Monday, January 11, 2010

Know Any Good Jokes? (And other genre issues.)

Here's a joke I heard the other day:

A father took his little daughter to see a new litter of puppies. When they got home, the girl told her mother, "We saw two girl puppies and two boy puppies!"

The mom said, "How could you tell?"

"Because Daddy picked them up and looked underneath. It was printed on the bottom!"

This got me thinking about labels. I for one hate labels. I hated them in high school and I hate them now. In high school I refused to fit into a stereotype of prep, jock, hippie, stoner, cowgirl, etc. Instead I dabbled in all of them and had friends in every so-called "type".

I feel the same way about kid's literature. I hate to say that I write YA Historical Fiction or MG Fantasy. Rather I want to say I write for kids. Any age of kids. And genres and branding be hanged. Does anyone else feel this way?

I'm sure that I'll have to face genre groupings once (if) I get published, but for now I've come to terms with my dislike and have decided thus:

I'll first write the best books I can--books that appeal to me--and then I'll worry about where they fit in.

Q4U: How do you feel about genre-bending and branding authors in chidren's lit? Where in your process do you start thinking about how your WIP fits in?


  1. I agree with you about all of these labels interfering. In children's literature, due to subject matter and reading level, there has to be some categorization.

    There are many authors that go from group to group (and even write fantasy and non-fantasy) without much problem (Lois Lowry, Kate DiCamillo, Cornelia Funke).

    I find the bigger problem in selling a character that's on the younger end of the age range. I've been told that if I write a book for ages 9-12, the character should be 12 or older because kids don't want to read about people who are younger than they are.

  2. I HOPE someday I have enough of a name to switch around genres like DiCamillo and the others you mentioned do.

    I'm also hoping that the character ages will become non-issues for you and everyone else. Already MG is getting qualifiers put on them like, "Upper-MG" or "Younger-MG" or "Tweens" and "New Adult". Maybe then it will be just like what you like. At the same time, though, I agree there has to be something categorical, especially for booksellers and shelving issues.

    My problem is that I worry about it when the WIP is in first draft form. At that point I need to write it and not care, leaving catergories to someone else savvier than me to decide.

    Thanks for stopping by, Theresa, I hope things are going well!

  3. In a good book age doesn't matter even to kids. "The Lord of the Flies" is an excellent example. But in general kids want to hear adventure with kids there own age or just above. 12 years older seems to much older.

  4. Good points, Holly. I like that transitional character age of twelve and also 17/18. My characters are often those ages. I wonder what that says about me?