Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Why I write for children.

I am a children's writer. That is the little title I give myself under my email signature. It isn't the totality of who I am, there is a lot more to me than what I write but if I had to label my heart a children's writer is what I am.
This is not to say I write exclusively for children. If I did I wouldn't be writing this blog, or posting my irregular journal-like comments affectionately called 'The Penny Drops'. But what gets me most excited are the ideas for communicating to children. I love story and adventure. My favourite writers are undoubtedly children's writers. Sometimes I've wondered and worried if this is because I have never properly grown up.

Perhaps I need to dig my teeth into more adult literary novels, or take life
more seriously or stop enjoying children's movies. (My husband didn't understand my disappointment when the new Astro-Boy movie didn't have the old theme music attached to it!)
But I don't think it is about growing up or not. It has been said by some, those who have never tried most likely, that writing for children is easier than writing for adults. That the books are shorter and therefore less complicated. Perhaps this is in some cases true. But a recent picture book I have been working on for over a year now and through 16 drafts is convincing me that picture books are some of the hardest forms of literature. I don't even know if all this work will result in something you will ever be able to read.

My children's novels attempt to intertwine issues of social justice, emerging faith and friendship with an adventure story strong enough to carry the pickiest readers from page to page. A child's book has to compete against the trickiest DS game, the most addictive TV program and latest toy gadgets. That's fierce competition that demands the best my writing can offer.

I take my writing seriously. Even if I'm inventing a story about a mother who accidentally serves green goo to her family for dinner, or deciding one of my heroes must become a bird for several chapters. Part of this is because I care about my audience. I love a child's sense of adventure, but I also love their sense of faith. A child doesn't put up excuses to believing. That's what us adults do. We talk in big words and put God in a box and tell children he'll use them when they grow up a bit more. But Our God doesn't work like that. He calls us at any age we are willing to listen, and he works through us from the moment we decide to follow him.

I write for children because part of me wants to remain one. I want to be as open to God and his sense of adventure as a child can be.

A while ago I read about a girl who, after reading one of my novels, convinced her friends to help raise money for poor children. If that is the only feedback I'll ever hear about my novels then they were worth writing!

You can read more about Penny and her writing at


  1. Thanks for the insight into your heart and world, Penny. I love the openness of children, too. Such a precious part of our world and so important to invest in. And I must admit I have a soft spot for the childrens' movies - Tangled being my latest fave! Blessings, Amanda.

  2. Hi Penny,
    I loved reading more about why you write, it's also wonderful to see what God has done with your books.

    What a blessing to have touched a little girl's life like that. Simply amazing.


  3. Great post Penny. I still feel like a kid most of the time too.. its fun writing for kids

  4. Lovely thoughts, Penny. I like to think that many of us share your 'Peter Pan' syndrome because people who remain kids at heart are among the most colourful and interesting folk I know.
    But I've found that children can be an even harder audience to impress than adults, as they speak their minds honestly without sugar-coating feedback. Keep writing your great books.

  5. I love the impact your book had on the girl to raise money. I love some of the childrens fiction and wish we had more when I was a child. It lets you use your imagination like C.S. Lewis's narnia series. I wanted to have a wardrobe like that one. Enid Bylton had me wanting to climb the magic faraway tree.

  6. Hi Penny, we need more children's books that are God honouring and inspiring and motivational, so keep up your great work! I agree, one response like that makes it all worthwhile. Praise God!

  7. So glad to hear I'm not the only one who loves children's movies and feels like a kid on the inside a lot of the time!
    Having an audience that will tell you bluntly whether they liked your material or not is a challenge I hope I can write up to. Thanks for your comments everyone.

  8. Penny, I'm a kid at heart, too. I love kids books and movies. They are my escape. Writing children's books are a great way of impacting them at an early age. You're work is so important keep writing!

  9. Penny, I really enjoyed your post. I thought I was the only one to show disappointment at the Astro Boy debacle! I wonder if you also sang the song to your child many, many times over the course of weeks? There is a reason why Jesus said to enter the kingdom of God we must approach it like little children. Your literary contribution is a wonderful blessing to us parents who seek to inspire the imagination of our children, and foster their own relationship with the Lord. From one who cashed in frequent flyers just to go to Mary Poppins – Thank You.

  10. Penny, I think you've pressed a button in all of us! I'm not sure what would've happened to me without books when I was a child. I hate to think of a world without the simple and safe escape provided by Enid Blyton and Laura Ingalls Wilder. My uncle set me on a path of reading when I was only a little girl and I've never wandered from it. It's easy to see why so many of us remember our childhood reading with fond memories. So glad to read of your success and wonderful feedback!
    Dotti :)

  11. Thanks for your comments everyone. I double checked the links I put into the post above and am sorry the link to the Vicar's wife didn't work as it should. I'm still learning how to navigate my way around things online.

  12. Penny, great post! Thanks for sharing your passion with us for writing children's books :)