Friday, August 17, 2012


Thank you for visiting my blog today. I'm delighted to introduce you to today's guest, Maggie Lyons. Maggie is a freelance writer and editor who was born in Wales and gravitated west to Virginia's coast. A career of writing and editing educational nonfiction for adults brought plenty of satisfaction but nothing like the fun and excitement she has recently discovered in writing fiction and nonfiction for children. Several of her articles, poetry, and a chapter book have been published in the childrens magazines Stories for Children Magazine and knowonder! Her middle-grade adventure Vin and the Dorky Duet is available at various online outlets including MuseItUp Publishings bookstore, and Amazon. Her next middle-grade adventure, Dewi and the Seeds of Doom, will be released by MuseItUp Publishing in October 2012. For more information, see her website at:

A Peek at the Wild Things of Writing for Children
Writing for children requires a very different set of skills from writing for adults. In some ways its much more demanding. Ive come across many people who are unaware of that and many, unfortunately, who dismiss writing for children as if it were inferior to writing for adults.

The criteria for writing what children want to read include suitable subject matter, appropriate vocabulary, realistic dialogue including language todays children actually use, sentence structure, realistic mindsets, point of view, length of chapters, and length of book. Thats just the start and the criteria differ with each age group, to say nothing about the physical appearance of the book and its cover.

In his foreword to the 2012 edition of the Renaissance Learning report, What Kids Are Reading, childrens author Dan Gutman explained what keeps the attention of young readers, especially reluctant young readers.
As a reluctant reader myself, I relate to those kids. I know what bores them, and what holds their interest. They want short sentences. Short chapters. Dialog. Few adjectives. Theyd rather use their imagination than read a paragraph of description. They want one sentence to lead naturally to the next one, rather than jump from subject to subject. They want a chapter to end in a way that makes them want to know what happens next.

Gutman should know. Hes written a hundred books including scores of childrens books that have garnered dozens of awards. He didnt mention humor in his list of criteria, which is surprising for an author who has made a career of it. Humors a key ingredient of many books for youngsters, especially middle-grade readers. As Kemie Nix of Childrens Literature for Children, Inc. put it in her 2009 article What-Kids-Who-Dont-Like-To-Read-Like-To-Read™:
The books with the greatest chance of hooking the transitional readers and pulling them out of the pre-book limbo are the humorous ones. And books of humorous episodes are the very best of all! With fifty really funny books, the world could be saved from illiteracy.

What Nix means by “episodes” are books in which each chapter stands alone, as a separate episode. Children enjoy this type of book because it doesn’t require the “mental effort” of a book “with a climax at the end.”

Humor has done well for a long list of other authors too, including Jeff Kinney, Louis Sachar, Frank Asch, Dan Greenberg, Cressida Cowell, Lemony Snicket, Mo Willems, Dave Pilkey, and Judy Blume, to name only a smidgeon of today
s most popular childrens humorists.
Even when writers think they know exactly what children want to read, they still have to jump the hurdle of appealing to the adults who buy the books that children read, and before that, the agents and publishers editors who believe they know what books adults will buy for children. Each layer has its own filters and each has its own pattern of influence.

According to a 201011 Bowker Pubtrack® report, The Childrens Book Consumer in the Digital Age, the strongest influence on a childs reading material are parents, particularly mothers, who do most of the book buying, relatives, and friends. After that come teachers and librarians.

When it comes to how adults and children find books, bookstore browsing is important but most books are acquired through school and public libraries. Children ages seven through twelve tell their parents what they want to read, but the main sources of their information remain bookstores, teachers, and libraries. Because most purchases are impulsive, the attractiveness of the books cover image is critical. So too are the front covers descriptive copy and age rating. But the latter two factors are less important than a friends recommendation of the book and whether the book is written by a trusted and known author.

Like Max in Sendacks classic tale, we hope to make friends with the wild things of childrens writing, not be eaten by them. But a pinch of humor can tame themwell, almost.


Vin and the Dorky Duet is available at:


Thanks for your inspiring article, Maggie. Congratulations on your books.

Happy Reading, All.


  1. Thanks so much, Beverly, for having me as a guest blogger today.

  2. I love the quote from Gutman. He's so right. I try to make sure my chapters have an equal amount of dialog and narrative. I find it's hard for me to skimp on descriptions and adjectives though...

  3. Hi, Maggie! Interesting article. I look forward to reading VIN AND THE DORKY DUET.

    Hi, Beverly!

  4. Thank you all for your comments. Glad you found the article interesting.

  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and books with us, Maggie. I'm so sorry for not commenting before today. I've been without Internet service since Thursday, and I'm one unhappy camper. Hopefully it's back now.

    A big thanks to Beth, Lexa, and Susanne for stopping by. You're the best.

  6. Wow! What a great post - thanks, you two!

  7. Beverly, hope your Internet is now working without hiccups.