Why Middle Grade?

I’ve been thinking about this lately, because I feel as though MG is maybe a lesser known or discussed category. There aren’t as many blockbuster MG as there are YA or NA, and I know many writers who say they couldn’t ever write books for kids as young as MG readers or who, when they try, find it too difficult to enjoy.
Me? MG is no more difficult for me than any other category, in fact, for me, YA is probably the hardest category in terms of voice and pacing. And for me, there’s something really free and wonderful about MG.
I like that in MG, characters are unabashedly themselves. For the most part they’re young enough to notice how they’re different, and to maybe start being concerned about it, but it’s often too early for a sense of their differences being less than or so deeply ingrained that it sets them apart. I feel like in MG there’s more room for the weird and wonderful and adventurous. MG characters have that precocious sense of possibilities and celebration that YA and NA struggle to find again – the spark of individuality and the idea that the future is bright, endlessly open place.
Is there poverty, fear, loss, sadness, hurt, betrayal, hunger, and the other kinds of wounding experiences and circumstances of YA and NA in MG books? Certainly. There must be. To do anything else would be to tell an incomplete, and therefore untrue, story.
But MG kids are resilient in brilliant ways. They are creative, imaginative, and empathetic. They have big hearts and quick wits that for the most part don’t have the doubts and sense of a world being against them that can appear in the older ages. The world is new and big and endlessly entertaining. They have the room and the confidence to be remarkable because, for the most part, either no one has told them it’s wrong or they haven’t yet had that idea pressed so strongly on them that they’ve adopted it.
MG is both hopeful and whimsical, and heartbreakingly deep. Think of those powerful, formative moments in life when you first confronted the reality of people who didn’t love those you loved, or that death is real, or that those you love could fail you. How you experienced and responded to those moments has shaped who you are. But you have been equally shaped by your earliest dreams and aspirations, by the truths you discovered and by the possibilities you still quietly believe in.
All of this can be portrayed in MG books. I can write about girls who travel planets and save dragons, or boys who go up against pirates and win, or kids in wheelchairs saving robot friends or young super villains in the making and somewhere inside there you will find lost pieces of your own childhood. For me, at least, it’s easy to relate to MG books in a way I don’t always connect to YA or NA. As we grow older and change our stories diverge sometimes dramatically, but the qualities of children are so often the same, regardless of their circumstances. I love writing about those times, ripe with potential and magic.

That’s why I write Middle Grade. Why do you write what you do?

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4 thoughts on “Why Middle Grade?

  1. Kids are awesome! I write YA because I remember the stress of being a teen, of looking out at the world, knowing you’ll have to find a place in it. I also have MG series spinning in my head. I want to write it because of what you just brilliantly said. The MG age group is still free from so much of the worries of growing up. They are so willing to believe and go an any adventure without all the romantic stuff and growing up stuff getting in the way. 🙂 Great post.

  2. I write YA stories because the teenage years were an important time in my life. I have fond memories from this time period that helps shape the stories I write. I also witnessed a lot of bullying, a strong theme that shows up frequently in my writing.

  3. I think you’ve basically summarized why I want to teach middle school. “But MG kids are resilient in brilliant ways. They are creative, imaginative, and empathetic. They have big hearts and quick wits that for the most part don’t have the doubts and sense of a world being against them that can appear in the older ages. The world is new and big and endlessly entertaining. They have the room and the confidence to be remarkable because, for the most part, either no one has told them it’s wrong or they haven’t yet had that idea pressed so strongly on them that they’ve adopted it.”

    Exactly.

  4. This. This is exactly why I write MG as well. There is something so permanently refreshing about it, to look at the world through a child’s eyes. What we consider ordinary, for example friendship, is still a wonderful thing in the MG world.

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