Friday, September 13, 2019

A Mirror of My Own -- Plus Glittermonsters Just for Fun (Why I Write MG)

My decision - that is, the line-in-the-sand, this-is-happening, decision - to write children’s books
was an easy one. 

Picture it: Truxtun Avenue Library, Bakersfield, CA. 2011. Just because Little Man isn’t even two
months old, is no excuse for illiteracy.  

I comb the picture book shelves as he dozes in his stroller, eager to bring home a stack of books with
families that look like ours: an Afro-Jamaican dad, a white American mom and a perfect little biracial
boy (we've since been joined by a perfect little girl too).
My tiny muse. Even though my first MS is about a black magic glitter princess.

Let’s just say that didn’t happen that day, and I was reminded of another little girl (spoiler: it was me) in
the 80s and 90s disappointed that there were no mirrors/windows for a bereaved sibling like me on the
library shelves in my tiny hometown. 

The lack of diverse books was an outrage, and I was going to write a book featuring a biracial child just
like mine. He’d have a Type A dad who ironed his underwear instead of saying “no problem mon”
(when someone says this at my house, they’re being sarcastic). 

I’d be published in months. I’d revolutionize the kidlit industry! I’d be lining the walls of my new mansion
with Caldecotts and Newberrys in a funky pattern that would put Pinterest to shame! 

Thank (insert your deity of choice) I joined SCBWI and smartened up. Played a bit with my voice, with
story ideas, story structure. Constructed a LONG list of potential story ideas/characters to rival
VC Andrews’ legacy (less incest, more zombies). 

I should have some profound, amazing reason about why I write MG, and… I’m not sure I do save,
“it feels right”. I’m too wordy for picture books, and too into farts/glitter/unicorns for YA. Like kids in the
MG/Upper MG years, MG lit is a perfect balance of weird and wise, the only place I can push the
creative envelope as far as it can go, then give another little shove. 

Kind of like how I see myself at any age. 

“You cannot have the main character enchant a box of her mom’s tampons to attack the antagonist,” is
something I’ve heard more than once from critiquers. (Don’t worry, I found something even scarier:
eyelash curlers).

Yeah, these factor into a dramatic climactic battle. Lovecraft has nothing on me. 

My real-life Middle Grade years were the time for me when it really hit home that a lot of the world the
adults presented to us kids was partially fictional because they themselves had no idea what they were
doing sometimes. It was scary and exhilarating, as these were also the years I still believed I had the
power to change things just as soon as I got old enough to vote. 

Almost all my manuscripts have some thread about the - OK supernatural, but still - consequences of
kids believing the stories adults, their friends, themselves, spin to keep themselves and others

I enjoy revisiting that naive megalomania and sense of wonder in writing for children. If I can ever
rework this stupid scene, finish this R&R, and get it back to the interested agent, I hope to see this
manuscript on the shelves soon.

But that mansion may have to wait a couple years. 

Thank you, Middle Grade Minded for the warm welcome and I look forward to getting to know you all!

Tell me in the comments - what's the weirdest story idea you've ever had?  

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