Writing for childen as simple as bringing them up!

Ursula Le Guin book cover(Adapted from first post: April 25, 2012)

On Twitter … Nick Cook quotes fantasy and science fiction author Ursula Le Guin on writing for children: “Sure, it’s simple, writing for kids. Just as simple as bringing them up!”  I was minded to find the context for the comment. It was was new to me, and Rosemary did not have children, just her appallingly untrained dogs, but I imagined she would have agreed.

Mind you, Rosemary Sutcliff did firmly resist using the word ‘kids’ for children; a kid, she used to say to me, is a young goat.

Anyway, the context is this: Le Guin wrote in an essay first published in 1979. 

“It must be relaxing to write simple things for a change”

Sure, it’s simple, writing for kids. Just as simple as bringing them up.  All you do is take the sex out, and use short little words, and little dumb ideas, and don’t be scary, and be sure there’s a happy ending. Right? Nothing to it. Write down. Right on.

If you do all that, you might even write Jonathan Livingston Seagull and make twenty billion dollars and have every adult in America reading your book!

But you won’t have every kid in America reading your book. They will look at it, and they will see straight through it, with their clear, cold, beady little eyes, and they will put it down, and they will go away. Kids will devour vast amounts of garbage (and it is good for them) but they are not like adults: they have not yet learned to eat plastic.

The British seem not to believe categorisations of ‘juvenile’, ‘teen-age’, ‘young adult’ etc. so devoutly as we do.

  • Source:  The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin, published first in 1979 by Putnam

Author: Anthony Lawton

Chair, Sussex Dolphin, family company which looks after the work of eminent children’s & historical fiction author Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92). Formerly CEO, chair & trustee of various charity, cultural & educational enterprises in UK.

3 thoughts on “Writing for childen as simple as bringing them up!”

  1. “There are good books which are only for adults, because their comprehension presupposes adult experiences, but there are no good books which are only for children”.

    W.H. Auden

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