Thursday, February 18, 2010

Time Away/What Do Kids Think

The discussions you miss while spending time away from the internet and our blog. Over President's Day weekend, we went cross country skiing and time away from the computer does open up one's brain without needing Mac's Freedom program. I have stopped bringing my laptop along on these weekend trips, but still have that trusty notebook to jot down ideas and prioritize all that I will get done upon my return. Besides the thinking time, I love listening to radio programs in the car with my husband. Somehow the contained space allows the interviews to really sink in and gives me time to reflect. We went over the border into British Columbia, so I enjoyed CBC radio's enthusiasm for Canadian Olympians - refreshing. And I enjoyed the interview with American author Kate Walbert - A Short History of Women. What a novel about five generations of women, starting with a suffragist in 1914. Such a thoughtful interview about her work.

Made me sad that children's/YA authors don't usually get to discuss their work in such depth. Makes me appreciate so much our lectures at Hamline where we do. It also made me wonder if the internet is the only way to communicate with young readers about what they are reading. Yes, schools visits give us face time with kids. But that is usually about our own books and perhaps their writing. Not so much about what they are reading and how it affects them.

WE also listened to a show about Charles Darwin and I thought again of how much I loved the book Charles and Emma: The Darwins Leap of Faith. When I got home I took a look at that book again and wondered. Do teens like it as much as I did? A friend suggested I log onto Goodreads. I enjoyed the discussion about the book but was disappointed that it was mostly adults commenting. Many of them also wondered if teens would like this NF book as much as we adults.

Thanks for reading my riff. What is your take? How do we connect with young readers as well as the gatekeepers? I know Lisa has younger friends on Facebook. Some of you still have children of the age you write for. What's a writer to do?
As always, the best books are those that resonate with young and old. Let's get writing them.


  1. Wow--sounds like a great get-away, Claire. Skate or classic skiing?

    Connecting with young readers is always illuminating. I feel lucky to still get a fair amount of email, though my most recent book is not recent at all. I'm also lucky to have a local high school librarian who is top notch and when I can talk to her about what her kids are reading (it's a large high school and she reaches out to all sorts of kids) I feel like I'm really getting a good picture. Problem with many such connections, however, is the sampling is often fairly small and the teen participants somewhat self-selecting and of a type. I've always been a bit of two minds about the weight adult sometimes give to teen reader panels for that reason. A lot of other readers slide under the radar and don't get heard.

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  3. I am looking forward to my "desk side chat" today, where I have students come to my desk (in my personal space) in their reading groups of 2-4 students and talk to me about their books. Normally I go to their groups, but I find a change of pace is nice. I have some amazing students right now, and they have blown past the minimum requirements for reading (2 books of their choice per quarter). I have a boy who has been turned on to Michael Crichton and is reading A BOOK A NIGHT! Anyway, as I looked out across my class yesterday, and noted the variety of titles in actual YA readers' hands, and thought about this exact idea. How many authors get to see this in action? Or get to walk into a classroom on a Friday and discuss books?

    My wife has done that in the past, just came and visited with some lit circle groups while I visited with others, and took that experience back to the practicum teachers that she is teaching at the university level. It is a rare kid that doesn't want to talk to adults about what they are reading, because for some, they just like to chat, but for others they want to share the accomplishment of reading a book.

    I think it is VERY important to talk to the people you are writing for, and not just in an "official paid capacity". Have an "off the cuff" visit and see what happens. Anyone is free to come visit my classes in good ol' South Dakota! ;P

  4. Good point, Jason. Wish I lived nearby so that I could come visit with your students.

    Skate skiing is my thing from the Alaska days. But classic is mellower and I could use some of that. Bode Miller uncovered his mellow factor, didn't he?