As you may surmise, having a debut book deal is a real conversation starter. These chats are as varied as ‘Did you do the illustrations as well?’ (my book is a middle-grade historic fiction about war – not a lot of double spread color) to ‘Are you coming to the independent bookstore in my town?’ (even though his town is 2000 miles away and he is the only person I know in that town). Like I said – a lot of conversations. Recently I was having one of these conversations with a very supportive friend and she asked, “When are you going to write an adult book?” This is a friend who shares my love of books and reads outside the adult genre, but she was surprised that my immediate answer was ‘Oh no – that will never happen.’
This reminded me of a conversation several years ago when I was talking to a friend about what books we were reading. I was raving about a beautifully crafted YA trilogy and he said ‘Yeah, but I mean what real books are you reading?’ He realized immediately who he was talking to and that he had firmly stuffed his foot in his mouth. He fell all over himself trying to backpedal, but his instincts blazed like a billboard – real writers write for grownups.
Now don’t get me wrong – I have a long list of adult books that I love and I read a lot, especially adult fiction. But I have so many stories starring kids in my brain, so many kid characters living there, that my most precious sugary sweet dream is that I’ll live long enough to get them all written and into kid’s hands.
Looking back on these conversations has made me think more deeply about why I feel so strongly about writing for kids. One might venture that I’m simply a 14-year old geek in grownup clothing (and my friends who say I dress like Ms. Frizzle might argue that point). But there is truth in this – while I operate fine in the adult world, I still remember what it was like to be that nerdy preteen. That kid who was convinced my brain was wired different from every one else on the planet.
But more to the point, I remember so clearly the startling glimpses I had that there might be others who saw the world through my skewed glasses. These glimpses all came from the books I read with a flashlight under the covers. I was odd, but so was L’Engle’s Meg Murray and Spinelli’s Star Girl and dozens of other characters who came to me as friends when I most needed them. So as I think back, this is the core of why I can’t imagine writing for adults. Adults appreciate and enjoy stories, but they don’t need them the way kids do. As we get older, stories are simply not life-changing the way they were when we were younger. Maybe I’ll change my mind, when I grow up, but as long as there are kids who might finally find themselves in my stories, it’s not likely.
Darcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in spring of 2017. KEY TO HEAVEN, an historic fiction, tells the story of of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and perfect daughter, some fish, a cat and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and costumes for a 5-8 year old theater.
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