Background artiste from 'Better than Stars'

Friday, 10 June 2016

More About Gatekeepers ... sort of

He doesn't actually use the word 'gatekeeper', but it seems to me that in this article from the Guardian, Anthony McGowan is also writing about the problems of delivering books - either as a publisher or a writer - to an audience of which you are not a member: i.e. adults writing and publishing for children and young people.

I agree with him that in YA fiction, where the boundaries become blurred - adults frequently enjoying books written for young adults, and vice versa - it is also a problem of categorisation. I work in a charity bookshop, and quite often find books I know to be written by so-called YA authors misshelved amongst the general fiction. I tend to leave them there, especially if there's also a copy in the children's section. I believe if a book is in the right place if it is somewhere where it might be picked up and read.
But I digress. McGowan is concerned about adults missing out on authors they might appreciate (Meg Rosoff and Patrick Ness to name but two: amongst my favourites as well); and indeed authors missing out on readers. But he also seems to suggest that teenagers should be writing for teenagers, and there I'm not so sure I agree: at least, not to the exclusion of older writers.

Like so many other things, there's a continuum. I wouldn't disagree that there are likely to be teenagers who could write highly publishable books for their own age and others, but where should it stop? 12 year-olds writing middle grade?

One thing I am sure of, no-one is going to suggest the very youngest children create their own stories. Not only is the writing and design of picture books a sophisticated skill, the very act of reading together is linked to the ancient art of storytelling: and maybe that is something that deserves to be remembered.

The old have always told stories to the young, and it has been a relationship treasured by both, for many good reasons. Let's not stop.

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