Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Looking Back on CWIM: The 1990 Edition...

The second edition of CWIM was more than 260 pages (still about half the size of the current edition) and it included five "Close-up" interviews and two roundtables.

Here's an excerpt from "A Roundtable for Writers" for which editor Connie Eidenier interviewed editor and author Jean Karl, (who passed away 10 years later) author Lois Duncan, and nonfiction author Kathlyn Gay.

How (in your opinion) are children's books different today than, say, a generation ago?

Jean Karl: There are more picture books. Books are shorter and many are more simply written. Also, they are less complex, faster moving, and in some ways, less varied. There is more fantasy and science fiction now than there was 25 or 30 years ago.

Lois Duncan: Today's young readers have been conditioned by TV to expect instant entertainment. They've developed a short attention span, and if their interest isn't caught immediately, they want to switch channels. For this reason, modern day authors are forced to compete with television by using the techniques of script writing--a lot of dialogue and action and almost no description. You have to grab their attention with your very first paragraph. When I wrote Killing Mr. Griffin, I started the book with the sentence, "It was a wild, windy southwestern spring when the idea of killing Mr. Griffin occurred to them." Griffin wasn't slated to die until chapter eight, but I knew my readers wouldn't wade through seven chapters of build-up unless they knew they were headed for something dramatic.

Kathlyn Gay: In the case of nonfiction, many more books and articles are being published on important topics than were published a generations ago. Often controversial subjects were "wrapped " in a fictional story rather than presented as straight-forward factual information or in anecdotal form to show real people and events. Whether fiction or nonfiction, the preachiness of the past is not acceptable today. Few reader want a lecture. Readers want to be involved with the characters (in fiction) or with real people who are part of a nonfiction work, so I think it takes much more effort on the part of the writer to keep herself or himself out of the way and let the story (factual or fictional) unfold.