Western history Writing Life

The Walls Inspire

Denver Woman’s Press Club

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how a building can lend so much inspiration and ambiance to a program. This was the case this past weekend when Filter Press publisher Doris Baker and I presented our program at the Denver Woman’s Press Club in Denver. The topic, Kid Lit: Tools, Trends, and Markets, was challenging and could have taken off down any number of paths. As it was, it became a magical mix of history oozing from the historic little structure surrounded by high-rise office buildings a block from the state’s capitol, and the lively conversation among professional writers who came to learn and share. Our talk went overtime, but nobody seemed to care.

Like a rich dessert, the topic of trends was saved for last. Everybody wants to hear about them, although by nature, they are here today and gone tomorrow. Doris and I referred heavily on a list of “Top 10 Trends in Children’s Books for 2013” from David Allender and the editors at Scholastic Books. In a nutshell, here they are:

1. Bullying – every child will face or witness the effects of bullying at some point in their lives. I pointed out that author James Howe has switched from writing about talking animals in his YA (Young Adult) Bunnicula series to his latest title about bullying called The Misfits. As a successful author, he obviously saw a need and filled it.
2. Science Fiction – Dystopia (yes, I looked it up) is a make-believe place or situation, wherein the state of living is very bad, because of scarcity, tyranny and terrorism. This topic remains timely with an updated raw new edge to it. I pointed out the continued popularity of an old standard, Madelaine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time.
3. Intriguing Nonfiction – Biographies (yesssss!!) have always been a kids’ staple, and more are on the way. It was an easy slam dunk to mention the value of “Now You Know Bios” from Filter Press at this point.
4. Novels-in-Cartoons – Graphic novels are booming. I was skeptical, but was assured there are some really fine works out there in this genre. I quoted a January 6 Denver Post article that said basically the same thing.
5. Kid Lit on the Screen – We all know that name recognition can make book sales skyrocket when the story reaches the big screen. Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games are all the rage. There are bound to be more.
6. War – An ever-timely topic, this one has been evident with attention to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
7. Tough Girls – Who can resist girls with bows and arrows after the Hunger Games hit the screen. More powerful female characters will appear, although I personally hope some of them show up in biographies.
8. Survival Stories – These topics continue in popularity. Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet is still popular.
9. Spotlight on Diversity – Kids want to see themselves in the novels they read, and publishers are embracing their individuality, and are adding more contemporary settings.
10. Nature Runs Amok – Eco-thrillers pick up on stories straight from the newspapers. With names like tsunamis, Katrina, and Sandy, plenty of topics are ripe for publication. This subject is wide open.

There you have it. We added our own comments and sidebars to the nucleus of this list. Adults are reading more YA books. Somebody in the audience asked about animals … where are they? What about the horse stories treasured by girls? They appear to be absent, at least in the above list. Look around and draw your own conclusions. For instance, I don’t see any signs of anything western. However, I bet a good steam punk adventure would get somebody’s attention.

During times of uncertainty, the only given is CHANGE. Trends constantly change. Watch them carefully, but don’t be blinded by their supposed importance.

Coming soon: Sunday, February 17, 2013 – 3-5 p.m. – Denver Woman’s Press Club – Salon Series – “Almost Famous: Crafting Characters from Colorado’s Past” with biographers Joyce B. Lohse and Kimberly Field.

Joyce B. Lohse, www.LohseWorks.com