
OK… so I haven’t been very good at this bloggy thing. What have I been doing?
- I finished editing my book! YAY!!! That’s a big deal.
- I finished writing the query for my book. This is what I will use to submit my book to agents for their consideration. It only took about 25 rewrites, but I think it’s solid now.
- I entered my query in a few contests and got a few honorable mentions from some notable agents. What did that earn me? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! But at least I know I’m on the right track.
- Did I mention I finished editing my book???
- Driving. A lot. My kids attend a camp that is one hour away from our house. So between my husband and I, we have to drive 1 hour each way to drop them off and pick them up from camp. Sometimes there’s traffic which makes it doubly bad.
- Driving. Even more. My parents have a lovely summer home in the Poconos, right on the lake. My children think this place is nearly as cool as Disney World. So we’ve been going up there on the weekends. It’s great fun, but 3 hours of driving each way.
Here’s a picture of me and my boys by the lake in the Poconos. Isn’t it pretty?
- More driving. My oldest son is a huge civil war buff. We promised him some trips to civil war historic sites. We visited Gettysburg a few weeks ago (very cool), and we are about to visit Antietam and Harper’s Ferry. I swear, my next book will be a historical fiction based on the civil war. The ideas are baking as I write this.
- Working a full time job. Yes, I do work. Full time.
- Did I mention, I finished editing my book?
So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to this summer. I haven’t been blogging all that much, but I’ve been rather busy. How about you? How is everyone’s summer going?
What reader do I think about when I write?
My own three boys.
When I craft a story I think about whether my boys would enjoy it. Does it have enough to keep their interest? Would they like the characters I’ve invented? Would they want to keep reading? I think this is why my writing is so boy-focused. As the mother of three boys, I wouldn’t have a clue how to write for a girl reader.
But I also consider my children when I think about the content of my story. Is the subject matter appropriate? Would I approve of this book as a parent? Does it send a positive message?
Which is why I am amazed by some of the books that have been published.
Recently, my 4th grader completed an author study on Roald Dahl. My son selected the book George’s Marvelous Medicine for his study.
If you are not familiar with this book, here’s a brief synopsis: George and his family live on a farm with a cranky grandma. One day George decides he can’t take it anymore and decides to swap Grandma’s medicine with his own concoction – a cocktail of poisons around the house. Grandma takes the medicine, causing her to grow into a giant. Mom and Dad come home and see what happened to Grandma, but rather than get angry with George for trying to poison Granny, Dad decides to recreate the medicine for his own personal gain. If they can give the medicine to the farm animals and produce giant chickens, they’ll be rich! But George can’t remember the exact recipe. Eventually, mistaking it for tea, Grandma drinks one of the failed recreations.The resulting overdose causes her to shrink into nothing. The family decides that losing Grandma finally removes a nuisance from their lives.
Lets put aside for a moment that George feeds POISON to granny (for real?). There isn’t a single good character in this book. And the family celebrates when grandma is gone! Huh? I called my mother and told her she better be good to her grandkids because they might just make her a special medicine! But seriously, what kind of message does this send?
For the record, my son actually liked this book. He thought it was funny and “magical”. Okay, but I’m still not a big fan of the book’s negative message.
George’s Marvelous Medicine was published in 1981. Do you think such a book would be published today?
In recent days, the Twitterverse and Blogosphere have been abuzz about Meghan Cox Gurdon’s article in the Wall Street Journal, Darkness Too Visible. The subtitle is “Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?”
In angry response, a Twitter hashtag, #YASaves has been trending worldwide against the sentiments expressed by Ms. Gurdon.
Ms. Gurdon is correct, the YA shelves are filled with books containing sex, drugs, suicide, and other “dark” topics. And yet, kids are reading! They are reading more today than ever! And this is because the YA reader is identifying with all these “dark” books that Ms. Gurdon poo-poos in her article.
As much as I love books now, when I was in middle school and high school I never considered myself a reader. With reluctance, I read the books that were assigned to me. I remember sleeping through reading The Awakening in 8th grade by Kate Chopin. As a 13 year old, what did I have in common with a woman in a miserable marriage looking for a bit of freedom? Assigned books such as The Awakening really turned me off from reading. It wasn’t until college that I discovered the wonder of books.
But today, kids are reading more than ever before which makes my heart sing! And it’s because YA books are more relevant today. Parents: Let’s be realistic. Kids are faced with “dark” pressures everyday. If they are struggling with a particular pressure and they find solace in a book then why is this such a bad thing? If you want to show kids why certain behaviors are dangerous, you actually have to discuss the behaviors, rather than brush it under the rug. Is anyone really so naive to think that if we don’t talk about sex/drugs/suicide/anorexia/cutting then it isn’t happening?
I don’t remember much of what I read as a young girl, but I do remember reading Forever, by Judy Blume. And why do I remember this particular book? Probably because at the age of 14, Forever was like porn to me! If my mother only knew what Forever was about she probably never would have allowed me to read it. And yet, all these years later I still remember that book. Why? Because as a 14 year old – hormones-raging-crushing-on-boys – kind of girl, it spoke to me!
I found one part of Ms. Gurdon’s article particularly disturbing. The beginning of the article states the following:
Amy Freeman, a 46-year-old mother of three, stood recently in the young-adult section of her local Barnes & Noble, in Bethesda, Md., feeling thwarted and disheartened.
She had popped into the bookstore to pick up a welcome-home gift for her 13-year-old, who had been away. Hundreds of lurid and dramatic covers stood on the racks before her, and there was, she felt, “nothing, not a thing, that I could imagine giving my daughter. It was all vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff.” She left the store empty-handed.
Seriously? Are you telling me there wasn’t a single book that this mother could find for her daughter? I find this hard to believe. I myself would have been able to recommend several good “wholesome” YA books. Did this mother think to possibly ask one of the booksellers for a recommendation? Come on, lady…buy your kid a book!
Harrison, my 8 year old, is learning about fairy tales in school. Their project is to write and illustrate their own fairytale. Harrison is writing a story about a magician. Everything in my house is about magic these days – thank you very much Ms. Rowling.
If you’ve read my blog, you know Harrison is an avid reader, and his vocabulary is mature for his age. So when he wrote his fairytale he used words like “apprentice” and “cauldron.” Now I don’t think these words are terribly advanced, but his teacher urged him to use easier words because – as she explained – fairy tales are read by little children who may not understand these more advanced words. So apprentice became assistant and cauldron became big pot.
I understand that the teacher was trying to make a point here. She was trying to teach her class to understand a younger mindset. To put themselves in the shoes of their readers. Or, as we writers like to say: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
While I can totally appreciate the lesson Harrison’s teacher is trying to convey, as a Middle Grade writer I find the notion of dumbing down my own writing to be infuriating. I’m not saying I should write my novel like an encyclopedia. I’m simply suggesting there is nothing wrong with throwing in a few (perceived) advanced words. Reading is a great opportunity for children to expand their vocabulary. If they don’t know a word they will either infer the meaning from the sentence, or…dare I say it…they will look it up! In fact, one of the main reasons we chose to buy Harrison a Kindle over a Nook is because the Kindle has built in dictionary capabilities. He uses it whenever he comes across a new word, which I think is totally awesome.
Please give children more respect. They are smarter than you think, and we writers are making them even smarter!
What do you think? Should authors dumb down their writing for a younger audience? Am I setting myself up for publishing doom because I refuse to simplify my writing?
Being a mother means I have to have difficult discussions with my children.
I had to explain to my – then six year old – son, Harrison, how he was about to become a big brother and how the baby got inside my belly. It was an age appropriate discussion, of course, but still brutal.
I had to answer truthfully that – yes – everyone does have to die.
And I had to explain to Harrison what happened on 9-11 and who Osama Bin Laden was. I wasn’t planning on explaining 9-11 to Harrison just yet. I knew this could be scary and confusing for him. But with the news of Bin Laden’s death being splattered all over the place this week, there was no avoiding this topic. And I am of the opinion that my children should learn hard truths from their parents.
So I explained 9-11 to Harrison. Carefully. With Sensitivity. But with truth. His questions and comments were rather interesting to me, and shed an interesting perspective on the inner workings of a child. I expected Harrison would react to the 9-11 story differently than an older child would, but some of the discussion points might surprise you.
They crashed planes into buildings?
I could see his eyes widen in fear. Is air travel safe? Will I be in danger next time we fly to Disney World?
Kids have fears. The world around them is scary. It is our job as parents to help them feel safe in this crazy world we live in. I explained to Harrison that airlines have tight security now. Despite the fact that I personally think U.S. airline security is nothing more than security theatre, I reassured him that security does a great job keeping bad guys off planes. It reassured Harrison that airport security would prevent anything like this from happening again. Did I lie? Yes! Airport security cannot prevent terrorism. We all know that. But there is no reason for Harrison to worry about this.
Were you alive when this happened?
I had already told Harrison that the events of 9-11 happened ten years ago. Harrison is quite astute at math so, of course, he knew I was alive. But I think the concept that this tragedy could have happened so recently didn’t register with him. This is history. And history is…well… history. As in – a long time ago. This is a great reminder that kids live in the moment. It’s all about today. Forget about yesterday, and I don’t really care about tomorrow.
They killed Osama?
I was worried about this one. I don’t like teaching my children that revenge is good. If Harrison’s little brother thwacks him, it doesn’t give him the right to thwack him back. Isn’t that what we teach are kids? So killing Osama – essentially an act of revenge – was a hard topic to discuss, never mind the fact that we are talking about murder, guns, blood, gore…. all concepts that are not necessarily appropriate for an eight year old. So this was a really sensitive topic. Our conversation went like this:
Me: “Do you think we should have killed Osama or should we have put him jail for the rest of his life?”
Harrison pauses with a look of concentration on his face. After a few moments he asks, “He was responsible for killing thousands of people, right”?”
Harrison dazes out the window. His eyes squint and his face tightens. He turns back to me, “I think killing him is a fair trade.”
I was surprised by this matter-of-fact response. But his explanation was rather interesting.
Harrison: “If we put him in jail for the rest of his life, then his terrorist friends would try to break him out of the jail. They would probably come with guns and try to rescue him. Killing him is better because now we know he can’t break out of jail and do more bad things.”
Isn’t it interesting how a kids imagination plays out like an action movie? The idea of Osama’s goons breaking him out of prison reads like a movie plot.
But this is a writer’s blog, right? I’m a mom before I’m a writer, and this post is to help other parents who may need to explain these events to their own children. By the way, there is a great Brain Pop that helps explain all of this. Watch it with your kids.
But why is this important for the Middle Grade writer? Remember, you need to know your audience, and if you are writing for the MG market, your reader may not react to a circumstance as you might expect. So reach out and give your reader a hug. They might need it.
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- National Novel Writing Month National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.