Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Heeeeere Fishie Fishie Fishie!!!"

Sesame Street gives me food for thought. My son watches Sesame Street rapt with attention every time I put a video in. Granted, this is a blessing as I often bring him to work and can leave him in the play room watching Elmo or Ernie for an hour or two while I attend to business. At home if I have to really get work done and my husband is not around, I can pop in a video and Malcolm will be relatively entertained for a bit. Sometimes though, I will sit and watch it with him, because truthfully I am curious. I watch Sesame Street myself as a child, and I wonder what exactly is its drawing power. What keeps an audience rapt? The curiosity extends to the realm of books as well. What keeps a reader rapt? Of the several stories I read to my son, the stories he really stops and listens to, the stories that have him crawling into my lap are Ginger Baby by Jan Brett and The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle. While on one note I think my son has very good taste, on another note I try to see what about these stories grabs him. Is it a repetative phrase he can identify? Or is it merely the inflections in my voice? The Very Busy Spider has several animal noises I imitate for him which makes him giggle delightfully. Not to mention Carle's illustrations are always fabulous. (He's my favorite ^^)
Okay so what are the equivalent for animal noises to a teenager? Up until this point, I had thought I chose to writer for an audience I could relate to. I am not that far gone out of adolescence, but really I am. Relatively, six years is not a long way from 18, but in that time I have earned a college degree, married, had a family, moved into my own abode, and I work a forty hour a week job. There is a vast amount of experience gained in six years after 18 versus say six years leading up to 18. It is that leap into the adult world which makes the difference and now I feel a bit out of my depth. Can I still find the animal noises? Can I write a book that holds a teenage reader as raptly as Sesame Street holds my son? Only one way to find out really. Start mooing and find out.

1 comment:

Karen Romano Young said...

"Start mooing and and find out"? I think I'm going to write this on a sticky and hang it over my work area this morning.

Kristin, I'm sorry you've been sick so much. I'm amazed at your energy and your ability to use what comes to you to add to your writing -- even when you aren't writing. Especially when you're not writing. This bodes well for the future. You can't be stopped, can you?

A quick glance at the chapter you sent me gets me itching to read it (further -- of course I've already succumbed to the first page) but I'm holding off until I'm sure I have everything from you. I'm going to need chapter numbers so I can keep track, okay?

The question of what turns a reader on (or a story listener) is quite impossible. Is there a reader for every book? Probably not -- and yet what one person loves means nothing to another. How do you feel about the book "Love You Forever"? Most people either love it or hate it (I'm in the hate camp), and that's kind of strange, isn't it?

So it's an interesting exercise to try to analyze the appeal of a story. For all you know your son was having a particularly happy morning the first time you read him the spider book, and now he associates it with that feeling. Or maybe he just really likes spiders -- or Carle -- who knows? (Have you visited the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass.? Good place to take a kid.)

As for teen books, it's just as tricky. What delights you may not do anything for me. Best advice: follow your bliss. Write what delights you. Consider the alternative: writing what you think someone wants? How could that be a good idea? By the time you finished the next Harry Potter vampire book, the trend is over and you look like a copycat. Be your original stellar self, and you'll get further -- in your work and in the field. Editors are looking for new voices.
And yours is a very fine one.

I hope you feel much better this week.

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