What are the most common problems in picture book submissions? What are the most important differences between middle-grade and young adult stories? What makes for standout writing for young readers? Top literary agents who represent writing for kids and teens delve deeply into their best craft tips and industry insights to answer all of these questions and more in the hot-off-the-press March/April 2016 Writer's Digest.
Once Upon a Time
At a neighborhood party recently, the adults on my street were discussing the fact that I’m newly slated to become a published novelist with a mixture of fanfare, curiosity, and something akin to suspicion. What fun, I thought, having people suddenly wonder what’s going on in my brain! Nothing like fielding a series of odd questions to make you feel like a “real” writer, right?
But then my neighbor’s second-grader spoke up. “You should write a book for kids,” she said.
“I do have one idea,” I told her, and then, not really thinking, spouted a one-line description of my half-baked picture book title. It wasn’t anything I’d thought seriously about writing, just a story I made up to make my son giggle. Imagine my surprise when all the kids in the room erupted into laughter. They squealed and cheered. “Yeah! Write that!”
In the stark contrast of that moment—and the recognition that adult readers are unlikely to express quite such unabashed enthusiasm for work we’ve been laboring over for years—I glimpsed it: The true joy that children’s writers have the privilege of tapping. Who wouldn’t want to be one?
I think children’s author and literary agent Ammi-Joan Paquette describes that privilege perfectly in her March/April 2016 Writer’s Digestarticle on writing fantasy stories for young readers:
“How clearly I remember my childhood experiences of being catapulted into a book world. … That first tumble into Wonderland is not easily forgotten, and it’s also something that can’t quite be replicated in adult life with the same intensity. The worlds you inhabit in childhood are stitched into the fabric of who you will grow to be. How lucky we are, then, and how big a responsibility rests on our shoulders, to be the ones shaping these worlds for the next generation of readers!”
A key part of this issue’s “Writing for Kids and Teens” feature package, Paquette’s article is a gold mine for those aspiring to write middle-grade or young adult, whether you aim to transport readers into a fantastical alternate universe, or simply to make the novel world in your own imagination seem just as real to them.
So, too, is the "4 on 4" agent advice in our fast and furious roundup, in which a quartet of literary agents specializing in writing for kids and teens weigh in on four key questions that reveal what those looking to break in to the genre most need to know. As for me, if I ever do decide to write that picture book, I’ll bookmark Marie Lamba’s enlightening “10 Picture Book Pitfalls to Avoid—and How to Fix Them," another highlight in this info-packed issue.
The March/April 2016 Writer's Digestalso says a fond goodbye to Reject a Hit and introduces new back page column Platforms of Yore, in which the literary greats of yesteryear take social media by storm. It’s a fun and collaborative effort: Read more about the column and how you, too, can Write for Platforms of Yore.
With unabashed childlike enthusiasm, we do hope you'll preview the full contents of the March/April 2016 Writer's Digest, download the issue instantly, or look for it now at your favorite newsstand or local library.