In November we’ve been seeking out children’s and young adult fiction on Writing to be Read. There are a few differences in writing for our younger readers from writing for adults. As authors, we are in a position to shape young minds, and that’s a big responsibility.
Fiction for adults relies on our words to paint a visual image for the reader, but stories for beginning readers rely heavily on illustrations to enhance our words for youngsters. Authors who have the ability to illustrate their own books may be at an advantage, because illustrations can be a sizable expense for authors like myself, who do not possess such abilities. (Long time Writing to be Read followers may be aware that I once tried to have the first book in the My Backyard Friends series published, but a halt was put on the project after a five year publication process, when the arrangement for illustrations fell through. So, I speak of this added obstacle for children’s authors first hand.)
My interview with author and artist Judy Mastrangelo talks about her Portal to the Land of Fae series and her other works, and shares several of the author’s bright and colorful illustrations. I found her work to be delightful in both text and illustrations in my review of Flower Fairies, and I’ve no doubt that her stories are enjoyed by both young and old.
Young adult authors are faced with a different dilemma, because the audience they write for still have the curiosity of children, but they are beginning to deal with adult issues in their lives, although they are not yet adults either. Controversial topics must be handled with sensitivity and finesse, because the Y.A. critics can be relentless, as is illustrated in this NY Times article about Y.A. author Amélie Wen Zhao.
On Writing to be Read, we looked at how Y.A. fantasy and science fiction author Carol Riggs deals with issues that might be frightening for adolescents in her Junction 2020 series on “Chatting with the Pros“, and saw how Jordan Elizabeth handles a dark fantasy story which deals with the controversial and often taboo topics of teen suicide, cutting, and depression in my review of Tabitha’s Death. Jordan also talks about the inspiration behind her fantasy novel, The Goat Children, which deals with the issue of Alzhiemer’s disease, on “Writing for a Y.A. Audience“.
Also in November, Robbie Cheadle also looked at the pros and cons of classic vs. contemporary children’s fiction on “Growing Bookworms“, and Jeff Bowles took a look at Disney’s new video streaming service, Disney+, on “Jeff’s Movie Reviews“, where we can find all the great tales of the Disney classics. What a great way to introduce our children to them, (or just re-watch them ourselves to indulge our own inner children).
In addition, we said goodbye to a great author, who was known and loved in the online writing communities in my “Tribute to Tom Johnson“. Tom was originally a pulp and science fiction author, but in recent years, he’s been writing children’s stories for the Wire Dog story collections. He will be greatly missed.
November has been a great month and we’ve explored a lot of children’s and young adult fiction. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself as much as I have. There is no theme for December, as I’m taking this time to breathe before the next round. I’ll be updating you about the changes that will be coming for 2020 on Writing to be Read, reviewing a couple of books which didn’t fit under this year’s themes, and throwing in a few surprises. I do hope you’ll all drop by and check it out.
This is the time of year when we count our blessings and give thanks for the people and things that enhance our lives. There are many things for which I am thankful for, which I’d like to share with you here.
My flash fiction story, “The Haunting of Carol’s Woods” came out in Dan Alatorre’s horror anthology, Nightmareland. This anthology is book three in Dan’s The Box Under the Bed series and it is a #1 bestseller! This book is a must for horror fans with 23 stories from 14 different authors, and I am thankful to be one of them.
Another short story, “The Woman in the Water” appears in the first ever WordCrafter paranormal anthology, Whispers of the Past. This anthology includes eight paranormal stories from six seasoned authors, including the winning story from the 2019 WordCrafter Paranormal Short Fiction Contest, “A Peaceful Life I’ve Never Known”, by Jeff Bowles. I am thankful for WordCrafter‘s success in publishing its first book, and I’m looking forward to next year’s short fiction contest. I’ll be announcing the theme and guidelines for the 2020 contest next month, so watch for it.
Dusty Saddle Publishing has graciously offered to republish a re-edited edition of Delilah with new front and back matter, including recommendations from noted western authors. I’m told that the re-release date is January 13th, so about that I’m both thankful and excited.
Of course, there is the launching of WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services to be thankful for, as well. It’s off to a slow start, but honestly, with all the life events and obligations that have been keeping me busy lately, perhaps that is a good thing. You may be aware that I lost two lifetime canine companions this past summer, and now, the unexpected death of a loved brother-in-law. These events have knocked me off course more than once, but I have no doubt that WordCrafter will take off at full speed in 2020. Drop by and check out WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services to see what WordCrafter can do for you.
I am extremely thankful for the Writing to be Read team members and the contributions that they make to WtbR, and all the Writing to be Read authors who have so graciously shared with my readers this past year. (The “Chatting with the Pros” series has been quite successful and in October we even had two segments. My “CwtP” author guests included women’s fiction author Barbara Chapaitis, non-fiction author Mark Shaw, western author Scott Harris, thriller author John Nicholl, crime fiction author Jenifer Ruff, mystery author Gilly Macmillan, Christian fiction author Angela Hunt, horror and dark fiction authors Paul Kane and Jeffrey J. Mariott, and young adult author Carol Riggs. (There were at least as many authors who offered supporting interviews, too.) And one more thing which I am thankful for is you, my readers. Without you all, and all of those mentioned or alluded to above, Writing to be Read wouldn’t be what it is today. So, my gratitude goes out to all of you.
It’s been a pretty great year and I am indeed thankful. Now you know some of the things that I am thankful for as this holiday season comes round. So, now I invite you to share what you are thankful for in the comments.
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I was at a book signing in October. A woman came up to my booth and asked for a quick synopsis of each story. I was happy to oblige, and when I got to GOAT CHILDREN, the woman teared up.
I wrote GOAT CHILDREN based on my experiences taking care of my grandmother when she suffered from dementia. This woman’s mother was diagnosed with dementia. She went on to share a few examples, and I could identify with all of them.
The woman bought the book for her daughter, who feels alone while helping her grandmother. The other kids in high school don’t understand.
I went through the same thing when I was in college and high school. My grandmother was “weird”. I was a “freak” for trying to take care of her. She was “scary”. Okay, the unpredictable moods were scary, but she was still my grandmother. Fear goes hand-in-hand with dementia.
After the woman bought the book and moved onto the next book at the fair, my mind kept returning to GOAT CHILDREN. It was one of my first books published and one very dear to my heart. Now come the spoilers…
The Goat Children are a mythical warrior class who the fictional grandmother, Oma, believe to be true. The main character, Keziah, can’t figure out if they are real or not. The story provides glimpses into the truth behind the female warriors.
My grandmother believed in little people living in her fireplace and dancing in her basement. When we asked her if she was scared of them, she said no, they comforted her. The Goat Children comfort Oma too.
At the end of the story, the grandmother and Keziah both leave Earth to live with the Goat Children. They are together and strong, and immersed in a world of magic both of them longed for. I decided to make the Goat Children real because I always wanted the little people to be real too, taking care of my grandmother, keeping her safe.
Jordan Elizabeth currently lives in the house her grandmother lived in. She’s still looking for the little people in the fireplace. You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.
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My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest today writes young adult fiction in the fantasy and science fiction genres. Her debut science fiction novel, The Body Institute, is currently being developed into a television series by NBC, which I think, is pretty cool. I met her when I reviewed Bottled three years ago. Since then, I’ve reviewed her science fiction novel, The Lying Planet, and she was a member of the author panel for the first round of the “Ask the Author” blog series in 2018, right here on Writing to be Read. Let’s find out what she has to share. Please help me welcome author Carol Riggs.
Kaye: Please begin by telling us briefly about your author’s journey?
Carol: I began writing in the 1990s, took a 10-year break, and started up again in 2009. I met my agent at an SCBWI retreat and signed with her in 2011 for my 2015 debut, THE BODY INSTITUTE. Since then, I’ve published 7 more books.
Kaye: Why do you choose to write for young adults? Why science fiction and fantasy?
Carol: I enjoy writing about teens as they experience the road to individual growth and becoming an adult—navigating independence, romance, tests of courage, etc. Sci-fi and fantasy appeal to me because I love making things up. Speculative genres give me the most room to be creative and use my imagination.
Kaye: What is your biggest challenge in writing for a young audience?
Carol: Keeping in touch with how a young person thinks and talks, sounding like a teen. My editor at Entangled Teen nails me on that, and makes me rewrite things that don’t sound authentic.
Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?
Carol: Nothing too unusual. I don’t listen to music or other distractions. I draft novels moderately quickly (3-5 months), and I write 1 or 2 books a year. I also keep my novels “clean,” with no profanity, gory violence, or sexual scenes. I prefer to make up my own slang and swear words, which don’t become outdated like modern teen lingo/slang/cussin’.
Kaye: NBC is developing your science fiction novel, The Body Institute, into a television series. That must be exciting. Tell us a little about the story.
Carol: THE BODY INSTITUTE is a dystopian sci-fi novel where the main character gets a job losing weight for other people—by having her mind downloaded into their bodies. It’s set in the near future where society is ultra health conscious. The TV series is using the book as a jump-off point rather than being a direct replica of the novel, which is okay with me. It’ll be fun to see where their creative minds take it.
Kaye: How much say do you have in the development process of the television series? Are you involved at all?
Carol: I don’t have any say at all, but that honestly doesn’t bother me. I’d rather spend my time developing new novels! Readers have the book if they want to explore what I’ve developed; the TV show will be a different experience entirely.
Kaye: Do you have a date yet for the series premier for The Body Institute to air?
Carol: As of yet, I don’t; the filming of the pilot show hasn’t begun yet. I’ll announce on my newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter (@CRiggsAuthor) as soon as I find out any developing news.
Kaye: Most of the books in your Junction 2020 series have scary sounding titles: The Portal, Nightmare Realization, Vanishing Fears, Silent Scream, and Future Terrors. Is this fantasy series scary?
Carol: Some people consider these books “horror,” but it sort of depends on your tolerances. If you can’t stand spiders, for instance, don’t read THE PORTAL. Nothing is hyper-bloody in the series, though…no slasher-type nightmares or anything overly gory. I chose each characters’ fears to manifest in a way that would lead them to personal growth, a challenge to overcome rather than sheer horrible nightmares.
Kaye: How do you approach scary subject matter when writing for young adults?
Carol: I try to keep it emotional but real to each character, and I don’t make things gory. Depending on the teen, that could be totally un-scary, or it could be very unsettling. I try to hit somewhere in the middle, for the average reader.
Kaye: Are there certain subject matters that you wouldn’t tackle for a young adult audience? Why?
Carol: I don’t write sex scenes, gory violence, or profanity. I think there’s plenty of that going around nowadays in society (books, movies, etc.), and not having those things in my novels jives with my personal morals and my feelings about what I would want to (or not) read in a novel. I wouldn’t write about demons or the occult, either—too creepy and real.
Kaye: My favorite book of yours is Bottled, which I reviewed a few years ago. It is a fun and entertaining fantasy story. What was your inspiration?
Carol: Long ago, I used to watch “I Dream of Jeannie.” While BOTTLED isn’t that similar in plot to the show, I was inspired by the fun, magical atmosphere of the TV series. It’s my tribute to the show.
Kaye: I also reviewed The Lying Planet. Tell us a little about this science fiction story.
Carol: I was lying in bed one night years ago, and heard a noise in the living room (it was probably the refrigerator). That became the germ seed for TLP, a teen boy on the planet Liberty who one night hears a noise in the living room and gets up to investigate…and then wishes he hadn’t. He uncovers an evil that rocks his world in the worst way possible. I’ve found that teen guys really seem to like this novel. It has lots of danger, adventure, and a degree of creepiness.
Kaye: The other thing I loved about Bottled was the fantastic cover. And the vibrant colors used for Lying Planet cover and those used in the covers your Junction 2020 series are eye catching, as well. The colors are wonderful and the designs fit what the stories are about. Do you design your own cover art or hire it out?
Carol: I’ve been incredibly lucky to get awesome covers for my traditionally published books. The JUNCTION 2020 series covers I developed myself in Photoshop, with the tips and suggestions of a writer friend who is also a graphic artist. I have a BA in Studio Arts, so I think that helps me have a bit of an eye for what looks good.
Kaye: What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
Carol: Walking, reading, working jigsaw puzzles, watching sci-fi and fantasy movies, going to the beach, and listening to all kinds of music.
Kaye: Writing organizations can be of great value to writers of all genres. You’ve been a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for many years. Would you talk a little about the organization and how you have benefited through membership?
Carol: Back in the 1990s when I first joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), it was super helpful. Submissions were sent to editors at publishing houses by postal mail rather than email (talk about slow!). There wasn’t the wealth of information on the internet that there is now, so the SCBWI was invaluable for honing one’s work to make it ready for editor eyeballs. I learned a lot.
When I returned to writing in 2009, an agent was almost mandatory to submit your work, and the SCBWI retreat I went to offered manuscript critiques for a fee. I actually met my agent-to-be during one of those brief, one-on-one meetings. SCBWI conferences are also great places to network with other writers, learn about the craft of writing, meet industry professionals, and talk about books all day. Some regions offer scholarships to attend if finances are tight.
Kaye: What is your best piece of advice for aspiring authors of young adult fiction?
Carol: If you love it, never give up. THE BODY INSTITUTE was the 13th book I wrote, after 350+ rejections and 11 years of writing and trying to become published. Surround yourselves with supportive writer friends to share the ups and downs. Keep learning your craft, persevere, and enjoy the journey!
Kaye: What can your readers look forward to in the future? What’s next for Carol Riggs?
Carol: A deal has just been signed for THE BODY INSTITUTE for an audiobook version, which is cool. I’m also working on a sequel to the novel, called SPARES. Ideas are springing into my head for a fresh YA novel, and I’m excited to begin imagining a whole new world for readers to explore.
I want to thank Carol for sharing here and answering all of my many questions. And thanks to all of you readers for joining us. You can find out more about Carol Riggs and her young adult science fiction and fantasy books on her website, her Amazon Author page, or her Goodreads Author page.
Next month, there will not be a “Chatting with the Pros” segment. In December we’re wrapping up 2019 and giving you a rundown of what’s in store for 2020. I plan to run this blog series again next year, so check back after the New Year for the first 2020 segment in January. I hope to see you all then.
You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2020, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress. Please share content you find interesting or useful.
I have read a lot of children’s books. Some I read to myself as a girl and others I read to my sons, nephews and nieces and the children who attended our local Sunday school, over the past sixteen years. Many of the books I have read over the past six teen years are contemporary fiction which is defined as a fictional book (events, settings, characters etc. described are not real) set in contemporary times (modern times).
A few examples of popular contemporary fiction book series for children I can think of are Horrid Henry written by Francesca Simon and illustrated by Tony Ross, Winnie the Witch written by Valerie Thomas and illustrated by Korky Paul and the Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus series written by Rick Riordan. All of these books share the common characteristic that they are set in our modern world and the main characters have access to television, email, cell phones and the internet.
Two common traits I have noticed with contemporary fiction books for children are that these books tend to be far more plot driven than classic children’s books and that there is often, but not always, a theme of disregard and even disrespect for authority figures.
The books I have mentioned above are the ones that I think deal with this growing concept of disrespect towards authority figures by youthful characters in books in an acceptable manner. Horrid Henry, for example, is a naughty pre-teen boy. His brother is his complete anti-thesis and many of the stories revolve around the tension and conflict between the two boys. In these stories, however, the parents always come out on top and Henry is always disciplined and made to toe the line.
Books that are more plot driven can be more appropriate for modern children than classic books which focus more on characterisation such as Little Women by Louise May Alcott and What Katy Did. Our children are used to the fast pace of television and computer games so if we want a book of compete with these other choices, it needs to keep their attention. Modern children also have shorter concentration spans due to modern electronic devices and do not want to read long flowery descriptions. I think the same can be said for many modern adult readers too. Short stories and novellas have become more popular due to time constraints and more available choices when it comes to relaxation. Many modern readers do not want to trawl through the lengthily descriptions included in books like Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Given everything I have said above, are classic books worthwhile for modern children, or even books written post World War II like Enid Blyton’s books?
Let us look at the definition of a classic book: “The classic that keeps on being read is the book whose situations and themes remain relevant over time—that miracle of interpretive openness that makes us feel as though certain stories, poems, and plays are written with us in mind.”
I group classic books in my mind into fairy tales and other classic books. Fairy tales spark the imagination and this is an important aspect of children’s development. In addition, fairy tales help children confront and overcome their fears, which are featured in these enduring stories and also, provide a lot of social messages about how to behave in order to achieve a good life outcome. Fairy tales also introduce children to the idea that life has pitfalls and things don’t always go the way you hope and want them to. They teach children to be resilient and enduring.
Classic books feature humans experiencing life and all it has to offer. The often contain thought-provoking socio-ethical situations such as I am David, which depicts the life of a boy on the run from a concentration camp. Classic books introduce children to history in an interesting and understandable way such as the Little House series of books which depict the pioneer life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family. As with fairy tales, classic books contain messages the teach children about perseverance to overcome injustice such as the Count of Monte Cristo. Classic books are also a challenge which stimulate the mind, which can only be a good thing.
What are your thoughts and experiences with contemporary and classic books for children?
About Robbie Cheadle
Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.
I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.
I have participated in a number of anthologies:
- Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
- Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
- Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
- Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.
I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.
Find Robbie Cheadle
Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads
Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram
Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books
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