I believe that it’s a good idea to start as a writer of children’s literature. After all, all of us have been child readers (or reading children). And, to be sure, there is no more worthy audience.
How to start?
Here’s a message I just received from Newbery Award Winner Jerry Spinelli via the Highlights Foundation, where I spent a week last summer:
Write your book. Underline your. (Not someone else’s). That’s one of those things that sounds so obvious that it’s not even worth saying, but in fact it is.
Writing your book simply has to do with tapping into whatever we have. We all grow up, and all we’re doing is simply making use of something that is as common as gravity—memories. When we grow up, our past is not irretrievably lost to us, like the juice squeezed from an orange. The past stays with us. Tap into it for your writing.
If I were training you to be writers, I would say pick your best experiences and write at least a hundred pages, covering your life up to age fifteen or so. You’ll be giving yourself a lifetime’s worth of material to draw on, like ore in the ground. It’s just a matter of extracting it, refining it, and purifying it until you’re laying out pure wrought iron.
This tip comes from a workshop given by Jerry at the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. If you’d like to learn from Jerry in person, join them for the 2008 workshop. Find out more here.
About Jerry Spinelli
With titles like Do the Funky Pickle, There’s A Girl in My Hammerlock, and Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush?, Jerry Spinelli has won the hearts of many young readers. His 1991 release Maniac Magee won the Newbery Medal, and his eighteenth book, Wringer, received a Newbery Honor. Jerry’s latest, Milkweed (Knopf), has been called "stunning" by Kirkus Reviews.