Sunday, December 28, 2008


Some of your may be surprised to learn that I have only been serious about writing children's books for the past year or so. I wrote my very first picture book, Paws the Puppy, a little over two years ago. I was also working on my first, still unfinished fantasy YA novel at that point, too. But it wasn't until I took my first picture book class in the Fall of 2007, that I realized I really wanted to write for kids.

I'm a recovering poet. It's not that I don't see myself ever writing poetry again, but I just don't know if my poetry is right for traditional publications. In grad school, I became jaded over poetry. I mass-produced crappy poetry at a high rate, and none of it satisfied my professors. I was told that I wrote poetry for me, and that some poetry simply wasn't meant for public consumption. I grew tired of having to write poetry that fit a mold, that was socially acceptable, and therefore publishable. In my children's writing classes, I was encouraged to work with what my imagination came up with it, taught how to hone my craft and make it into something worthy of an audience. Most importantly, in fiction I could write whatever I wanted without being accused of writing every single detail true to something in my life. (That aspect of my poetry classes annoyed me the most. Other people could write persona poems successfully, but when I tried I felt as if they were all judging me. It was as if they didn't think I had the ability to step outside my comfort zone.)

I still sometimes get a feeling like some people think my writing is unfocused. I have written everything from picture books to YA novels to non-fiction articles for middle schoolers. I say, what is wrong with experimentation? I will admit that I have not found my niche in children's writing yet. Until I do, what's wrong with me working on many projects at once, working with different genres and writing for different age levels? The beauty of writing for kids is that you are not put into a box. Look at Jane Yolen. She has had a very successful career in both middle grade novels and picture books. No one tells Jane Yolen to settle on one.

I say, if I want to, I can do it all. Of course, I need to work on my craft before I become a highly-successful writer. All the more reason for me to experiment within the genre.


Rena said...

This is a great post, Crystalee. I think everyone should "write for themselves" and see where it takes them. If something publishable comes out of it, that's great. But I've always believed you should write from your heart and experimenting genres is the best thing a writer can do.

I've only written PBs and one MG novel. I had a blast doing that MG and I'd love try another one eventually, maybe even a sequel to the first. I just can't force myself to do that until I get some interest in the first one though. And to get interest, that means I have to send the manuscript out more. So, I guess that's what I'll be doing in 2009!

Don't give up on your poetry! Write from your heart and write what you feel, even if it's just for your eyes only.

Dawn Embers said...

There is nothing wrong with experimentation. I write all kinds of things right now: children's, YA, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, gay lit, nonfiction, and even looking into mystery a little bit.

Test the waters a little and enjoy yourself. Don't worry about settling down just yet.