A few years ago, I was hired to speak at a writer’s conference as the token ‘juvenile novelist’. (Yeah, I was confused by that moniker. Did the Powers-that-Be mean I was a teenybopper who wrote novels? Or that my novels were immature, sophomoric, perhaps even…delinquent?) When I stepped into the spotlight, ready for my introduction to the 300 eager participants, the conference coordinator – a writer of adult fiction – announced: “Lee has published even more books than I have. But then, hers are so much shorter than mine.”
Jealousy? Perhaps. Ignorance? Definitely. Over the years, I’ve learned that most people – even writers for other markets and genres – are clueless about what it takes to write a middle grade novel (or any other kind of kid lit, for that matter).
Here are a few more exasperating, amusing, royal pain in the...pen comments I’ve heard over the years:
1. “How many children’s novels do you write a day?” Oh, I usually dash off 10 or 20. Maybe 30 during daylights saving time.
My First Little Book Job by Bob Staake
2. “When are you going to grow up and write real novels?” (My husband has to restrain me from ripping out this questioner’s liver.)
3. “Have you written anything I would’ve heard of?” (Usually asked by someone who hasn’t read a children’s book since before the invention of, well, books.)
4. “Tsk – adolescents today! I hope your books teach ‘em plenty of morals!” (Oh, yes’m. And I’ll take a switch to my readers if they don’t learn them morals good.)
5. “You’ve published 30 books? Guess you’ll be retiring soon, living off your royalties.” (Very soon. Why, just last week, I received a three-figure royalty check: Nine dollars, seventy-two cents.)
6. “I’ve always wanted to write a novel for kids – if I could only find the time.” (Once professed to me by an Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon, as if he considered dabbling in middle grade fiction between tonsillectomies.)
7. “Your latest book is too good for kids.” (Actually uttered to me by a clerk in a bookstore!)
8. “How much do you have to pay the publishing companies to publish your book?” (Utter shock when they learn the companies pay me. Not much, but still . . .)
9. “I’d love to read your newest book. Would you send me a free autographed copy?” (Asked of me by 42 people at my last high school reunion.)
10. “I’ve written a series of 24 novels suitable for kids ages 5 to 15 about a talking cabbage named Cabi. Even though I’m not an artist, I’ve done my own illustrations. And I have ideas on how to market Cabi as an action figure. Would you mind taking a few moments to read my novels, give me your honest opinion, and then introduce me to your editor and agent?
Uh…maybe I could take a raincheck on that. Besides, don’t you think it’s time you grew up and wrote real books?