Overcoming the fear of writing children’s books

At first, I didn’t want to release Sarah & Katy and the Imagination Blankets to the public.

For five years, I had toiled and troubled over a novel with the working title Watchdog. The target audience was adults, and I worried that releasing a children’s book would compromise my future in adult fiction.

I had always visualized myself as a literary writer who would one day pen a Pulitzer prize-winner. Tagging the words “children’s author” to my identity seemed to overshadow dreams of a Pulitzer. So I planned to quietly (and privately) print a few dozen copies of the Sarah & Katy adventures via Lulu.com, distribute them amongst the family, and call it a day.

The plan changed as feedback came in from beta readers, family, and friends. I was encouraged to distribute the book more widely. Heartened (and a bit nervous), I began planning a full-fledged book release.

But in the back of my mind, the worry persisted: Am I boxing myself into a writing identity?

The worry dissipated from the moment my nieces received their copies of the book on Christmas Eve. And it continued to dissipate as I visited classrooms and met young readers and writers who were eager to talk about the story. Young readers made me proud to have “children’s author” attached to my name.

So I put Watchdog into my Incomplete Projects folder, dusted my hands, and walked away (mostly) content.

Until last night.

I’ve been reading Nancy Lamb’s book, The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children, and in Chapter Nine she discusses Mario Puzo’s middle-grade novel The Runaway Summer of Davie Shaw. Most readers are familiar with Mario Puzo’s work … but not his middle-grade book about Davie Shaw.

They know him better for writing The Godfather.

This was a revelation for me. Authors could dip toes not only into the kiddie pool, but also the deep end?

I abandoned reading to visit Google. I wanted to hunt for other names that grace book covers in both the children’s and adult sections of the bookstore.

  • Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, won awards as a writer for older audiences before penning his famed classic.
  • Jerry Spinelli originally identified as an adult author and wrote four unpublished adult novels. However, he has published exclusively as a children’s author. (One of my husband’s favorite childhood writers, in fact.)
  • Goosebumps writer R.L. Stine released a horror novel for adults.
  • Judy Blume, best known for her works targeted toward middle schoolers, also has adult fiction.
  • Roald Dahl β€” my first thought was, “What?!” Dahl’s whimsical, wacky, and sometimes downright weird creations seemed exclusively suited to children, but Google led to two adult novels: Sometime Never: A Fable for Superman, and My Uncle Oswald.
  • A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, began with plays and a murder mystery. He continued to write adult fiction after he wrote Winnie-the-Pooh tales as well.

The list goes on β€” many familiar names swam double dipped in children and adult fiction. Some, like Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) published under different names for their children and adult works. (An idea I’ve considered for adult novels β€” I’ve toyed with the pen name J.S. Baric for Watchdog and other adult works).

Whatever name I publish under in the future, one thing is for certain: There is plenty of room to add “children’s author” and Pulitzer-prize winner after my name.

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5 Responses to Overcoming the fear of writing children’s books

  1. trinitygrau says:

    I know what you mean about being afraid to share my work. With my first book (which is being edited), I am afraid to share it because it’s more of a fairytale-ish kind of book and I feel that that will make me look cliche or that people will think that’s all I’m good at, because I’m a girl.

    Like

  2. Thank you for sharing your story! Love that the publishing world is such that there are so many different outlets to authors to explore. Best of luck!

    Thanks for sharing with the #KidLitBlogHop!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Plenty of time for both a Newbery and a Pulitzer! πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing these fun facts about authors at the Kid Lit Blog Hop and good luck with your books!!

    Liked by 1 person

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