Children experience the world differently than adults. Writing for children may seem like an easy task to those outside the world of kidlit. But there is an extra layer to writing for children. Being a good writer isn’t enough. You need to know and understand the audience you are serving. Getting a degree in childhood development isn’t an option for most people, but you can gain a deeper awareness of the children you are writing for. An easy way to understand your audience (and find inspiration for children’s stories) is to go back to your own childhood. It may seem a little strange for some people but you can talk to your inner child too.
Here are some questions to ponder from your childhood or to ask your inner child:
- Was there something you were afraid of?
- Did you have a favorite place? A secret hiding space? What was it that you loved about it?
- Was there something you hated?
- What did you wonder about?
- What memories still bring up an emotional reaction from you?
- What did you find funny or made you laugh?
- Was there something you always longed for? Something you wish you had known or done?
- What were the defining moments of your childhood? What filled you up and brought you joy?
Tap into the feelings that come up when you ask yourself these questions!
My inner child is where I found the inspiration for IF SUN COULD SPEAK, my debut picture book illustrated by Saki Tanaka. I was enrolled in a course with Children’s Book Academy, directed by Mira Reisberg. We were reviewing ways to think of enticing book topics, and she said to think of a problem or question you had as a child. That piqued my interest, so I set the intention to recall a childhood memory that would make a great story. It was the next day that a memory from my childhood popped up.
I think I was about five or six when I first discovered that the sun doesn’t actually rise and set. I had assumed that the sun was moving up and down in the sky, because the word RISE means to move upward. That was the definition that my five year old self understood, and five year old brains are very literal. It totally blew my mind that it was the earth’s movement that created sunrises and sunsets. And I felt mad that I was mislead to believe inaccurate information. I was frustrated whenever I heard people say anything about the sun RISING. That’s where the concept of a book told from the sun’s perspective began, to clear up any misunderstandings about the sun.
I took my childhood feelings and transferred them to the main character, Sun. Sun would be a feisty character, wanting to teach people the truth. I pictured Sun saying things like, “How dare they think I rise. I do not rise.” The title to my first draft was I DO NOT RISE. The main character, evolving through many revisions, kept a slightly egotistical trait. It happens when the world revolves around you. Sun had two goals when talking to readers: One is to share information about who Sun is and what Sun does. And the second is to inspire readers to wonder and search for discoveries.
IF SUN COULD SPEAK makes its debut in the spring of 2020! You can preorder your copy here: https://www.clearforkpublishing.com/store/p148/IF-Sun.html
Traveling back in time to your childhood is a wonderful exercise to gain a deeper understanding of children, and you can use it to fuel your writing for children. You may even find the inspiration for your next story while you are there!
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