Saturday, 16 August 2008

My Secret Life - Lynn Huggins - Cooper


I have a secret life. There – it’s out. Now, I don’t mean I am actually a man (although if you have ever arm wrestled with me you may question that); I don’t mean that I am a closet libertine or a have a covert taste for leather and chains. But I do have another life, outside my usual description as ‘prolific writer of books for children’ (I think they mean ‘Her again? Ho hum...’): I write books for adults.
I have had several non-fiction ‘self-help’ books published including subjects as diverse as self-sufficiency and organic living, pregnancy and parenting teenagers. I enjoyed writing them; they were quite lucrative. The weird thing is, many people seem to think these books are somehow worthier or more valid than my writing for children. Mind you, these people are the type who sidle up to you at drinks parties and say either a. (in jokey voice) ‘Are you that JK Rowling, then?’ Or b. ‘I’ve always wanted to write a book...’ Personally, I get the urge to stab them with a cocktail stick at that point.
Guess what? It’s much easier to write for adults. You don’t have to worry about word levels, or references to rude things, and it’s a good job – my new organics book includes a section on phthalate-free erotic toys. That was great fun to research! I love writing for adults; I am currently writing (slowly) an adult horror story. But I love writing for kids more. I think writing for children is more challenging than any other writing I have done, including my forays into journalism. I suppose the reason for that can be found in my farts, bogies and poo blog earlier – my inner child has a very big gob and shouts incessantly about the stories I should write. I’d better go - think I hear her calling...and she’s a bad tempered beast if I don’t just give in and write.

9 comments:

Lee said...

I'm getting a bit tired of hearing that writing for children is sooo much harder than writing for adults. Writing well is difficult. Full stop.

Linda Strachan said...

Lee
I don't think that it is so much that we think it is harder than writing for adults, as you say writing well is hard and I firmly believe each story had its own level, place and audience, but the problem is that writing for children is constantly being undermined by the people who think that everything for children is simple and easy and ...well...child-like, and ergo those who write for children are likewise and have an easy time of it.

RESPECT for what we do is probably what is lacking in the general populace- or perhaps in those who have little respect for children!

LynnHC said...

Hi Lee

Sorry you are tired of hearing this. For me, it's true - so I shall keep saying it. I don't agree that writing well is hard - not for us, as we are writers. Some days it's harder than others, but basically it's something that we do because we have to. As a writer, I bet you, like me, couldn't NOT write, if you see what I mean. Personally though, I am tired of being treated as though my writing for adults is somehow more worthy than my writing for children. Writing for kids is harder. Full stop.

Lee said...

Of course I don't have to write. I suspect this is myth that many writers themselves subscribe to. At least I didn't for years - or not seriously. Writing is a choice I make, and though there is certainly a strongly obsessive side to my personality, I can aim that obsessiveness in different directions, and have.

I fully understand the frustration children's writers feel about lack of respect - after all, as an indie writer it's as bad or worse.

Lynn, as to the difficulty of writing well, perhaps it's only me. Each sentence is agony, each paragraph.

LynnHC said...

Hi Lee

Funny how different we are :) I DO have to write - maybe that makes me odd. It's not a myth for me. I'm not doing one of those Byronic 'If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad' numbers - nothing so romantic. But I think you may have hit the nail on the head when you say it's an obsession...

Lee said...

Lynn, I've no problem with our differences! But I would like to suggest that children's writers do themselves no service when they proclaim in public that writing for children is harder than writing for adults. It smacks too much of oneupsmanship and in any case is hardly an easy position to defend: I wouldn't care to try to prove that His Dark Materials was more difficult to write than, say, Cloud Atlas or The Blue Flower or Housekeeping or (fill in the blank). OK, given my coolness towards Pullman's work, I suppose I'm loading the dice ...

lynn said...

Hi Lee

No one-upmanship intended, honest Guv! I maintain that writing for children is harder than writing for adults - for ME. Maybe it isn't for you and many others.

What makes me mad is people who think that writing for children is somehow less worthy than writing for adults. They seem to think they could write a book for children in a morning, then go and do something else (usually non-writers, it must be said). I write for children and for adults, and am published in both markets. For me, writing for adults is easy. Writing for children - for me at least - takes more thought because of the different things you need to consider in addition to making your writing interesting - the whole word levels, appropriateness of content issues etc. That's all.

Nick Green said...

Funny thing... I don't think I could write 'for adults'. I've tried. I really can't do it. And this is odd, because there are adults (or at least, people who have been alive a longish time) who like my writing.

In the end I don't think I feel confident enough to summon up a voice for that readership. I feel I can write for children because I have been a child. For the same sort of reason, I can't write for adults... I'm not sure I've ever been one; I'm not sure what one is.

Lucy Coats said...

I'm going to come out right here! I have just started a novel for adults. I don't know if anyone will take it. It's a huge risk. but I'm loving it. It does give me more freedom to say stuff without having to think about the censors. Otherwise it's just different, more adult voices in my head. I'm with Lynn though--I bet if it does get published, people will make far more fuss than they do with my children's books. I too am sick of being asked if I earn as much as JK (the answer is so obviously no!). But I'll go on writing children's books because I love it. And Lee--I'm another who can't NOT write. I don't write for periods, but that doesn't mean I'm not plotting and planning in my head. Maybe I'm odd too. My children are certainly of that opinion. 'Mad old bat' is a phrase not uncommonly used in our household.