Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oh, Wook at the Dawling Adults! Dey Think Dey're Writing for Children!

Beloved Uncle Al blogs about Hollywood writers turning to writing for children, you know, when they don't have anything better to do.

I especially liked point 5:
5.) Carefully read and consider the tone of the following quotes:
a.) "I'm a father of five and often lament the lack of really creative, funny children’s books.”
b.) “I’m finding that in good children’s books, the text isn’t just describing the picture but the two are working together to advance the storytelling.”
c.) “And, sometimes, there’s also a chance to make a political point.”

But I disagree that these three statements all say the same thing about the speaker. I would have interpreted them as meaning:
a.) I don't know a thing about the market!
b.) I don't know a thing about building picture books!
c.) I don't know a thing about children!

I'd like to point out to any Hollywood scriptwriters out there that having children does not mean that you understand them. It means you live with them. Any child could tell you this—they know that simply living with adults does not necessarily put you anywhere close to understanding how their wee little minds work. And I'll tell you, the wee little minds of some adults flummox me sometimes.

22 comments:

Editorial Anonymous said...

Perhaps I should clarify that quote b)
(“I’m finding that in good children’s books, the text isn’t just describing the picture but the two are working together to advance the storytelling.”)
is of course a perfectly accurate statement about picture books-- but one so obvious as to reveal how ignorant the speaker is.

emay said...

It's not their fault. They live in Los Angeles, where there aren't any books.

Anonymous said...

My, the kids-lit world is awfully haughty, aren't we?

Everyone needs to start somewhere -- and a writer in a different medium has a better chance of success than, say, a pop singer. His quotes actually lead one to think he may be successful.
-How many people outside the kid's book business are aware of much beyond what B&N puts on their displays? It is reasonable to assume a screenwriter might have a more creative idea than most of that drivel.
-He's just starting to learn about good books and has realized the co-dependence of pictures and text. That's a leg up on 99% of what is in the slush.
-Why can't there be a subtle political point: war is bad, or whatnot? We have moral tales (usually dreadful, though, in my opinion) why not a political point? Notice he said "sometimes."

The arrogance in this business is laughable.

And for the record, in the original post, Mo Willems is singled out as being highly creative, funny, etc -- the gold-standard. Guess where he came from? Writing TV scripts for Seasame Street.

Haughty said...

A subtle political point: War is bad.

Awesome.

david elzey said...

As someone who studied film, and screenwriting, and is now in am MFA program for children's writing I Find "anonymous" to be typical of the type who truly don't understand the differences.

"Oh, hey, I write music reviews for a local free weekly but I seen this William Carlos William's guy's stuff and I think I write me some poetry while things are slow... How hard could it be?"

They're just words, right? just words... uh oh. Thats sounds familiar...

Editorial Anonymous said...

Ok, fair enough. He's just starting out. And ignorance like this is normal at that stage. He may go on to be the next Mo Willems.
The fact of being at square one, however, should say to people that their next step is NOT to release 10 new books (as this yutz is). Smart next steps would include 1)doing some research and 2)keeping your yap shut until you know more.

Anonymous said...

And for the record, in the original post, Mo Willems is singled out as being highly creative, funny, etc -- the gold-standard. Guess where he came from? Writing TV scripts for Seasame Street.

But Sesame Street is geared toward children. From what I can tell, Rob Kurtz' other projects have been geared towards adults, not children. That's a major difference. A good writer for adults is not automatically a good writer for children - and vice versa.

haughty no. 2 said...

I concur with haughty's incisive comment. Kid lit is quite obviously neither political nor complex. Just ask Jack Zipes :)

ChristineEldin said...

Each genre has its unique challenges, so this really irks me.
It's like saying just because you've had sex you can write erotica, or just because you've been in love you can write a romance novel, or just because you've had a life you can write a memoir.

I agree with your initial post.

L. said...

Another example of adult writers thinking writing for kids is child's play - and, unfortunately, being successful...
James Patterson in the New York Times (Feb. 20) "if he simply wanted to make more money, he would have developed another adult series. 'I just am convinced that there aren’t enough books like this — books that kids can pick up and go ‘Wow, that was terrific, I wouldn’t mind reading another book,’ ' he said of his 'Maximum Ride' series."
I wonder how many kids books he's read to make such a blanket statement. He seems to think he has a corner on the market for "terrific" kids books.

Anonymous said...

James Patterson in the New York Times (Feb. 20) "if he simply wanted to make more money, he would have developed another adult series. 'I just am convinced that there aren’t enough books like this — books that kids can pick up and go ‘Wow, that was terrific, I wouldn’t mind reading another book,’ ' he said of his 'Maximum Ride' series."
I wonder how many kids books he's read to make such a blanket statement. He seems to think he has a corner on the market for "terrific" kids books.


The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that what is actually meant with comments like these are: I can't find many current books that are written like those I was fond of as a child. Those books were good! I don't know why you can't find books like that anymore. Guess I'll have to write my own.

In other words, their gold standard is what they remember reading as a child - and very few of today's books are going to measure up to someone's treasured childhood memories. Sometimes even the books they remember don't measure up to those memories. :o)

emay said...

WE'RE the haughty ones? We're not the ones going around saying it's too bad there aren't any good screenplays out there and why don't we whip one off while we're not busy with our day jobs. Barnes & Noble is not Kroger. There are hundreds of absolutely top-notch kids' books on their shelves. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see where the three goofy quotes were meant to say the same thing about the speaker. I thought they were just held up as three things not to do. But I think EA's interpretations are right on.

Very true that the person in (b) has figured something out that 90% of slush writers haven't. But if he thinks this is news, all he's doing is shouting from the rooftops how green he is. Sorry, but this person is not ready to be submitting.

Also true that lots of would-be children's writers want the warm, fuzzy feelings of their own childhoods, and don't even realize that certain books may be part of those memories but not the sole source of them. Person (c) may also be saying "I was raised on Mother Goose!"

No, children's writers aren't haughty. They're just sick of people from other industries thinking they can knock off a kiddie book in their downtime, because, really, how hard can it be?

1. Learn. The. Business.
2. Do. Not. Reminisce and call it writing for children.

Anonymous said...

As a Hollywood scriptwriter, I would like to point out that not all of us are completely ignorant of the world of children's books. Please don't make such sweeping statements about screenwriters or people who live in Los Angeles. It's quite insulting.

Anonymous said...

Arrogance? Maybe. Let's look at it the other way around: “I’m finding that in a good screenplay, the dialog and the action work together to advance the story."

Nope, I just don't see a children's book author walking out of a Hollywood pitch meeting without those producers enjoying quite a bit of haughtiness afterward.

It's arrogant to believe you can do without effort what others practice, study, and care most about.

jan said...

James Patterson is an excellent example of someone without a clue. His Christmas picture book was so horrible (despite the incredible promo push) that my daughter, who loves being read to above all things, got about half-way through and asked, "Do I have to listen to all of this?" And this is a kid I use as a sounding board before writing a review because she loves everything and helps me be a little less snarky.

The logic holes.
The wordy babble.
*shudder*

Honestly, any "gee, this is my first kid's book, isn't it grand" dabbler who says that he's writing because there just aren't enough good books should be struck with an aged halibut right in the middle of the interview.

Anonymous said...

James Patterson is an excellent example of someone without a clue.

I haven't read the entire book, but I'm assuming you're talking about Santa Kid (looked it up on Amazon and read an excerpt of it there.) If so, I'd have to agree.

There's a big difference between writing a story geared for children (plot lines that interest children, actions that interest children, characters that interest children etc.) and writing a story that's really aimed at adults with children doing the actions. Santa Kid definitely sounds like it falls into that latter category.

Anonymous said...

anon 1:07, there are a lot of those books for "kids" out there and I think they get published b/c publishers know they will sell into the hands of adults who will buy them. Clearly and sadly, they are selling.

anon 7:03, what a brilliant response! I could not have said it better. I am going to go and write a screenplay now.

ae said...

Ooooh.

All this haughtiness is not hautness. No, it is naughtiness for naughtness.

Oh, dear. Drop me in the water.

Anonymous said...

Hey count me in on the screenplay, TV scriptwriting etc. I'll take on the challenge.
I have over a 100 channels on my set and watch about 2 good shows a week. What's with that? I can whip up something good next week.
Now, to be sweet.........
I bet it is as difficult to write, pitch and win a TV script writing contract as it is to get one in the kids' lit world.
There are screenwriters working as waiters and taxi drivers, trying to get their break. And likewise for children's book writers. And it's backstabbing.
May the best project get sold. Period. May everyone with passion in their work get a chance to show it to the world... whether it is a script or a manuscript.
Get along writers. We chose to do this instead of say, dentistry.

Eyeball

Dr. Desoto said...

Make fun of dentistry all you like, bub, but when your bicuspids go south, remember who's there to save your smart mouth.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone deserves a little cocktail. Cheers. RELAX.