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When you gonna write a book for adults?

September 9, 2010


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.

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. lishacauthen permalink
    September 9, 2010 9:19 pm

    A. Adults are boring.

    B. Adults think they already know everything.

    C. Adults like to read stuff that makes them look like they’re smart. Or SAY they’ve read stuff that makes them look like they’re smart.



    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      September 10, 2010 8:10 am

      You mean I don’t know everything and I’m not as smart as my tattered copy of Captain Underpants makes me appear? *bubble burst*


  2. Judy H. permalink
    September 9, 2010 9:43 pm

    This is a great post, Laura. Well done. 🙂


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      September 10, 2010 8:11 am

      Well I’m just tickled you think so, Judy.


  3. September 10, 2010 9:59 am


    I would add that I write about young heroes because they’re so compelling. Interesting.

    Young people have less experience and power in the world (often literally, but also politically, economically, etc). They’re often at the mercy of adults who may fail them.

    So, they have to grow more, change more than their adult counterparts. They have to be more dynamic and take, relatively speaking, bigger risks.

    They’re heroes moving from one uncharted territory to another.

    That’s fascinating.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      September 10, 2010 1:12 pm

      Absolutely true…the whole character growth aspect is how I’ve turned a lot of readers of adult fiction onto young adult fiction.


  4. September 10, 2010 1:06 pm

    Well said.

    Also, it’s a lot harder to write for kids. They don’t put up with wordy plotless prose.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      September 10, 2010 1:15 pm

      Ain’t that the truth…and characters in young adult fiction don’t lament for 400 pages with no growth. That’s not to say that all adult novel characters do that at all, but with YA, it’s kind of understood that character growth is part of the deal.


  5. Kelly Fineman permalink
    September 10, 2010 1:58 pm

    Wonderful post. Not that there’s anything wrong with writing for adults, of course. It’s just not better or more rewarding that writing for kids.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      September 10, 2010 2:02 pm

      Nuh-uh, Kelly. It is so better and more rewarding than writing for adults. My mom told me so.


  6. September 10, 2010 2:12 pm

    I *do* write for adults–for the people who will one day become adults. They’re just not cynical, jaded, and oh so “been there, done that” about life in general yet.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      September 11, 2010 10:34 pm

      Yes! And these soon-to-be adults will be taking care of our withered old selves one day!


  7. September 10, 2010 10:08 pm

    Great post! Maybe some of those “When are you going to write a book for adults?” people will find their way to your blog and see the light!


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      September 11, 2010 10:33 pm

      One can only hope. Thanks for your comments!


  8. September 12, 2010 3:28 am

    So well explained, an excellent post!

    Though I must say, having taught middle school, people (kids and adults) always ask when I’m going to graduate to high school or college! I must ask a pediatrician sometime if they get that, too!


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      September 14, 2010 11:37 am

      Reeeally? People ask that of middle school teachers? I’m baffled. Maybe doctors are the only ones immune…


  9. Suzie deVore Warren permalink
    March 29, 2011 10:50 am


    Love this post and I really think every adult I know should read your book as well as my teens since it is so informative and relative. By that I mean, we all should understand what happened not so long ago and appreciate what we have. I hope it’s still selling since I really loved it! Also, since I just had that Big birthday and my memory is shot – I might read it again in a couple months (been about a year since the first reading), and it will all be new! Great getting old, huh? Thanks, and you write for whomever you wish. We will read it. Suz


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 29, 2011 5:05 pm

      This is most excellent to hear, Suzie! Thanks for taking the time to let me know.


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