Guest post by Aleesah Darlison:
The Joys and Challenges of Writing for Children
I set my dreams to become a published author in motion just over four years ago. After having my second child, I thought I could become an author by simply writing while the kids slept. Naive, I know, but these are the slender foundations dreams are often built on.
Now, four years later, I have had my very own picture book, Puggle’s Problem, published (by Wombat Books). It’s a story about a baby echidna, a puggle, who can’t get his spines. Even though echidnas are Australian animals, I’ve found that not many people actually know what a puggle is. But I’m quickly changing that.
As well, the first instalment in my new series for girls aged seven and over, Totally Twins: Musical Mayhem, was released by New Frontier Publishing in September. It will be followed by the second book in the series, Totally Twins: Model Mania, due out in November. Besides these three releases in 2010, I have a further 10 books due out in the next 2 years. So, I guess you could say I’ve found my niche in writing for children. And I simply love it. It’s a career loaded with joys and rewards, and yes, the occasional challenge. To kick off, here’s my shortlist of joys:
1. First and foremost, writing for children is FUN. You have a great deal of freedom in terms of what you can write for kids to entertain, educate and inspire them. So many themes and topics, so many genres, including the wonderful realm of fantasy, which allows a writer to do some amazing world building and wish fulfillment.
2. I love how I can play with language in picture books. I love their simplicity yet complexity, their rhythm and their rhyme.
3. Picture books don’t have a lot of text, so they must be easy to write, right? Well, not quite, but they are the perfect literary medium to dip into and out of while still attending to the many duties of motherhood. A picture book text is way easier to memorise and rework inside your head than a full length novel. Trust me.
4. I adore having my work illustrated. It’s stick figures only for me when I attempt to draw anything, but because I write for children, I have the joy of seeing my words – and my worlds – brought to life by some of the most talented artists in Australia. What a gift!
5. In my books, I can relive my own childhood memories and experiences. I can share things that happened to me with others. Through my characters I can repair or change mistakes I may have committed in my past. And sometimes, I can just let my imagination take over and create completely new stories.
6. I love visiting schools and libraries to talk about my writing to kids, to have them listen to my stories, to make them laugh and hear them say how much they enjoyed my stories or liked a particular characters. Kids give great, honest, valuable feedback about your writing.
7. Children’s authors in Australia are a friendly and supportive bunch of people. It’s a fabulous industry to work in.
8. Finally, I adore my driving aim, which is to write stories that appeal to kids. Stories that might be silly and funny and free. Stores kids will take to their hearts and read over and over again. Just as any good book should be.
So, that’s the joys of writing for children in a nutshell. On the flipside, there are challenges. My Top 3 would be:
1. Perhaps not being taken as seriously as people who write for adults.
2. Sometimes it’s hard to reach your audience, which for me is 3 – 6 year olds and 7 – 12 year olds, depending on whether it’s a picture book or junior novel.
3. Juggling the demands of motherhood and a career in children’s writing that is beginning to be full time.
For me, the joys of writing for children far, far outweigh any challenges. I’m lucky and happy that I can now call myself a published author. That children are reading and embracing my books. I wouldn’t change what I’m doing for all the world, because writing for children is an utterly joyous occupation.
Aleesah Darlison writes picture books and novels for children. She also reviews books for The Sun Herald. Aleesah has won many awards for her writing including an ASA mentorship with Kate Forsyth in 2009. Her stories have appeared in the black dog books Short and Scary Anthology, The School Magazine and Little Ears. Her first picture book, Puggle’s Problem, was released in July. Her junior series for girls aged 9 plus, Totally Twins: Musical Mayhem, was released in September. The series follows the adventures of identical twins, Persephone (she’s the sensible one) and Portia (she’s the messy one) Pinchgut and is written in diary format by Persephone.
Next stop on Aleesah’s blog tour is Let’s Have Words with Claire Saxby, where Aleesah will be talking about the difference between writing picture books and novels for children. Check it out on Monday 18 October.