Someone asked me the other day if I’m still writing for kids. As in, when are you going to move up to real writing, adult stuff, the big leagues? When are you going to move out of the minors? When are you gonna grow up, fella?
I resisted throwing him out of the room (a la Donald Trump’s goon) or demanding to know how many kids’ books he’s read lately or if he’s read any in the last forty years or if he even remembers how to read anything besides text messages and emails and the latest in fantasy football advice. I smiled and bit my tongue (hard to do simultaneously) and mumbled something about finding my comfort zone. I could’ve also mentioned wanting to write stories my mother would have approved of or being a 14-year-old at heart or trying to recreate for young readers the kinds of reading experiences that enriched my life as a young reader.
What I should probably do is pick out two or three of the amazing books for kids I’ve read over the last few years and give them to him and make him promise to give them a shot. And then see what he has to say. Because I’m confident that anyone who professes to enjoy reading, who has an appreciation for strong writing but whose interests have maybe been directed to adult bestsellers and Amazon’s picks and whatever is on the display table at Barnes and Noble, will be impressed by what’s being written for kids.
Maybe my acquaintance will recognize that the best kids’ books are on a par with top adult books. Maybe he’ll realize that I’m trying to make something enjoyable and memorable for kids and be as good as some of the accomplished writers in the field I’ve chosen to write in, and he’ll see those goals as worthwhile, and he won’t ask me that question again.