Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shane Peacock: “Objects in motion….”

The latest issue of Quill and Quire is a keeper for anyone interested in writing for children. Among the usual industry coverage are a great article on Kathy Lowinger, the soon-to-be-retired publisher of Tundra Books, and the “coming soon” listing of upcoming releases in children’s books from publishers across the country.

But the cover story, on Shane Peacock, is the real gem here. I had the opportunity to hear Shane speak at a CANSCAIP conference a few years ago, and he wowed us with his grasp of the essence of writing for boys.

“Objects in motion” he told us, and proceeded to read the opening passages from two books: one prosey and slow, the other fraught with excitement (I think it was the Hardy boys racing a motorcycle up a narrow mountain road). If anything could capture, quickly and effectively, the message he was trying to share, that demonstration did. I thought he was brilliant – as a teacher and as a writer for kids.

So it’s great to see Shane’s recent success with his Young Sherlock Holmes series. He’s proved himself to be an author who knows his audience and how to reach them.

Interestingly, this issue also includes a “last word” essay by Eric Walters, who examines the perils of writing novels about serious issues and the risk of sounding “preachy.” Since I blogged about this in July, I was particularly interested to read his take on the subject. He says he sits down to write a story, not to preach an issue, and I’m glad to hear it, although I confess – after watching my son struggle through Shattered – I have some doubts about that. The same dilemma faces historical writers who sometimes seem so intent on getting their research into the story, they forget that the young readers just want to know what happens next, not details about the food on the table or the protagonist’s mode of transportation.

It all makes for interesting reading, though, and a prompt for more discussion – never a bad thing.