Thursday, May 14, 2009

Writing for Kids

Often writing is the most fun when its goal is to simply entertain kids. A case in point is when a preschooler finally gets a chance to take a stuffed animal home and then has to "write" about his weekend adventures with her.

In this case Elly the Elephant was quite a trooper and willing to try most anything, just like Nemo the clown fish was in years prior. (No pachyderms were harmed in the filming.) And she still held her stitching after nearly a year of being carted around by dozens of tykes.

Ghostwriting for a three year old is pretty low pressure. On one hand, it affords the great opportunity to let one's imagination run wild. As a writer, you can take the reins of the publisher, and finally do whatever you want without any reservations or objections. But it is still a real assignment. It has a deadline. It still has to make sense. It has to be punchy and personal. After reviewing the dozens of previous reports from other classmates, you want to be original... and even a little bit better.

Yet the true smell test is when you read Elly's adventure to the kids, and see their faces light up as they recall their recent experiences, colored through someone else's rose-tinted narrative. When they smile and ask for you to read it again, then you're on to something. You've captured, however fleetingly, the magic of writing for kids. What is it? It is an alchemic mixture of humor, ridiculousness, and identification which yields a meaning that bears a joy in repeating. A valuable lesson for an adult as well as a child.

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