Wednesday, July 21, 2010

class notes

I've been entrenched in the writing of my new novel ("Dumpling Days") and while it's always roller coaster, every time the ride feels different. What's interesting this time is when I mention the age range (7-11) I am writing to non-book people, I get a distinct feeling of disappointment in my ambitions. As if by now I should have graduated to writing real books, older books or at least cooler or hipper books that could rival "Twilight."

I always smile politely, as I do understand their idea of success. And who knows, maybe someday I will. But I have a feeling, in terms of writing, that the young middle grade novel will be the book I will never graduate from.

Part of my "lecture" for the Pine Manor class I taught about writing the Middle Grade Novel:

Why write middle-grade novels, especially young middle grade? One can say you have more restrictions in terms of subject matter, audience and even respect than the other genres. But I think it is one of the most important forms,if not the most important form, of children's literature. These are the books that change a child that can read books to a child that LOVES to read books. What they call a "reader," a true life-long book lover. The picturebook is rarely read independently and the YA reader has already decided whether he or she likes books. The middle-grade novel is the one that can create a transformation.

8 comments:

Kelly Light said...

I have a 10 year old. This year I practically floated to the library with her- knowing that she now could read the books I hold most dear- that I read when I was in the 4th and 5th grades. Last night I could not get her to go to sleep as her nose was pushed so far into the Chronicles of Narnia. You are writing for the best age - and writing the books that will be passed down. (She loved Where the Mountain meets the moon)

Kathy said...

What a great speech! I hope that you don't graduate to the "next level" - we need great writers to write books for kids this age - books that will turn these kids into readers - kids that will WANT to read book like Twilight and read into adulthood. Elementary school libraians (I am one of them) THANK YOU!!! Oh and um do these people forget that Harry Potter was a middle grade book....

3rd Grade Roo's News said...

I for one, am glad that you are writing in the 7-11 range! Before you, there were hardly, if at all, any authors writing for that range so I had to use middle school books (like the Mulberry Project by Linda Park) to accompany my elementary school curriculum. My students are another eighteen people who are glad as well. This year in class, I'm reading aloud Mt. Meets the Moon, Year of the Rat, along with a bunch of folktales and a bunch of other stuff. Our librarian just got in the shipment of the Grace Lin reading pack on Monday! (basically two of every book) We were very excited! - Felix C

Mary Lee said...

Another vote for you NEVER "graduating" from writing for 7-11 year-olds!

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Li Wu said...

I agree with everyone -- please continue to do what you're doing so beautifully! We LOVE all your books; my kids (5 & 7) are about to graduate from picture books to chapter books and I can't wait to share "Year of the Dog" and "Year of the Rat" with them! (We're from Taiwan too!) I also got "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" on my shelf waiting, but I bet it won't sit there for long. Thank you for sharing your talent with the world; it is very much appreciated!

Jan J. said...

I think you are writing for the perfect age. Except.... my girls just turned 13 and I sure wouldn't mind if you did an upper middle or early young adult novel LOL! They still love to read your books even if they are a bit older - after all, a good book is a good book! I laughed the hardest over The Year of the Dog - one of our catch phrases is "it looks more natural that way," remembering Pacy's dad throwing the Christmas lights over a bush! Just keep writing what your heart tells you to because you are REALLY good at it!

Grace Lin said...

Thanks so much, everyone for your nice words! It's very encouraging, especially as I am struggling with my new novel.

I might write older books someday, but I hope if I do I never see it as "better." It's different, not better!