Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Elizabeth Dulemba: Why I Write For Teens

My guest this week is Elizabeth Dulemba. She's a talented picture book author who has ventured into the middle-grade world with her debut novel A BIRD ON WATER STREET, already garnering great praise. Elizabeth is also my new "agency-sister" at Erin Murphy Literary Agency, so I'm doubly thrilled to have her here. And her question - why write for kids and not for adults - is one I encounter all the time, and I share her passion for the answer to that question. 

Elizabeth has graciously offered to host a giveaway of a signed copy of A BIRD ON WATER STREET, so please comment to enter, and if you've reposted let me know for more points!

Here's Elizabeth:

Most authors of mid-grade novels get the question at some point, "Why do you write for teens? Why not write for adults?" And within the kidlit community, "Why write mid-grade? Why not write Young Adult?”

As a picture book author/illustrator for thirteen years, I'd heard the stories of such conversations, but I thought it was a cliché, a myth of the writing community. That was until word got out about my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, and I started getting the questions myself. Happily, I have an answer.

Adult novels seem to me to be about solving problems (mysteries!), or finding that perfect mate, or re-discovering oneself. The first two elements might be indicative of any good story (replace mate with friend/companion/whatever). But the third is where I like to dwell. But I skip all of the re-discovery nonsense and go straight to the source, in the beginning, when a main character isn't re-discovering anything - when they are discovering who they are and what the world is all about for the first time.

To me, it makes for unpredictable scenarios. Young teens arent yet set in their ways. They dont know if they are generally good or bad, if they tend to make smart decisions or not. It's all new territory and the pendulum could swing either way.

Like thirteen-year-old Jack in A BIRD ON WATER STREET… will he stand up for what he believes in, or follow the generation of miners in his family into a career that causes him anxiety and distress? When Jack’s uncle is killed in a mine collapse, will he stand by mining as a viable option for his future, or will he try to do something to improve the damage that has been done to the land after a century of poor copper mining practices and pollution? His family may love everything underground, but Jack loves everything above - or what is supposed to be above anyhow. His denuded home has no weeds, no trees, no bugs, no birds. How can Jack follow his heart and support his community at the same time?

In the hands of a young boy, these are enormous questions - how to be true to yourself, or who you think you might be, especially when it runs counter to who youve been taught to be.

It's all about firsts really, when the world is still a wonder. When a teen is trying to make sense of things. It’s an exciting and unpredictable time. There is such promise and possibility - the world is wide open! It's a powerful sensation, which is why I find it especially profound to explore those emotions when they're happening for the first time. It's why mid-grade may very well be a sweet spot for me. I hope for my readers too!

·      Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance OKRA Book Pick
·      Gold Moms Choice Award
·      ABOWS has been chosen as THE 2014 title to represent the state of Georgia at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

Twitter:           @dulemba
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Elizabeth O. Dulemba is an award-winning children's book author/illustrator with two dozen titles to her credit. She is Illustrator Coordinator for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Southern Breeze region, a Board Member for the Georgia Center for the Book, and a Visiting Associate Professor at Hollins University in the MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating program. She speaks regularly at schools, festivals, and events, and her "Coloring Page Tuesday" images (free to parents, teachers and librarians) garner around a million hits to her website annually with over 3,500 subscribers to her newsletter. A BIRD ON WATER STREET (Little Pickle Press) is her first novel and has already won three awards: it is a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Okra Pick; a Gold Moms Choice Award Winner; and is THE 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for the state of Georgia in Washington, D.C. Learn more at <>.

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