Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Famous Nonsense

on July 13, 2012

I wanted to get this posted before I forget. This afternoon, I start my stint with the MD/DE/WV summer conference. It’s going to be a good one, and I look forward to blogging about it.

Very few things cause more of a reaction among serious writers than the topic of books published by people who are famous in some area other than writing.  Or when writers known for adult content decide it’s time to write a children’s book.

Madonna famously decided to write children’s books because “There was nothing out there.” The quote is very much taken out of context, but it still angered many good writers.

So what’s the big deal?

Most writers work very hard at their craft. Many non-writers seem to have a view that children’s literature, in particular, as simple and therefore easy to write.  Having someone – anyone – just decide to write a children’s book, have it immediately published, and have millions in sales gives the impression that what we do is easy.

However unfounded, there is a feeling among professional writers that celebrities are somehow taking a spot that belongs to a better writer. This may be true to a certain extent, but most children are not going to ask for a book just because the author is otherwise famous. Books by Madonna and others appeal more to their established fan bases. One of the first celebrity books was written by Jimmy Buffett. A lot of Parrotheads bought it.

At one and the same time, celebrity books are a distraction and a boost. When a book supposedly written by Snooki Polizzi appeared, the Today Show cancelled their usual segment interviewing the winner of the Newbury Medal in favor of an interview with Snooki. Hers was not a children’s book, but still … But when people like Henry Winkler team up with SCBWI president Lin Oliver, the resulting wonderful work does a lot for children’s writers.

Then there is the issue of, shouldn’t celebrities have the same opportunity to write that the rest of us do? Often, their work is very good. This would be true if they were held to the same standards as the rest of us. I wouldn’t want my children reading junk just because it had a celebrity’s name on it.

Many celebrity writers contribute all their would-be fees to charity. I heartily applaud this effort.

Obviously, this is a very complex issue. One that I cannot resolve. But it’s fun to consider all the aspects.

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