I got my first solicitation from AARP yesterday. I’m not 50 — not even close. Well, I can see 50 peeking over the horizon, but it’s still blurry unless I’m wearing my reading glasses.
Whenever I’m feeling more mature than I’d like, I read children’s books. A great book for kids pulls me right back to my childhood. A stellar novel for young adults makes me feel like a teen again, only now I’ve got some perspective on the experience and can actually laugh about it. And interestingly enough, many of the most popular authors, the ones who really get their audience, are old enough that their own childhoods would be considered historical fiction by their readers (or at the very least, retro).
Two of my favorites are Lauren Myracle, beloved author of contemporary middle grade and teen fiction, and Mo Willems, hero of the picture book and easy reader crowd. Lauren and Mo have got it — they know exactly how to speak to their audiences without sounding like stuffy grown-ups, and yet we could have all gone to school together (OK, just to clarify, I would have been in sixth grade when they were in kindergarten, but I’m sure they were so cool even back then that I would have hung out with them).
Here’s a secret successful writers know — the touchstones of growing up haven’t changed over the years. Lauren’s books are primarily about friendship. Remember being obsessed with friendship when you were in seventh and eighth grade? Mo’s books are…well, you just have to read them. But he’s obviously never outgrown his six-year-old sense of humor.
Sure, the details of childhood have changed, and some milestones are reached a little earlier now, but kids still essentially experience the world as we did. If you can remember what that’s like, you can connect with your readers. And they’ll never know you saw AC/DC the first time they toured.