Friday, May 4, 2012

On Writing Inspirational Work for Kids (Zondervan Guest Post)

Naomi Kinsman, a regular blogger here at Smack Dab, is a Zondervan author (Zondervan is an inspirational imprint of HarperCollins).  Some of Naomi's pub siblings have kindly joined us today, to discuss what they consider to be the most challenging and / or rewarding part of writing inspirational material for kids.


 When I wrote Summer of the Wolves, I wasn’t trying to be didactic or inspirational. I was just trying to tell a story. On a trip with a friend to a ranch in western North Carolina, I became fascinated with some hybrid wolf dogs, especially one wolf who was terrified of people. I also saw a family with two daughters, one of whom seemed as shy and miserable as the wolf. My heart went out to her. I decided to make up a story combining the wolves and the family.

What engages me most as a writer is a character’s inner conflict; that is, what is the right thing to do in this situation? And do I have the courage to do it? Writing about characters’ inner conflicts gives me a chance to explore some of my own questions about how we live our lives. I think that many writers write, not because they have the answers to life’s big questions, but because they struggle with them. And maybe readers identify because they struggle too.

I grow to love my characters and want them to find love, either from parents, friends, partners, or God. I believe that God loves us and that love is the most powerful force in our world. One of the questions I often ask myself is, how can we learn to live together on this earth and love each other?  And that's the question that my characters struggle within the Sisters in All Seasons series.

If my writing inspires or uplifts others, I’m very happy to learn that. But I don’t set out to be inspiring or didactic. I just try to tell an engaging story, and explore some of my own questions in the process. 

For this type of series the challenge of writing inspirational was particularly difficult. Hoping for a broad audience, I mainly sought to show that faith is a part of Linus and Ophelia's life. So it's really just organic to who they are and not particularly a theme. The rewarding part is just writing for kids in general. I've been enjoying the writing of this series so much. Giving kids positive exposure to great literature is a reward in and of itself. While there's fantasy and adventure in Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I love the fact that readers will be introduced to interesting characters and hopefully, one day when they're assigned the work in a literature class they'll approach it with a positive feeling.


Being real. That’s the big challenge of writing for kids. Real enough to avoid getting shallow or trite with the story. Real enough to relate to middle grade readers in a deeper way.  Real enough to create characters and situations readers fully relate to.  And to do it in a way that totally grips readers. 

The rewarding part is twofold.  The reward is in the writing.  Creating characters I truly care about, and a story that moves me to laugh and cry.  And the reward is in the reactions.  When readers gush about how much they loved the book—that goes way beyond whatever advance I got for writing it.  

A recent Code of Silence reader glared at me in a teasing way. She was almost done with the book—but didn’t want it to end. She put her hands on her hips and told me to get busy on the sequel. Okay, I admit it ... that’s rewarding.

Thanks so much for stopping by Smack Dab, guys!

1 comment:

  1. Questions are so much more important than answers. I agree that being real is essential, and the truth is, we all wonder many, many things. Questions have the power to resonate with readers, to invite them to think and challenge themselves and wonder. Asking questions without easy answers is courageous, and more than anything, the courage of an author to ask a difficult question, or to put a difficult question into the hands of a character is inspiring. Thanks Lisa, Tim and L.L., for sharing your thoughts about writing with us at Smack Dab!