children's writer

Recapturing the Magic of Childhood

Aug 20, 2013

Most days I'd like to believe that I'm still young, hip, and cool. And while it may be true that I've just now become a twenty-something, it always surprises me how "out of tune" I can be at times. I had no idea who Carly Rae Jepsen was until a few months ago and even now I do not get the appeal of a certain popular pop star. I think it's safe to say that I have a few more years left before I become completely clueless. Though I am a bit nervous. How can I possibly write for kids when it seems with every year that passes my childhood fades a little more? I swear the next time I see my younger cousins I'll bring along a series of questions. The most important being, do you still believe in magic?

Here I am months later after professing that I only wanted to write stories for teens and just teens, trying my hand at middle grade once more. And you know what? I'm having a blast. I think even more than I had with my last novel. There are so many possibilities. Unlike with my contemporary stories, I find myself asking what if a lot more often. What if there was a girl who preferred to drink soup through straws, or took her toy ship to the beach one day and sailed off with only the sea to keep her company?

The truth is, there were very few magical moments in my childhood. Not to say that I had a bad childhood. I didn't, but most of my adventures came in the form of a book or Nickelodeon. I do try to go back, as far back as I can, in those moments when I need some real-life inspiration and a ten-year-old isn't at arms reach. I can remember falling in love with musicals after watching Annie, Dr. Dolittle, and The Sound of Music. I remember becoming obsessed with wishes after tossing a quarter into a wishing well on a class trip. I wished for a computer. I remember wishing I could talk to animals like Eliza Thornberry.

I knew how much I loved Matilda, Madeline, and Sara Crewe from A Little Princess. I'd be best friends with any of them given the chance. For a brief moment I wanted to be a member of the C.I.A. after seeing Agent Cody Banks. I loved all things creepy, which is why Rumpelstiltskin has always been my favorite. My first real crush was the kid from Rookie of the Year, though I did always think Casper was cute as a human and a ghost. I daydreamed about Jack from Titanic quite often - innocent daydreams of course. Jurassic Park and Home Alone were movie night favorites. At nine I really fell in love with reading after reading Fudge by Judy Blume. And in middle school, other than Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time became one of the most magical stories I'd ever read.

Okay, so The Thornberrys have been off the air for a few years now and Jurassic Park is practically a classic. Still I can't help but think there's some ten-year-old out there who still wants to talk to animals, or befriend the girl living in the attic. If not, well that's why pen and paper exist. There's a quote that I found and loved. I don't know who wrote it but the very last line is how I feel about writing middle grade.

"Everything, everything's magic."
2 comments on "Recapturing the Magic of Childhood"
  1. Funny Tracy. We were on the same wavelength yesterday.

    Keep your own youthful curiosity and you'll be fine. Hanging out with kids and teens helps, too. For me, that's meant teaching, but if that's not your schtik, then volunteer somewhere.

    Riding for young people is about mental attitude not numbers.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Jaye! Spending time with kids is definitely the key to writing great books for them.