When you gonna write a book for adults?
If you write literature for children, tweens and teens, and you talk about it out loud, then you’ve likely had someone ask you when you’re going to write a book for adults, as if it’s some kind of graduation into a respectable vocation, a step up from the training bra into a full-fledged over-the-shoulder boulder holder–with underwire. No more Big Chief tablets, fat pencils, training wheels, but a real, live, bonafide piece of literature for those of legal age.
So how do I answer that question? You mean after I stick out my tongue? “Nevah!”I say, with my thumb on the tip of my nose, fingers wagging.
Would such an inquirer ever ask a pediatrician why he’s not doctoring for grown-ups? Would he tell an elementary teacher to get a real job and educate only the college crowd? Would he suggest to a CASA volunteer that real court advocates only work with people old enough to vote?
Well-meaning people: please hear this. We write for kids because kids matter. Kids are relevant. Kids are curious and honest recipients, often times at critical crossroads in deciding who they want to be as grown-ups, often searching for a safe place to explore the complexities of life. Complexities that bombard them every time they leave the safety of home. Or maybe their home isn’t safe at all, and they turn to books to discover they are not alone, to see a flicker of hope that their lives can someday be different. Or maybe they just want a good old fashioned joyride of a story. Kind of like playing with toys.
And these future adults, aka kids, are savvy, enthusiastic readers, open to new ideas and willing to explore the breadth of human emotions experienced by characters between the covers of a book. Books which serve as safety nets or shields, allowing inquiring minds a peek into the hardships of life, while still showing them how choices and reactions of a character in a book can build a person up or tear them down. It’s like touching a hot stove. Once you’re witness to that, you might think twice about doing it again. That’s why some of us write about drug abuse, date-rape, degenerates, mean people, sad people, confused people, struggling people, deadbeats, and bullies. Kids need a place to stand at a safe distance so they can relate, apply, react, respond, learn empathy, feel connected, get pissed and get empowered. As Katherine Paterson, author of BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA once said, “books give us emotional practice.”
Yes, fireworks are dangerous, but if we stand at a safe distance, there’s a whole lot of beauty to behold.