My Children: Test Audience

June 13, 2006 @ 8:09 pm | Filed under: Writing

One of the best things—maybe THE best—about writing children’s books for a living is getting to try out your stories on your own children first. When they get caught up in the tale you’re reading and forget that you’re their mom and you wrote this, when you get to the end of a chapter and they beg for just one more and you laugh and say there ISN’T any more, I haven’t written it yet and they wring their hands and implore you to just TELL the next bit, oh pleeeease, you have to!—that’s when you know you have the very best job (or combination of jobs) in the whole world.

(As opposed to, say, when you’re writing out giant checks to various medical practitioners because as freelancers you and your husband no longer enjoy the cushy benefits you did when on staff at giant publishing conglomerations.)

Lately I’ve been wondering how many other children’s book authors out there are revelling in the same delicious experience. I can think of one. Like mine, I believe that particular author’s flesh-and-blood critics are brutally frank, which is of course the most useful kind of critic you can have. That’s why children make the best test audience; if they fidget or go “huh?” you know you’ve got some polishing to do. But when you get it right, oh, there is nothing, nothing better than the sight of their heads thrown back in laughter, the sound of their belly laughs in all the right places.


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Comments

2 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. Well, I don’t write fiction (yet!), but most definitely my own kids play a part in helping me to know if I’m doing well. For me, it’s the activities. Just the other day I was working on creating a faux stained glass activity for an upcoming book, and my kids’ reactions were great: “Wow! That’s cool. Can I do one?”

    Of course, they can also be brutally honest: “THAT is really dumb.” Anything that generates a statement like that does not make it into a book!

    Someday – someday – maybe I’ll have them begging for more of a story, but for now I’m happy to be doing something that allows them to be involved and shows them that their opinions really do matter.

  2. I don’t have any kids, but I do have a little sister. I find her useful not just on my own writing but on evaluating books for publication. Occassionally, if I can’t quite make up my mind, before I go to an acquisitions meeting I’ll email a copy of the first 10 or so pages. If she’s into it, we’ve got a winner. If she’s not I want to know why. She very frank and holds nothing back. I’ve found that if I send my own stuff this way, she tends to be more honest. Of course, she’s 12 now and will soon be moving into YA. I’ll miss her frank mid-grade advice, just like I now miss her chapter book appraisals. Some of them were down right eye-opening.