Writing Irresistible KidLit

I Believe in Story | Writing Craft: Writing Irresistible KidLit

Let’s talk about denim.

I fell in love with my first pair of jeans in first grade. They were stone washed and tapered and they had a little fake pocket inside a real pocket. This was also the year I fell in love with writing. Someone once told me if a person wants to know her true calling, she should think about what she loved when she was seven years old.

It’s true for me. I’m a lifelong worshipper of jeans, sporting every denim trend along the way regardless of how unflattering, and I have cobbled together a writing career with jobs that require writing in various capacities, even if those jobs were sometimes unpaid or mind numbing.

Discovering YA—the craft of writing it, the pleasure of reading it, and the passionate community of people who champion it—has been like giving up low-rise, thong-showing bootcuts for the perfect pair of skinny jeans. I was scared of the skinnies before I first tried them, but they turned out to be a much better fit.

Before this shift into fiction writing, I was just a person in between careers with an idea for a television pilot starring a 15-year-old psychic. Then I read Mary Kole’s Writing Irresistible Kidlit and a door opened. It was an imaginary, psychological door, but a gateway nonetheless.

Kole’s book is the perfect entrĂ©e into the world of YA, which has its own culture and norms. She understands what makes YA special and shows the reader what to aim for using excerpts from her favorite middle grade and young adult books, Q&A sections with authors and editors, and writing worksheets. Reading it confirmed my hunch that I was heading in the right direction and motivated me to continue. As I made notes in the margins, my television pilot transformed into a viable book concept.

Now, I write every day from my desk at home. More often than not, I’m in my jeans. This is the most perfect combination of inedible things I can imagine. I wish it for everyone. So, if you have the hunch that writing YA or MG will bring you the incomparable feeling of coming home, read Writing Irresistible Kidlit and take a leap. There’s a whole world waiting for you.


Character Study: Lois Wilkerson

I Believe in Story | Character Study: Lois Wilkerson

I love Lois.

Full disclosure: it may be because she reminds me a bit of myself. She’s a hard-ass who has loads of opinions. She’s not always popular because she’s a bit on the harsh side, but she loves her family and works hard to make sure they have what they need to be the people she thinks they are meant to be. She gives good advice if anyone actually takes the time to listen, she’s often right and, despite the draconian punishments she doles out to her sons, she’s a pretty good Mom.

The great thing about Lois as a character though is that she’s deeply flawed. For all the good stuff, there’s just as much bad. She doesn’t know when to shut up, she gets wrapped up in herself and forgets to listen and she’s a bulldozer, scaring the crap out of people as she drives around with her shovel tearing up the concrete.

Overall the thing that makes Lois shine isn’t Lois on her own, it’s her family and the way she interacts with them. Some of my favourite episodes are the ones where Lois is made vulnerable, treated like crap by the people who don’t understand her, and her family comes to her rescue. Their loyalty and devotion to her makes it clear that despite the yelling, the punishments and the fear she induces when she lays down the law, they love her and would do anything for her.

Lois’s relationship with her husband Hal also allows her character to flourish. In fact, they are one of the sweetest married couples I have ever seen on TV (although I may be biased on that front too as their relationship reminds me of mine). Their devotion to each other is romantic and quite beautiful and even though there are sometimes lies and fights, it always comes back to the fact that Lois’s loud, bossy, controlling nature is a perfect match for Hal’s forgetful, sweet, clumsy one.

Lois is a great example of a character defined by those around her who still stands on her own as a strong, flawed and ultimately caring person.