Monday, April 4, 2011
RATED "E" FOR EVERYONE
One of the great things about middle grade fiction is that anyone can read it. Whatever your age, and whether the story is humorous or mysterious or dramatic, there is something there for everyone. I think of them as “family stories.” And when I began to dig deeper to answer the question about why I write middle grade fiction, my mind was bombarded with images from movies and tv. This isn’t unusual -- like many writers, I often think visually. And I am often inspired by other creative forms, such as visual art, poetry, film, nature, etc. Here are the three that my psyche seems most attached to:
This is one of my most favorite books EVER. And the movie version did not disappoint. There’s Archer, who’s engaged, and Countess Olenska, whom he cannot resist. The movie is about a time when one didn’t just dump the fiancé and pursue the next relationship. It’s about a more “innocent” time. And it’s about love.
So what does this have to do with writing for the middle grade audience? Well, ages 8-12 are pretty darn innocent. It’s the time when we first learn about love, through those most primary relationships: parents, siblings, peers, pets. Before things get all complicated. When love is simply love, no qualifiers necessary. And I as a writer, I delight in exploring those innocent relationships.
I wasn’t alive in the 1960s, but that didn’t stop me from forming a deep attachment to Kevin and Winnie in this long-running tv show. Ages 8-12 is a time of discovery, when the world is this magical place that opens its arms to you and everything, everything can be marveled over.
There is something about the way a young protagonist approaches the world without all the burdens and cynicism of older folks that allows for a true-r portrait. This is especially appealing when the situation one is writing about is emotionally charged (such as race relations in Depression-era Alabama, which is the setting of my novel LEAVING GEE’S BEND). What fun and freedom for a writer, to not be weighed down by an adult’s perspective, to simply charge forward with wonder.
Writing for this age group is never about falling asleep on the couch in front of the television. It’s about jumping into the television.
So. Innocence, wonder and adventure. That’s why I write (and read!) middle grade novels. And I’m curious about all of you. What movies and tv shows pop into your heads when you think about the qualities that draw you to this age group?