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Friday, 29 April 2011

Kidlit for Grownups

I’ve been reading some blogs recently and have come to a bit of an epiphany about my writing.
I feel like I should be standing up in the middle of a group or something and saying:
“Hello, my name is Garry, and I write Kidlit for grownups.”

So how have I come to this startling discovery? Well… Once upon a time, a young man started writing stories. He didn’t particularly know where or by whom these tails would be read, and he didn’t particularly care. He wrote about the fantastical things that interested him. He wrote to escape the mounting pressures that came hand-in-glove with early adulthood. But most of all he wrote because he wanted to.
He wasn’t very technically proficient at it, some say he still isn’t, but that wasn’t the point. He still remembered that wide-eyed imagination of childhood, well enough to capture it with pen and paper… Oh yes, he used pen and paper, computers were in their infancy back then, and he didn’t own a typewriter. There weren’t many typewriters around in the small mining-village where he grew up.

He wrote of adventure and of life as he saw it, and he still does, even in this very blog.
Since those early days that young man had grown up, and relatively old. He had gone through college, got married, and has read a fair amount of ‘Literature,’ in his life, and invariably thought ‘fine, but where’s the story?’

As I said it was only while reading other peoples comments in their blogs that I realised I had always been re-writing those adventure tales of my youth.
On one hand what I write can be seen as closely following the constructs of ‘traditional children’s literature,’ in the sense of the type of books that were intentionally written for children up to around the age of twelve: just before the teen thing kicks in.
But I’m also writing for myself and for other adults, in that I put adult emotions, fears, and desires into my work. I try to make ‘real’ characters that don’t always do the ‘right’ thing. I suppose I do have a morel in there, if you look for it, but it certainly is a shade or two away from the black-and-white morality of those old children’s stories.
This is perhaps why ‘Alice in Wonderland’ has stayed with me throughout my life. On the face of it, it is a simple children’s story, but on re-reading an older person may see beyond the surface to a slightly darker world-view.
I’ve noticed that my more recent work has concentrated in bringing this under-darkness out into the open. A sort of “Outed Alice,” now there’s a title I should think about!

So is there a market for this type of writing?

 Is the recent mainstream shift towards the ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Twilight’ type of YA orientated writing an indication of people’s desire to (re)read those old-style adventure stories of their youth? Or is the recent fantasy/wizards/vampire phenomenon a symptom of something else?

I’d say my stuff is a bit more edgy than the HP, Twilight stories. I’m trying to point people at the grey-areas a bit more, but still have that ripping-yarn quality. Perhaps I’m not there yet, but I will keep trying.
I’m still not entirely sure where to market a lot of my work, but the advent of e-pub looks like a possibility. The major problem there is getting people to notice a needle in a needle-stack! The thing is, now I do care. I want to know if someone likes my work, or hates it, or is utterly ambivalent. Ether way, I care.

“Hello, my name is Garry, and I’d like to know what you think…”


  1. I also think there is plenty of market for darker more ambigious YA.

  2. I have been told this type of story can have YA appeal, and I can sort-of see why. I agree the YA market can sustain more ambiguous fiction. Apparently they are also seeing a swing towards more ambiguous computer games amongst the mid-to-late teen market.

    I think it shows that teens are able to look at appreciate and understand the grey-areas in stories. They don’t need to be strict morality tales.