Lifting a spoon is hard work

Yesterday, I baked. The muscles in my arms are sore from all the stirring I did. I am such a wimp.
   


Writing Stuff

New Publications:
- The interview sdowens did with me is now live at Bloggasm.com. He also interviewed a slew of other interesting writer-folk like Christopher Rowe, Jay Lake (jaylake), Elizabeth Bear (matociquala), Doug Lain (douglain), Jeff Vandermeer, and a bunch of others, so go read!
- Apex Digest #4 is out with my (Pushcart nominated) story “Oranges, Lemons, and Thou Beside Me.”
- UK ‘zine Here and Now issue #7 is (finally) out with my story “My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie.” This tale will also be published as a podcast by Escape Pod in February, so if you can’t catch this in print, be sure to listen to the MP3.

Received:
The crits for “Arachne’s Gift” continue to pour in. The majority of them have been very useful (as well as positive), but my annoyance at those folks who insist upon lecturing me about how age appropriate or rather “inappropriate” my children’s works are has become a full blown peeve. I intentionally don’t specify the age range I’m writing for, and I’ve experimented with different ways of asking critters not to comment on that aspect, but it just doesn’t seem to matter. If I say that it’s a children’s work, some folks* feel compelled to tell me that my vocabulary is too sophisticated. If I don’t mention it, they tell me the piece is too short and should be expanded into a novel. I just want to know if the story works, dammit!


* Why exactly are people who don’t know the meaning of words like “surcease” or “abduction” and who think that only chickens can “cluck” trying to be writers? *twitch* Must not write snarky thank you note. *twitch*

Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Lifting a spoon is hard work

  1. mroctober says:

    Cute interview!

    I have started a curmudgeonly outlook on never having been interviewed and am considering refusing all future requests to do so (ha!) to cut off my nose and look like the Phantom.

  2. mrissa says:

    I used to get that kind of crit, too, the “kids won’t know that word” or “I don’t think that’s appropriate for little ones.” BLEH.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      I second your BLEH and raise a STABBITY. Sigh.

    • yukinooruoni says:

      *lol* I find that damn funny … “Kids won’t know that word”. Well, *DUH*. How on Earth are they going to learn NEW words unless they’re exposed to them?!

      As far as I’m concerned, a good kids book ALWAYS has words kids of the age it was written for shouldn’t know. That’s how kids learn. Expose them to new things.

      • mrissa says:

        I’m not sure I’ll go so far as always, simply because when I write a novel (whether it’s for adults or for children), I use the words I need to tell the story I want to tell. If my readers already know those words, fine; if they don’t, they can learn; but I draw a distinction between my novels and my textbooks in that the latter is supposed to be educational, and the former merely can be.

      • mrissa says:

        I’m not sure I’ll go so far as always, simply because when I write a novel (whether it’s for adults or for children), I use the words I need to tell the story I want to tell. If my readers already know those words, fine; if they don’t, they can learn; but I draw a distinction between my novels and my textbooks in that the latter is supposed to be educational, and the former merely can be.

  3. jimhines says:

    Sigh. And those Harry Potter books are just too long for young readers to appreciate. ::Rolls eyes::

  4. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand, either, but perhaps we’re exceptions when it comes to evaluating based on the story and not how appropriate it is? I suspect people think of “children” as fresh-faced tots not yet approaching puberty or even a wisp of it?

    Maybe the thing to do is to stop asking for them not to step back from mentioning the age-appropriateness for children, but instead, tell them what age group you feel it is best suited for? Or, have you tried that, too, and found that it doesn’t work?

    Not all children do well with material that a majority would deem proper for them. Some have progressed beyond the realm of their age guidelines on the shelves, and there’s nothing wrong with having words in a story that are new to a reader. Minds need to be stimulated. Depending on who you are trying to reach, perhaps you could double-check the context surrounding those words in order to allow for understanding without immediately searching for the word in a dictionary? There’s no way to guarantee that every reader will be a contextually-based genius, but it’s likely enough will so that few are thrown from the tale when they hit a word they do not know.

    In my mind, the best stories challenge without ejecting a reader from the world the author wished to create. This is something you and your intellect and talent are easily capable of- and have, indeed, shown your capacity for.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      I’ve tried it all ways–explicitly stating an age range, leaving it vague, just saying its for younger readers, asking people not to comment on age appropriateness, not mentioning the intended age audience at all, etc. etc. No matter what, if I mention in any way that a story is intended for kids, I get folks complaining about the vocab. either that its too sophisticated or too simplistic (which I don’t mind–those ones make me grin since those are usually the adult versions of the audience I’m aiming for). And if I don’t state it at all, people complain that the story is too short. Kids works always have very tight word count constraints that I’m usually pushing anyway. I simply cannot extend a 2K story by another 1K.

      The age-appropriateness of the vocabulary I utilize is simply not something I’m looking for feedback on in my children’s works. If the editors of the publications I submit/sell to want to adjust the reading level of my works, that’s their prerogative. After all, they know the reading interests of their target audience. But on my side of things, not only do I have an MA in Developmental Psychology and have co-authored a textbook resource on child development, but I don’t believe in writing down to kids. I’m an adamant proponent of challenging them. Adults who don’t know some of the “harder” words in my kids stories are walking, talking examples of what happens when people limit the opportunities children have to stretch their literary horizons.

      *steps off soapbox*

      Uh, sorry about the rant. I’m feeling snarky, and it’s an issue I’m very outspoken about. The number of folks who massively underestimate the sophistication of children and think that literature intended for them shouldn’t be challenging absolutely appalls me. Then again, so does the diminishing overall literacy rate . . . obviously a related statistic.

  5. Age-appropriate themes: Hmm. I’m probably someone in the past who commented on that in one of your crits. Mea culpa!

    Age-appropriate words: Oy. I once had a critter tell me that “Joe Six-Pack” wouldn’t know what a colander was and that I should either find a simpler synonym or omit the reference entirely.

  6. j_hotlanta says:

    kids’ words

    As the father of two rugrats now grown to annoying teenage-hood, I’ve always been an advocate of using contextural hints to expand a learner’s vocabulary. My take on that is that while the piece shouldn’t read like the NYT, having a few words where the child can derive their meaning from context (“he used the colander to drain the pasta”) is totally appropriate and keeps the child from becoming too bored by a small-vocabulary work.

    I saw that excellently demonstrated this summer when my kids ran out of reading material on vacation and were forced to translate Manga from Flemish and Dutch using a pocket dictionary. Since the dictionary only gave them the major words, they were forced to pick up the language from the context of the missing words (although this is much easier, obviously, with graphic novels).

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Re: kids’ words

      Oh, I totally agree. Certainly, I picked up the majority of my vocabulary when I was a little girl and it was all due to reading words I’d never seen before in context (those stupid vocab. lists the schools gave us–not so helpful). The very best time for a person to acquire vocabulary words is when they’re a child and their fast mapping abilities are still in effect. Children can learn new vocab. words after only a single exposure. What I wouldn’t give to have that ability back again!

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Re: kids’ words

      Oh, I totally agree. Certainly, I picked up the majority of my vocabulary when I was a little girl and it was all due to reading words I’d never seen before in context (those stupid vocab. lists the schools gave us–not so helpful). The very best time for a person to acquire vocabulary words is when they’re a child and their fast mapping abilities are still in effect. Children can learn new vocab. words after only a single exposure. What I wouldn’t give to have that ability back again!

  7. alleypat says:

    and I get the “don’t use such big words, nobody really says that” and I think, well “YOU” don’t LOL oy, and then I get “your female protag is too masculine” huh?

  8. matociquala says:

    would-be writers are often really fetishistic about the weirdest stuff….

  9. You are so right to be irritated at the “age appropriate comments.” For one thing, although your posts are for a different reason, not everyone agrees with that current fixation on maturity and reading skill levels. I remember receiving a 5th grade reading evaluation that said I was reading at the level of a sophomore in college. My kid had similar reading skills at the same age. Plus, some parents, like me, don’t want their kids’ reading to be censored for any reason. And my kid is finishing his Masters so we can’t be all wrong.

    Congrats on all the story successes. I continue to blubber, “I knew her when.” (And thanks for the recent help, too–lots of good market ideas for some of my other stuff in limbo.)

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Totally agree! I think this trend of “reading level appropriate” folly in schools is utterly inane. Kids should be challenged and encouraged to read whatever suits their fancy. I saw a recent news blurb about the rising rate of illiteracy in America (including the number of illiterate college graduates!) and it just made me want to cry.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Totally agree! I think this trend of “reading level appropriate” folly in schools is utterly inane. Kids should be challenged and encouraged to read whatever suits their fancy. I saw a recent news blurb about the rising rate of illiteracy in America (including the number of illiterate college graduates!) and it just made me want to cry.

  10. keesa_renee says:

    :chuckles: Well, I’m hoping my crit falls outside of this particular rant, since the question was directed at content and not vocabulary (we are writers. We are the ones who give children their vocabulary; if we use a limited vocabulary, they will, too. But enough of my rant), but just in case it didn’t, many apologies!

    Here’s a thought: why mention the intended market at all? Why not just put the stories up and be done with it? You probably know better than most of us what is and isn’t age-appropriate in today’s market…why ask for remarks on it?

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Your crits are always helpful, Keesa. I’m not particularly put out by folks concerned about topic-matter appropriateness, since that’s so subjective. After all, I couldn’t watch Sixth Sense all the way through with my eyes open until the third time I’d seen it, while my hubby was watching monster movies as a wee bairn and doesn’t flinch at scenes portraying people being flayed alive. It’s the people who are proponents of dumbing down the vocab. and writing that really irk me.

      Here’s a thought: why mention the intended market at all?

      I’ve done that too, but I inevitably get complaints then about how simplistic the story is and told that I need to flesh it out by another thousand words or so. And since children’s lit. has very tight word constraints, those sorts of comments are also useless to me. Sigh. I know, I’m being so picky, aren’t I?

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Your crits are always helpful, Keesa. I’m not particularly put out by folks concerned about topic-matter appropriateness, since that’s so subjective. After all, I couldn’t watch Sixth Sense all the way through with my eyes open until the third time I’d seen it, while my hubby was watching monster movies as a wee bairn and doesn’t flinch at scenes portraying people being flayed alive. It’s the people who are proponents of dumbing down the vocab. and writing that really irk me.

      Here’s a thought: why mention the intended market at all?

      I’ve done that too, but I inevitably get complaints then about how simplistic the story is and told that I need to flesh it out by another thousand words or so. And since children’s lit. has very tight word constraints, those sorts of comments are also useless to me. Sigh. I know, I’m being so picky, aren’t I?

  11. Yep, stirring-elbow, it’s quite common among non-bakers. *snort* ;)

  12. coolmajaka says:

    The critter comment, “Gee, you should expand this 5,000 word short into a 360,000 word trilogy,” really annoys me too. Like you say, just tell me if the story does or doesn’t work.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      *emphatic nods* I do feel a bit bad today (after having a little time to get over my snarky mood yesterday) with all my grousing, ’cause after all, Critters is free. Still . . .

    • Eugie Foster says:

      *emphatic nods* I do feel a bit bad today (after having a little time to get over my snarky mood yesterday) with all my grousing, ’cause after all, Critters is free. Still . . .

  13. dream_wind says:

    Your stories will be read by kids with intelligence, because they won’t appeal to kids who are stupid. The intelligent kids know the words anyways, or are smart enough to use a dictionary if they don’t know what the word means.

    Apologies if I’ve ever said anything that makes you grind your teeth. I try to limit crits to “I’m not sure this works” and pointing out when I know people have used the wrong word.

    My favourit wrong word is “nonplussed.” I have no idea what people think it means, but I’ve seen it used in all sorts of situations where confusion is NOT being described.

  14. amokk says:

    Why exactly are people who don’t know the meaning of words like “surcease” or “abduction” and who think that only chickens can “cluck” trying to be writers? *twitch* Must not write snarky thank you note. *twitch*

    Because they have been told, since birth, that they can be “anything they want” and haven’t had anyone who took writing seriously look at their actual ability. While I don’t know surcease off the top of my head, how can you live in the world and not know abduction, and clucking is just a sound, anyone can do it.

    These are the people trying to write who look like they failed high school English and you wonder why they think they can write. These are the people who water down writing as a whole, because they publish their junk online, continuing the impression that “anyone can write” and the impression that writing takes no ability at all.

    Gah, ranting, aren’t I?

    I’m tired of kids books that are “simple” and don’t challenge their reading ability. If you don’t challenge them, they don’t grow, simple as that. So they have to look up some words, guess what? They just learned some new words that they’d probably never otherwise have learned. Good. Since when is learning new things bad? Why can’t reading be an exercise in learning, just because it’s not a school book? Why does everything in life have to be easy?

    God I could rant about this for years…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>