The Marvelous Middles
A Glimpse Into Where I Stand on Writing for Children
(As appeared on the ACFW Blog – March 4, 2016)
We are the writers for the Marvelous Middles. At writers’ conferences, we don’t quite fit in with the crowd. True, we have characters that we love, worlds that we have delicately designed, and plots that will entertain and excite like everyone else, but we are different. Sessions on social media marketing don’t apply, as most of our readers aren’t allowed to use the internet without adult supervision. We don’t often bother pitching because most of the agents and editors are clear that we are a tricky group that is quickly fading despite our insistence that our readers are hungry for another adventure. Our writing is too long and plot driven for those early readers of picture books, but yet it is not as complex and introspective as the hot young adult novels. It is truly a union of kindred spirits when we encounter one or two other loners who are trying to find their place in the challenging world of middle grade fiction. We know our audience well, and as Christian children’s authors we are held to a higher standard.
Our readers read voraciously by flashlights under the covers at night, doodle our characters on the back of notebook paper, and use our worlds to create stories of their own. They are usually somewhere between the ages of eight and twelve, however occasionally we learn that some of our biggest fans are a bit older. They are students—not afraid to use their imaginations to create in their own way. They are not yet limited by fear of failure or the desires of the world. They can still be transported to faraway lands where in their mind they remain even after the book is closed.
They are young and influential, and as writers for these young readers, we are not only held to the standard of parents, but those of our Creator. Matthew 18:6 says, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for them to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (NASB).” For this reason, we steer clear of romance, especially kissing and wondering eyes, and we are careful with the distinction between magic and spiritual gifts. We are not typically wordy in our writing for them, and we replace intricately woven descriptive passages with simple story telling so that our message is clear. The review of a critic means little, but the honest unbiased opinion of the marvelous middle and the approval of the parent mean everything!
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “a children’s story is the best art-form for something you have to say.” As Christian writers for the middle grade audience, we have taken on a task to not only entertain but to show through our writing a glimpse of the Creator . . . His words, His ways, and His love. We may not fit in amongst the vast array of talented conference writers, but we are thankful for those who see our excitement and joyfully cheer us onward. It seems that it would be easy to shift our point of view, increase the age of our protagonist, and add in an element of maturity that might make our quest to find a home in the world of publishing a tad more encouraging, but that is not the point. The point is the audience—the children. Who then would write for the Marvelous Middles?