My article, "Phoenix Rising", is in the 2007 July/Aug issue of the SCBWI Bulletin. I could have written book about how death drives stories forward.
I thought I might share an extra thought or two about death in books for the younger set. I recently judged a writing contest and noticed a recurring problem in many of the manuscripts intended for the picture book audience. These manuscripts centered on the death of a family member or friend. For the youngest children, emotional development must be considered when introducing the catalyst of death into a story; death can create a minefield of unintended misunderstanding. Psychologists agree that younger children take explanations of death at face value and will misinterpret mild or vague expressions of loss. It is common knowledge, that children under the age of seven believe that death is reversible; they also embrace magical thinking, like believing they can wish someone to be alive. Children often connect events that don’t belong together like a death and a bad day. Most explanations for younger children will be taken quite literally. Keep these thoughts in mind as your craft your picture book stories.
Now one more bonus. Exercises to sharpen your writing. Write about your first experience with the death of a pet. Explore the emotions of that moment. Include the sensory details. Add the dialogue of the people present when your pet died. Now, write about your first experience with the death of a person. How did you feel? How old were you? What were the sensory details of that moment? Where were you? Try writing every detail of the setting. How did you feel about that death? Were your feelings different than those around you? Try expanding this exercise by asking several people you know about their first experience with death and writing short scenes about those experiences, too. The purpose here is to create an authentic, emotional account of death. This will help you achieve a realistic form of death within your stories. As with all good storytelling, pay attention to the details.
Want to learn something? Have you ever wondered if your story is in the right POV? Here is a post by Nathan Bransford (a literary agent for Curtis Brown). He wrote this post about first person vs third person. I liked this one and it really made me pull out some manuscripts and ask questions. Enjoy.
I'm speaking next Saturday at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. Come by and say hi if you are there.
Here's the blurb:
10:30 - Noon (July 28, 2007)
Young Adult Track
Marketwise for Children’s Writers.
Speaker: Molly Blaisdell
Moderator: Danielle Rollins
There is no magic formula that will ensure publication in the children’s market, but this thorough look at how to research the market will help. Many tips and strategies will also be offered that will help you generate opportunities and will set you on sure paths toward publication.
Location: Emerald Ballroom F
It's raining here in the wilds of Woodinville today, and I'm hard at work on my novels. I'm so glad that people believe in me. I'm always confident about my writing. I'm a born storyteller. But selling my work? This is something that I have no control over. I got a long string of "nos" this week. All the wobbling eggs just stopped. All of them.
I take a deep breath and keep on writing. Have I come to another dry desert? Will anyone give my work a look again? The scary part of that question is the answer may be no. I have to keep all that out of my head and fill up with words of others.
"I have a lot of faith in you, and your energy, and passion to write."
"I know a day is coming when I will say I knew you when."
"You are a worker bee and that means you get the job done."
" You are like Hootie and Blowfish, like they were this small band with hundreds of fans. playing at colleges. Then, whoa, their day came and then they had millions of fans, and then that backed off and they had thousands of fans. You will be like that."
"I loved, loved, loved your book."
"I stayed up all night reading. I just couldn't stop."
I'm so glad for all the people who have encouraged me. It really helps warm me up on the blah cold days.