So you've got an exciting weekend planned ... a hike in the mountains on a newly discovered and unexplored trail. But going alone is no fun ... this is an experience to share!
So who will you invite?
Your boss? The authority in your life who's been cracking the whip and barking orders at you all week?
Your co-worker? A peer who loves to hike and camp, too, and has spent many a lunch hour with you swapping tales of outdoor adventures?
Hmmm ... this choice seems obvious!
And no slam on authority figures here ... you could just as easily have a nasty, hard-to-work with co-worker and a warm and wonderful boss that you love to spend time with when you're off the clock. All of us instinctively know which folks we'll to warm up to.
And that's the secret that those who write for children can use ...
For great reading experiences, writer and reader need to connect. For adult readers, it's a bit easier, because there's the give and take of two peers or equals.
Writing for children is trickier, because writer and reader are not equal. The writer is in more of an authority position over the reader. That's right and important, because the reader in this case is inexperienced and is depending on the writer to be accurate and trustworthy.
But that little one has enough bigger ones running his life. The last thing they need is to pick up a book where yet another adult is barking facts at them. Reading is so much more than that, and the burden is on the more experienced one – the writer – to make the reading experience all it should be for their reader.
Time for a lesson in leadership:
• True leaders don't lord their authority over their underlings. They don't retain their power and authority by making their underlings fear them. They retain their authority by helping the ones under them feel safe.
• True leaders don't stand at the top of the trench shouting down orders to the ones below. They get down into the trench to guide and show them how to do it.
• True leaders don't crack a whip to get the work done. They create an atmosphere and an environment that is condusive for the work to be accomplished.
• True leaders don't think in terms of I'm leading a team, but rather I'm part of a team.
And there you have it ... the basis for the perfect formula for becoming a great children's writer who wants to connect with his reader, no matter their age:
• Great children's writers put their readers at perfect ease – an invitation to the reader to come join them.
• Great children's writers speak to their readers with humility and respect. They never talk down to or at a reader. Instead, they talk to them or with them – helping the reader to trust them.
• Great children's writers know that they are half of a team that exists for the sole purpose of helping a youngster learn about his world – giving the reader a safe space where new experiences can be discovered and explored.
• Great children's writers understand that their main job is communicating important information to the reader. They know that when the reader trusts them, they will listen to what the writer has to say, and the reader will learn and grow.
Writing for children is unique amongst all other genres of writing.
Who knows if you might be the first one to teach them the alphabet. Or the one who first introduces them to some beauty in nature. It doesn't seem like such a big deal to our grown up minds, but it's totally a big deal to those who are still just three feet tall!
But being the one who gets to be around to witness all these firsts is an honor not bestowed lightly. There are two sides to this coin ... just because you think you've got all the qualifications, there's no guarantee that they will agree.
Because the whole time you're working on putting them at ease, they'll be sizing you up, too.
And if you are lucky enough to be in that priviledged spot, witnessing all those firsts, it's because you were also invited.