We’ve got Jaleigh Johnson with us today. I recently enjoyed her new Middle Grade novel, The Mark of the Dragonfly, which has a wonderful premise and setting. Johnson is best known for her contributions to the FORGOTTEN REALMS shared universe, so Middle Grade is a new realm for her. Curious about how she approached this challenge, I asked her what she does differently when she writes for kids. Her response is below and, at the end, she wants to know what YOU are looking for in a story for children. One commenter from the U.S. or Canada will win a copy of The Mark of the Dragonfly.
I’m asked this question fairly often, and I understand why. Now that The Mark of the Dragonfly is out in the world, I’ve officially written books for adults and a book for a middle-grade audience. I should totally know the difference between writing for kids and grown-ups, right? And I do, to some extent. Certain language and themes in my adult books won’t show up in the kids’ section, of course. But beyond that, I dread the question because I haven’t been able to come up with a good answer.
For example, I say, “Well, when I write for kids I keep the story moving along at a brisk pace to hold the reader’s attention. The Mark of the Dragonfly takes place on a train — it moves constantly. What could be better!”
Okay, let’s try again.
“The characters,” I say, “are so important. They have to be relatable. Kids have to see themselves in Piper, Anna, and Gee.”
Um. Except adults like that too.
And on it goes. Sometimes doing a thing is easier than trying to explain how you did it.
Then again, maybe there isn’t as much difference between writing for kids and writing for adults as I thought, and maybe that’s why middle-grade fiction has such broad appeal. Parents are sharing the reading experience with their kids, and I’ve been very happy to see adults responding with enthusiasm to Piper and Anna’s story.
What do you think? What do you look for in a children’s story that’s different from what you see in adult fiction?