12.4.08

The Point (and we do have one)

An interesting interview with Sheila Barry of Kids Can Press over at the blog Cynsations (via Tough City Writer).

Here's a brief excerpt:

What qualities do you look for in a manuscript?

This is one of the hardest questions to answer, but of course it is a question that gets asked a lot. I guess that I look for a manuscript that surprises or enlightens me in some way. It is true that there are no new stories out there to be told, but it is also true that there are always new ways to tell a story. So I look for freshness, for originality of thought, for something in the use of language, whether it's in the voice or in a turn of phrase, that suggests this manuscript was written by someone who really has something new to bring to children's books.

I also look for some evidence that the person writing the manuscript likes children, remembers being a child, and thinks of his or her work as being first and foremost an art or craft--not just a medium for teaching children lessons.

I don't think that the point of children's literature is to teach morals or math or even reading. The point of it is to introduce children to words and images that have come together to create a work of art. So I guess I look for manuscripts that have been written as art, not as teaching tools.


Cynthia Leitich Smith (she who put the Cyn in Cynsations) is a YA writer and also teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Doesn't it seem like a good sign that there is such a thing now?

If you're curious you can listen to a clip from Leitich Smith's latest, a gothic YA novel called Tantalize here.

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