Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Little Bit of What, How and Why I Write

If anyone had asked me five years ago whether I'd considered writing fiction for children, my answer would have been no. A career of writing business-related materials and an indulgent few years as an orchestral program annotator had led me down a comfortable nonfiction path. The research that writing nonfiction usually entails was a joy for me and often, frankly, a refuge from the far more difficult exercise of writing. Early attempts at fiction were quietly buried. 

As a child I reveled in the bedtime stories my parents read to me. As an adult I rediscovered the same fascination reading to my own son when he was small. It seemed I had not lost my love of the escapism, innocence, imagination, and humor of children's literature and, after retirement, I discovered the magic of writing for children. I began tentatively with magazine articles, delighting in researching subjects that had nothing to do with business. A few were published in Stories for Children Magazine. Encouraged, I plunged into the online community of children's writers, devoured advice, joined a critique group or two - one of the best decisions I've ever made - and discovered that walking helped focus my "little grey cells" on my narrative.

I couldn't imagine writing an entire novel, but ideas for a couple of short stories came to me via news articles. It occurred to me that if I could write a few short stories, why not a collection of them - a novel? Of course a novel is far more than a collection of stories, but envisioned that way, novel writing seemed a lot less intimidating.

The idea for my first book, Dewi, the Red Dragon, came from my Welsh heritage. I've always wished Wales could find its place on the global awareness map to the same degree that Ireland and Scotland have. Perhaps I could create my own little bit of Welsh PR with a story set in Wales and a main character who represents a Welsh national symbol: the red dragon.

Ideas for my next story about Dewi sprung up in response to Dewi's talent for sleuthing and my concern about the dangers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that have found their way into most processed food in the United States. A weird combination you may well think, but that's the magic of children's literature: it's an extraordinarily flexible medium. Children will follow Dew's fast-paced adventures; parents will catch the underlying GMO issue, but all with large helpings of humor. At least that's the approach I tried to take because I love to see children reading books that make them laugh!

The two Dewi manuscripts received more than forty-nine rejections between them. I submitted mostly to agents because I didn't want to undermine agents' resources by going directly to publishers. Eventually knowonder! magazine surprised me by publishing the first Dewi in its entirety online, and when Dewi and the Seeds of Doom resonated with MuseItUp's reviewers, I took heart that dragons - at least Welsh dragons - can still light a fire in children's book publishing.

My penchant for writing about young male characters may come from memories of the fun I had as the mother of a youngster who enjoyed his boyhood. The idea for the plot of Vin and the Dorky Duet dropped out of nowhere. I only remember I wanted to try writing a book that paid a fleeting tribute to my love of music and was narrated by a twelve-year-old boy faced with a realistic challenge that he must meet using his wits - no magic allowed - because I love the challenges that approach poses. Vin received more than seventy-six rejections from agents before it was welcomed by MuseItUp, which will release the book in July.

The fast pace, simple point of view, humor, and what-happens-next? approach of my books is aimed at encouraging reluctant young readers to turn a few pages. I'm on tenterhooks to see if that happens. 

Maggie Lyons


Wendy said...

Hi Maggi,
The noble sentiment underpinning your novel to put Wales on the map is sure to shine through in your story. Red Dragon sounds like he will be a great success with young readers. I wish you many sales and many happy readers.

gail roughton branan said...

It sounds like a real winner, Maggi!

Maggie Lyons said...

Thank you so much for your generous comments.