I've been surprised by two things since the beginning of my program (at least, two things that have to do with writing for multiple ages):
1. Our instructors have strongly encouraged us to write for multiple age groups.
Part of this is about experimenting, and helping us to find the age group that best fits us. When I worked in education, teachers used to talk about finding the perfect grade fit. Some teachers are afraid of high school students, some can't imagine wiping noses all day. I was surprised to discover how much I loved teaching 7th grade. Loved the reactions I'd get, too! Go ahead, try it, tell someone you teach 7th grade and watch their face sour! Anyway, I think the same is true in writing. I feel most comfortable writing for middle schoolers (say ages 11-14).
But our instructors have encouraged more than just experimentation. Currently, both of my tutors, Julia Green and Steve Voake, have written for multiple ages (Julia writes predominately young adult, but has also written for reluctant readers. Steve writes for 8-12, but he has also written picture books and early reader chapter books. Also, be careful on Steve's site with your volume--it's scary!).
2. I have really enjoyed writing picture books.
I thought it would be a fun challenge, but wasn't sure I would be happy with the results of my work. I'm still not sure I'm happy, but I've now written two rough drafts, and find myself thoroughly enjoying the genre.
Course, this could be because I'm addicted to writing in general... Yesterday I read an early chapter book (probably for 4-8 year olds) and thought, "oohhh, I wonder if I could write one of these!"
I was pleased to see Mary Kole, an agent at Andrea Brown, tackling this exact writing for multiple ages question on her kidlit.com blog.
I also read this fascinating (and funny!) article in the New York Times about Sherman Alexie's first young adult book and his reasons for switching genres.
But both Mary and Sherman Alexie (not quite brave enough to venture into a first-name basis with Sherman Alexie!) make this sort of multi-age, multi-genre writing sound rarer than I expected. Perhaps in the UK it is more common, at least for children's writers.
In the shower this morning (I get my best thinking done in the shower), I could only think of a few authors I know of who fit this profile. Jane Yolen has written everything from picture books to fairy tales to young adult books to adult books. Meg Cabot has written middle grade books, young adult books, and adult romances. I know of one up and coming author, the talented Cindy Pon, who has written a young adult fantasy and is now working on writing and illustrating her own picture book. Can you think of any others? And what about the writers out there? Do you hope someday to write for mutiple audiences?