Sunday, May 8, 2011

In Honor of Mother's Day

I am a children's writer. I am also a mom. Some people think those two facts are very related. I wonder...

First of all, I wrote for children long before I became a mom. And I know there are lots of fantastic children's writers who never had children.

In fact, I remember feeling a bit annoyed when somebody who knew I had just had my first baby assumed that I would suddenly have all these wonderful story ideas for babies because of my new bundle of joy. "I write stuff for older children, thank you very much," I thought to myself with a sniff.

But indeed my children have had a major influence on my writing. My first published picture book would never have come about without all I learned from a very truck-obsessed toddler. And without him I would never have heard myself asking the question, "Where Do Diggers Sleep At Night?" (which has turned into the title of my upcoming first picture book and is indeed dedicated to that now truck-obsessed preschooler).

And my nonfiction article about animal baths, "Squeaky Clean", that appeared in Highlights High Five this month (Hurray!) would never have been written had I not become a mommy and realized how very important bath time is to young children.

Of course, how could any regular interaction with children not influence me as a children's writer? My years as a teacher (and prior to that a camp counselor and babysitter) had already greatly influenced my writing. (Those as yet unpublished chapter books would never have been written without the daily inspiration of the wonderful second and third graders I taught for so many years.)

So, while the craziness that is being mother to two young children does keep me from writing as regularly as I would like, it can also provide a wonderful sense of inspiration.

I guess it's just important to me that I go in lots of different directions as a writer (and not just writing books for my kids). In some ways, many of the books I write are more for my own inner child than for the two children I take care of each day. I hope that I always have many sources of inspiration for my manuscripts.

So, how do you think being a parent can influence (or not influence) a writer?

And... Happy Mother's Day!


  1. Hmmm...I knew I wanted to write for children before I had children but it wasn't until I was a SAHM that I could carve out time for myself to actually dedicate to writing. (weird, huh?) Somehow it became more important to have that "me" time, since it was at a premium. In those early days my focus was on picture books and I definitely had inspiration from my son.

    Not that having a child is a requirement, but you definitely have to have a child-like vision to know what makes a child want to hear/read a story over and over again. I know my daughter has opened me up to a whole world of early reader/middle grade fiction I might not have reached for - it amazes me what she wants to read. She definitely opts for the fun, irreverant stuff and I'm so glad there are stories like that on the shelf for her.

    Now that I write YA...I do find myself consulting my son about slang...situations in school...not a whole lot, but every so often I sneak a question in and he's like..."Mom, is this for your writing?" Ooops.

    Insightful post Brianna! And Happy Mother's Day!

  2. I don't know if I would have written for children if I was not a mother. I don't know if I would have been exposed to middle grade and young adult literature -- wait, I should say immersed in middle grade and young adult literature -- like I was through my kids.

    For me, when I started reading middle grade, I was so excited by it. I loved the pacing and the humor. I loved the immediacy.

    At the same time, I decided to take a creative writing course at my local college. When the semester was over, the work I most wanted to continue began as a middle grade. I was hooked.

    Thanks, kids.

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful responses!

    Robin-- I completely know what you mean about becoming more dedicated to your writing after having kids because of the importance of having "me" time. That is exactly what happened to me! (I so needed to know that I had an identity beyond "mommy".)

    And it is really interesting to see the stories my son adores that I would have passed over on the shelf.

    J.A.-- So interesting how you got hooked on middle grade as you read to your kids! For some reason, I knew I wanted to write children's books since I was in about the fourth grade. And I have loved reading middle grade books with my students and on my own ever since. But I can't wait till I get to experience these wonderful books with my two little guys. I'm sure it will give me a whole new and different perspective on them. :o)

  4. Whether or not you have children, if you have kept vivid memories of your childhood, you can produce lit. for kids . . . as long as you update the surroundings.

    I do think, however, it's an asset to have your children around. Oh, the info. gained from observing and eavesdropping!

  5. I completely agree, Gale! I think vivid memories of one's own childhood (especially emotional memories) are super important! But having your own children around to get ideas from can also be a huge asset!