There's this article from the NY Times that's been circulating the web for a few days now. Basically it talks of the stigma still attached with writing YA, and how it's seen as a bad thing if one's book is placed in that category. Of course the article is very much supportive of YA, but it surprised me because in my social circle most everyone I know is either writing MG/YA or is impressed that I and my friends write MG/YA.
But I thought further on it. And I realise that my experience isn't quite as innocent as all that. I get a very strange response when I tell people I've written a children's novel, but it isn't quite the same response as the ones in the article. The person I tell seems interested, and I go on talking about it for a bit, and then eventually, I let it slip that it's around 300 pages. Suddenly their eyes come into focus and they say something along the lines of, "Oh like a real book!" And start asking me questions again, this time with a sense of urgency.
Now I suppose I could see this as a positive thing, they think I'm a real author even though I write for kids, where many people don't. But because I now have a few picture book author/artist friends, I have to say, I still find it pretty insulting.
Because the implication is that a real book needs to have a lot of words. That it is a real accomplishment to write a long book, versus basically anyone can write a picture book. But this is just so not true. In fact I often find the mark of an amateur is a first time author who writes a massive doorstopper of a book. Basically that person doesn't know how to craft the story in a tight manner, they wander in their writing trying to find their plot, they are just plain longwinded. I know. I suffer from that exact affliction.
A picture book has got to be short. It has to convey a very specific story, be meaningful and have a voice all its own, in less than 1000 words. I honestly don't know how picture book authors do that. It is a very difficult thing to do.
Next, of all the books to get published, I would wager the picture book is the hardest.
First off the advances are quite small so that agents don't really sign that many picture book writers, it's not worth their while. On the plus side this means an author can submit directly to the publisher, on the bad side it means EVERY picture book author out there is submitting directly to the publisher. Picture books are also the books that most celebrities suddenly find themselves inclined to write, and the market is limited of course. And picture books, really popular picture books, have a long shelf life. Great for the already published, not so great with the new ones trying to compete with Dr. Seuss.
Point is . . . let's not be dissing the picture book writers please? It isn't easy okay, it just isn't.
But I seriously don't get in general how anyone can look at a genre of writing and presume it is easier than another genre. Each has its own unique challenges. Each has its own unique benefits.
Anyway, I just wanted to share the article and do the picture book rant. I'd really actually like to hear from you guys now . . . what do you think about the stigma attached to the children's book thing (including YA)? Did you find your mind was changed in one way or the other? Does it scare you off from writing in a certain genre (say Romance) because of the stigma attached?
Discuss, people, discuss.