Sunday, October 3, 2010

I before E.. and MG before YA

we have a special treat today! my often-mentioned beta reader and the much-praised literary intern, Gemma Cooper, has kindly agreed to guest post.

fresh off her internship with a New York agency, Gem is currently an intern at a children's lit agency in London.
thanks for guesting, Gem!

Writers of young adult books are often the most passionate readers of young adult books. And reading your genre is a great way to hone your skills. But you should also be reading outside your genre.

Many people take this to mean 'read adult books', but I believe that you can learn a lot more about voice, concise story telling and effective world building if you read middle grade, chapter/early reader and picture books.

Think about it. The authors of these books have fewer words to get voice across. Fewer words to make you care about the characters. Fewer words to immerse you in a new world. Fewer words to make a lasting impression.

What's prompted my new love of younger reader books? Well, the new internship I'm doing is much more focused on MG/early reader/picture books than YA, so I've read a ton in the last month. And this has lead to laughing. Lots and lots of laughing - something that as a YA reader, I don't do that often.

So, I put it to you to read some MG. My recommendations are the wonderful When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (an excellent lesson in voice) and Where The Mountain Meets The Moon by Grace Lin (impeccable world building).

Then read some younger MG/5-8. And if you only pick one, let it be the wonderful The Great Rabbit Rescue by Katie Davies. If a book was ever a lesson in pitch-perfect voice, it is this one. And it's hysterical.

Finally, don't forget to read some early reader/picture books. TRY to read them without paying attention to the pictures. Picture book texts should be stand-alone awesome without the need for the illustrations. My favourites are all by Mo Willems - the Pigeon series (especially The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog) and the Elephant and Piggie (especially I Love My New Toy).

Read these books and have a laugh. And while you're laughing, think about the writing and how much skill the author has to get the voice, character motivation and world building acheived in so few words. I bet you'll see it's harder than you think.

Gem's rec is the reason i read "When You Reach Me" - a wonderful book that made me want to pick up more MG on my next trip to the bookstore.
thanks again, Gem!


Melanie said...

Very cool. Haven't read a ton of MG, but as a Kindergarten and 1st grade teacher, I've read a TON of picture books. Nothing could ever replace the love I have for these books. I still can't get through the book, The Empty Pot by Demi without tearing up. Some of the messages these books convey are not only important for the young children toward whom they're geared, but a good reminder to adults as well who often get so caught up in life that they forget about the little things. I am interested in reading some MG after I catch up on all the YA reading I still need to do. Great post thanks for sharing!

Marieke said...

I completely agree! I *adored* When you reach me, and I agree MG can teach us so much about writing. :D