By Leslie Colin Tribble
I have some questions for you.
Why do you want to be a children’s writer? Have you ever thought about writing for a different age level? How do writers even know what type of writer they should be anyway?
I’ve been asking myself these questions a lot lately. Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers.
I'm not sure anymore what type of writer I am. Or more specifically, who my audience is.
I love picture books. My favorites are the quiet books about nature or animals that make me want to be the character, live in the setting or get outside and observe animals living their lives.
I've wanted to write children's books for decades. I wrote my first story in my 30's and showed it to one person. I didn’t write another story for over 20 years.
All during that time I read picture books. I read them to my kids or I read them to myself. I love the flow of words in children's books. I love the brevity, the way they say just enough to propel the story but leave your imagination to fill in the blanks. My favorite stories though, are ones like Chipmunk Song by Joanne Ryder. I thought, “I could write like that.”
But I didn't. I didn’t write anything. At least not until two years ago when I actually started writing and referring to myself as a writer. I wrote some stories and am now rewriting and sending them out for critiques and rewriting again and sending out to editors and agents. And of course, nothing's happened.
At the same time I began writing children’s stories, I started writing adult magazine articles and have had 10 articles published. And I just finished this rather large writing project for which I penned at least 34,000 words in six weeks. Why am I working so hard at writing picture books when adult writing is so much easier?
I’ll ask again – Why do you write children’s books? I asked the other Groggers why they want to write for children and I got beautiful responses.
Marcie Flinchum Atkins said, "I was a voracious reader as a child. I literally read my way through the library. I want to write the types of books I would've wanted to read as a child. I write for that child.
Kathy Halsey responded, "I write for kids because they know the truth when they see it, intuitively. They have no guile and express their feeling w/out a filter. So if a child laughs at my story, cries with a remembered memory of being hurt, or is fascinated by a new idea, I know I have connected to the most important audience of all. Kids are our best selves.
Todd Burleson said, "I believe picture books fill a very important need. In 32 pages, we are able to open up a window to the world for readers of all ages. In picture books, we can approach sometimes very challenging topics and ideas in ways that feel non-threatening and compassionate.They simply open the door and allow the reader to 'walk about' the ideas. I hope to write books that perform this function. It is my life's ambition to leave a few of these for the world."
Janie Reinert and Sherri Jones Rivers both said it's the preciousness of holding a child in your lap and reading a beautiful story to them.
What great answers! Ok, so now it was time I got to the bottom of my personal dilemma.
I thought maybe I could find some online article entitled, “What Type of Writer are You – Children’s or Adult?” I didn’t. Instead, I took a couple of online quizzes – you know, those ones on Facebook that tell you what color you are, or where you really should live? These particular quizzes were geared to writing. The first one said I should be a poet. Really? I’ve never penned so much as a haiku or limerick. Poetry? Hmmmm.
The second one was more helpful. It was short and sweet but had some interesting questions. In the end it described three types of writers: the Brave Creative, the Change Catalyst and the Joyful Creator.
“The Brave Creative is someone dares to share secret hurts and pain with their writing. Their writing is filled with courage, honest and personal authenticity.” Probably not me.
“The Change Catalyst is a reality grounded writer who sees what people need. Their writing is targeted, purposeful and sharpened for the greatest impact.” Um, no. That’s definitely not me.
“The Joyful Creator is someone whose creativity shows up in every aspect of their being. Their writing is exuberant, spiritual and expands into a variety of different fields. They understand things others don’t and they communicate their discoveries with warmth and excitement.” YES! This is so me!
Defining my writing style was interesting, but still didn't help me answer my original question of writing for kids or adults. So I just sat down and tried to define my motivation for wanting to write children’s books. Here's what I found out:
I want to open a child’s eyes to the wonder of the natural world. I want to show them how to find beauty in their world, even if they aren’t surrounded by beauty. I want to touch a child’s heart with the wonder of life.
I still don’t know if I can be a successful, published children’s writer. But I do know I can try. I can write the simple, quiet, lyrical nature stories my heart desires. Maybe I’ll polish them until they shine and wait until the fickle pendulum of publishing swings back to wanting my style of writing.
So let me ask again, "Why do YOU want to be a children’s writer?"