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Writer in the Middle – Writing for Middle Grade Readers
by Kai Strand
When learning that I write for children, a non-writer acquaintance of mine made a wise crack that was something like, “How hard can it be to write for a five year old?”
Love those comments.
It’s funny because to outsiders there is so much about children’s writing that seems simple. They’re just children after all. How much can they know? Yet when you really begin to dig deep into the world of children’s writing you learn that there are three distinct divisions in the age groups. Children - to age 8 (which can be broken down further, but for the sake of this article, we will lump the poor, misunderstood readers together.) Middle grade - to age 12 and young adult - to end of life, really.
Readers are broken down into these categories because of the learning curve in their education. Stories for younger children should have fewer characters and only one story arc. As the reader gets older, you can add a sub-plot or two and use first person. By the time the reader advances into young adult, they are ready to process deep emotion, complex story lines and heavy subject matter.
The middle grade years are formative. Children are growing at different speeds. Some are happy to stay young and carefree while others think they are old enough to start dating. They can be very self-conscious at this age, too. Especially as they navigate through middle school (or junior high school).
When I think back to my friends and I at this age – well, first I laugh, because I was wearing tube socks and learning disco – I think of the challenges we faced. Family issues, some of us growing interested boys, others not there yet, curfew, transportation challenges, unexplained emotions. Then I compare it to my children and their friends as they navigate through the middle grade years and there aren’t many differences. The fashions they are trying to keep up with have changed, but they are still fashion conscious and struggling with their self-image. They are still dealing with family issues, broken marriages, unemployment, etc. They whine when we can’t drive them everywhere they want to go, whenever they want to go. They don’t have unlimited funds, but have chores they must do before they can hang with friends.
Writing for middle graders can be tricky only because there is a huge maturity gap from an 8 year old to a 12 year old and between one 12 year old and another. However, if your story speaks to the core issues middle graders have faced throughout history, it is likely to resonate with today’s tweens as well as tomorrow’s.
|Read an excerpt @ Featherweight|
About the Book:
SAVE THE LEMMINGS! 8th grade inventor, Natalie Isabelle Cailean Edwards is the N.I.C.E. girl who finishes last with the kids in school. Sappy inspirational phrases and monochromatic outfits have all but her best friends wrinkling their nose at her. When Natalie’s invention, the Texty-Talky, goes nationwide, she becomes an overnight sensation. Suddenly her days consist of photo shoots and interviews with little time left for her friends. A local reporter shatters her good-girl image by reporting a graffiti incident and the media launches into a smear campaign. It is so bad, even her friends start to believe the stories. Will Natalie be able to overcome the lies being printed about her?
About the author: Kai Strand writes fiction for middle grade and young adult readers. Her debut novel, The Weaver, was a finalist in the 2012 EPIC eBook Awards. The Wishing Well: Another Weaver Tale is set in the same storytelling village as The Weaver. She is a (very lucky) wife and the mother of four amazing kids. The most common sound in her household is laughter. The second most common is, "Do your dishes!" She and her family hike, geocache, and canoe in beautiful
Central Oregon, where they call home.
To find out more about Kai’s books, download companion documents, find links to her published short stories and discover all the places to find Kai both virtually and in person, visit her website: www.kaistrand.com. She loves to hear from readers, so feel free to send her an email or visit her facebook page, Kai Strand, Author.
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