Linda Sue Park shared a wealth of knowledge at the SCBWI Downstate Craft Retreat, everything from basic writing concepts to her own personal revision methods. Among all that awesome practical advice, the comment that most stuck with me was an abstract observation.
Linda Sue Park feels there are very few writing geniuses in the children’s book industry. She could only name five off the top of her head, and she doesn’t consider herself to be one of them. Don’t worry, she says you don’t have to be a writing genius, either, to be a successful author. What you do need are three things:
If you’re hanging your head right now, wondering how much writing talent you actually possess, you are not alone. Once again, don’t worry. Linda Sue further explained you can become a successful author with only two of the three IF one of them is discipline AND you read a lot.
Believe it or not, Linda Sue reads for two hours every single evening before bed, from a diverse selection of modern children’s books encompassing all ages and genres of both fiction and nonfiction. How many of us can say the same?
Why do writers need to read so much? To develop our own internal reading instinct. Next time you ask five writing friends to critique your work, and they somehow manage to produce five conflicting suggestions on how to improve your manuscript, you can rely on your reading gut to point you in the right direction. But that important internal reading instinct isn’t going to help if you only read adult bestsellers, blogs on writing craft, or even the classic books you loved as a child. Spying on your children’s actual behaviour when they think you aren’t listening doesn’t replace this essential reading of recently published successful children’s books, either.
Modern books now have to complete with video games and apps for a child’s ever shortening attention span, so they’ve evolved. I couldn’t pay my daughter to read Little House on the Prairie or Anne of Green Gables, both of which I still love. But she can’t gobble up Fancy Nancy picture books and Magic Tree House chapter books fast enough. Why do those modern characters capture her attention? Read them and you’ll find out.