Friday, April 15, 2011

Why I Wrote a Middle Grade Novel

Why do I write middle grade books? First, in the interest of full disclosure, we must establish that I have written only one (1) middle grade book so far. Though I hope to write many more. My other fiction book is a YA and all of my remaining books are written for teachers who want to make math fun and interesting. Which is what I do in my day job. But I digress.

I thoroughly enjoy writing about and for the age. I think probably because that period of my own life was so full of exciting, but terrifying changes. I remember that near the tail end of 5th grade, like overnight - BAM! Girls were a factor, and not just for picking sides in kickball. You wanted girls to like you! How did that happen?! Regardless, we all suddenly had to do something about it. My friends and I knew we had to smell good to attract the women (TV commercials helped us understand that) so we started experimenting with colognes (think late sixties with aromas like Hai Karate and English Leather. Woo hoo!). We were kicked out of many a drug store. I mean the colognes were fun, but we weren’t actually going to buy any. We just liked using the testers.

Then overnight again in 6th grade - BAM!  Fashion suddenly became a big deal. Up to that point, I wore the same pair of pants and white socks everyday. Who cared?! But the first day of school in 6th grade it was suddenly and absolutely a fashion rule at Ben Franklin Elementary– no white socks! And only jeans. No khaki pants or anything else. And only certain kinds of sneakers. Who decided all this?! Was there a meeting or something during the summer that I wasn't invited to? 

We had also reached an age where we were allowed to roam farther from the home base. That meant we could go get our own slice of pizza from across town. We could go to movies on our own. Some independence at last. However, that new- found independence also manifested itself not only in pizza runs, but in some ill-advised choices like an evening visit to an abandoned house with my friends. All we knew was the house was interesting, no one lived there, we weren’t going to take anything, and the back door was open. We figured it was no problem. The police thought otherwise. I have never run so hard in my life or taken a more circuitous route to my house.

I took that event and spiced it up in LOVE PUPPIES AND CORNER KICKS, and let my main character, Andrea get caught poking around an old abandoned castle in Scotland at night with her friends. The police in that scene didn’t appreciate Andrea's sense of adventure either. Lucky for Andrea though, her dad wasn’t a police officer like mine was. I also put her in situations where boys are suddenly and inexplicably a huge interest, being picked for a team feels like life or death, and how you look is a constant agony. All stuff I remember having to deal with at that age and still see my students going through as well.

I think any event that leaves a strong emotional impression may eventually find its way on to the page if you are a writer. In the middle grades it seems these crazy, exciting, funny, emotionally-charged things all start happening at once. There is so much material there. I think it makes middle grade folks happy to share in same-age characters’ excitement and misery, failure and triumph, annoyance and fun. I know I get a kick out of it when I write it and I sure hope they do when they read it.

1 comment:

  1. Up until the end of grade 5, one of my daughters hated jeans. Then as soon as she hit grade 6, that's all she would wear. It's so true that everything happens so fast, and all at once. But that's what is fun (and challenging) about writing MG books.

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