Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Writing for multiple ages

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?


  1. I write for multiple audiences and I love it!

    I have a chapter book finished...now in "revision" mode. Not yet submitted.

    I have a picture book completed and revised (after several years of work)! - ready for submission

    I write poetry and articles for kid mags AND Adult writer's magazines AND Women's magazines. (been submitting for a few years now and thankfully getting acceptances)and have also sold a greeting card idea to BMA and another idea to High Cotton for a doormat (collegekid age).

    I also am in the process of getting back to my mystery novel (adult). I'm psyched about working on that during NaNoWriMo!

    I also want to write some Christian romance, but we'll see how that goes.

    As you can tell, I prefer to switch things up. I'm not a "one genre only" kind of gal!


  2. Wow, Donna, you're not kidding around! =) Actually, your writing style reminds me of how Sherman Alexie described his. Wonderful that you have found so many opportunities to enjoy your writing. Glad to hear others write this way, too.

  3. There are tons of children's writers who write for multiple ages. Most of VCFA's faculty do so. A few examples: Kathi Appelt, Marion Dane Bauer, Cynthia Leitich Smith (Cynsations), Uma Krishnaswami, Tim Wynne-Jones.

    I also write for different age groups and experiment with different genres.
    Part of an MFA or other writing program is experimentation. Which makes sense. It will be harder to find time and try different types of writing (for many people) when they have deadlines to meet.

  4. Oh, good, glad to hear there are so many others that do! It was funny--after I wrote this post, I ended up browsing the picture book section in my local library and saw picture books by David Almond, Malorie Blackman, etc. Isn't it funny how when you open your eyes to something, you see it everywhere?

    Exactly; even though I feel swamped now, I'm so happy for the time to experiment. For next week I'm supposed to try my hand at an early reader. We'll see how that goes!


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