Around the world the second Tuesday of November is recognised as Young Readers Day, a chance to focus on the importance of promoting literacy in children as a means of empowerment and enrichment. If you’re a writer wanting to get involved in this movement, it may not come as naturally to write for a young reader as it would for someone of your own generation. To help guide you in this endeavour, we’ve rounded up ten great pieces of advice from some of the world’s most renowned children’s authors.
Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar)
“I do my best to simplify and refine, to be logical and harmonious. But I also try to keep an open mind, to listen to my intuition and allow for the unexpected, the coincidental, even the quirky to enter into my work. Ultimately, my aim is to entertain, and sometimes to enlighten, the child who still lives inside of me. This is always where I begin. And just as in my boyhood, making pictures is how I express my truest feelings.”
Lois Lowry (the Anastasia series)
“Throughout the writing of a piece of fiction I continually ask myself questions. Why does he want this? When should she know this? Why does this matter to them? Should this be kept secret? The thing I question most, throughout, is motivation. I suppose these questions are “prompts” in a way – at least they are for me. I think a piece of fiction is writing that answers questions throughout…but also raises new ones.”
Kevin Henkes (Owen)
“Of course, all of my writing is filtered through my eyes, my experience. And I suppose I remember how things “felt” when I was young – this helps me when I’m writing. On occasion, I’ll use a fact or two from my life, but only as a starting point. And I’ve never directly used an incident from one of my children’s lives in a book.”
Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon)
“In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child’s need for quietness is the same today as it has always been – it may even be greater – for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.”
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
“There is no average reader, and to reach down toward this mythical character is to deny that each of us is on the way up, is ascending…”
Beatrix Potter (The Tale of Peter Rabbit)
“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.”
Jill Murphy (The Worst Witch)
“If the story is strong and interesting, it certainly doesn’t have to be funny. There are plenty of riveting stories that aren’t funny, for example Goodnight Mr Tom and Treasure Island.”
Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)
“How to make a main character awesome: you have to create a character that people can relate to. They can’t be completely perfect. After all who is?”
Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach)
“You should be able to write well. By that, I mean you should be able to make a scene come alive in a reader’s mind. Not everybody has this ability. It is a gift and you either have it or you don’t.”
E.L. Konigsburg (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)
“Finish. The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don’t talk about doing it. Do it. Finish.”
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Terrific writing advice. The last one spoke to me. I need to finish my many projects. And love the picture of the boy and the books.
Thanks, Crystal! I’m glad this resonated with you. And yes – that photo is so sweet! We couldn’t resist including it. Good luck finishing your latest project!
Robyn @ Paperblanks