What unique disciplines do you need when writing for children?

Perhaps the most obvious one is enjoying reading children’s literature yourself. Personally I love kid’s books! Because of this, I’m not really writing for children (although, of course, you do keep your audience in mind, especially in the later drafts) I’m just writing the sort of stories I love to read. Why do I love them? One reason is that they transform the ordinary – old tin cans become transportation systems, libraries become embattled castles, and wardrobes become doorways to other worlds. So I suppose one thing a children’s writer needs is the ability to see through the ordinary to the extraordinary. Not to underplay or sidestep the ordinary, no, children’s writers have to take everyday things very seriously, but like a child in play, they have to be able to see the magic beneath the most ordinary of objects, situations or people. The world is an extraordinary place, after all, and as children learn new things about our strange and wonderful universe they see this more clearly. I think this is why kid’s books are so full of magic, adventure and wonder. As a writer it’s good to try and stay in touch with these attitudes. One of the most creative things I do when I’m writing is to go walking – it keeps me in touch with the world beyond the box of my house. Children’s books are concerned with the big questions of life, “who am I?”, “What is good and evil?”, “What is beyond the small world I inhabit?” Children’s literature still has enough sincerity to ask such questions without resorting to irony or sarcasm. Perhaps this is why so many children’s books are set in expansive worlds. I’ve always been interested in the epic, philosophical and spiritual questions that are at the root of what it means to be human – perhaps this is a discipline children’s writers need? But that all sounds very serious! Above all of those things is the need to be able to laugh at oneself and not take things too seriously. So maybe I should end with a fart joke?

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