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Harold Underdown - The Purple Crayon

As I said in my earlier post, teen and YA apply to the same age group. Tween and MG apply more or less to the same age group.

But as I said, they get used in different contexts. Publishers use "teen" and "tween" to label the commercial fiction (and some nonfiction) they are producing, mostly in paperback, for bookstore sales TO teens and tweens.

Middle-grade and YA are labels used when marketing to schools and libraries, and signify more of a "quality" approach.

None of these terms have a simple definition, or a precise meaning. That's partly because publishers use them in ways that help them market their books, and so they aren't used consistently from one to another.

If you have a copy of Anita Silvey's Essential Guide, you might see what she says.
Or read Harold Underdown's Review



Marjorie Blain Parker

Does your library participate in an inter-library loan program like WorldCat? This way you can get books from all over the country. They might - and you just don't know it - though I'm not sure what it costs for a library system to be a member. A one library town might not have the resources. In Denver we also have access to another system, called Prospector, which allows us access to books from 23 libraries across Colorado and Wyoming. Perhaps there's a similar program in your neck of the woods.

A writer needs access to books and, unless you've got lots of money to spend at Books-A-Million and Amazon, you'll need to find a way to get your hands on them. Talk to the librarian at your library to see how he/she can help you. Use this listserv and other resources to keep track of books you should or want to read. Make building your own personal library a long-term goal - ask for Amazon gift cards for your birthday etc., find books at discount prices at garage sales and thrift shops. It's not something that has to happen overnight. It's a long journey.


Kathy Helmer

Another place to buy books really cheap are yard/garage sales & used book stores.



Angela Durden

There is a three part rule I often quote to my print and design customers.

You can have it fast and cheap, but not good.
You can have it good and cheap, but not fast.
Or you can have it fast and good, but not cheap.

I then ask them to choose. If you have no money and are in a hurry, then ouch!

However, there is much you can do ahead of time to check for problems. I suggest you go to and click on the right, on Tools for Writers. There you can have all kinds of free reports and hints and stuff sent to you. I know Bobbie personally and took her suggestion to use some of this before sending a full-length novel mss to her for editing. Wow, did I ever find a pile of stuff to work on! Since money is an issue with you, I suggest you do some of the work yourself with this great resource.



Harold Underdown - The Purple Crayon

I'm responding to the board because you're asking questions with implications for other people--how does one interpret guidelines that seem very specific?

I think the general answer is that you have to look for context.

For #1, I'd look to see what kind of publisher this is. Do they have a specific market for which 60,000 words is a minimum, for some reason? Are their published books of this type uniformly over 60,000 words? In most cases, I'd assume that this is being given as a general guideline and that if you are within a few thousand you're OK. Certainly, if you think yours is the kind of book they would want in other respects, there is no harm in sending a query.

Re #2, again, look at the context. Do they ever publish space fantasy? Science fiction and fantasy elements can co-exist in a book, but is this publisher open to that? If you can't tell, because they are too new or their program is too small, then query.

In general, if you think your work is at least compatible with the publisher's program, then there is no reason not to query. If they publish picture books only, and you have a novel, on the other hand, then even if it's thematically right for them, I'd move on to another publisher.

Good luck!


Margot Finke

This is a topic we have hashed out many times on this list. Just go to our Yahoo files and type in this thread.

My opinion is that any sort of censorship is a slippery slope. Once bureaucrats or religious groups, or any other group that wants to regulate our reading and art, gets a foot inside the censorship door, writers and others will lose the freedom to create independent of oversight. Horror of horrors!

This is a country that has always valued "freedom of choice." No one is forcing you to read what you don't like, is offensive to you, or that you feel might be harmful to your children if they read it. We are all free to CHOOSE what we read, and to guide our children's reading choices.

What you call offensive I might call high art. What I feel is rude, you might think is natural and honest. Writing and art caters to all tastes, and is subjective in the extreme. Reading what appeals to you, and avoiding what does not, is good advice. Be vigilant about your children - what they watch on TV, what they read, and what sites they visit on the internet. Your children are your responsibility, not that of the writer, or the TV station, the artist, or even the school they attend. Giving your kids your set of values as a guideline to follow, and checking often to make sure they do not stray from that, is a parent's absolute right. It is not any parent's right to try and make every other parent in the country bow to their particular set of values by invoking censorship.

We should concentrate on passing on our own principals to our children, and with the exception of child pornography, allow the arts to flourish when and where they will.

Yikes. . . Is this topic a huge cockroach - or what? It never dies!!!


Kelly Milner Halls

Since I write specifically for reluctant readers, and since the majority of reluctant readers are boys, I guess i can respond to this one, Julie, though you've already heard most of what I have to say, at least in brief, at Chautauqua.

What types of books appeal to boys? That's not always easy to pinpoint, but it's often called high interest content. If you search for topics with wow or ick appeal, that will put you on the right track. Think topics boys almost always care about -- extreme sports, ferocious animals, video games, weird but true, bugs, reptiles, adventure, pirates, etc. They appeal to boys because the fun overtakes the challenge of reading. In other words, the content makes the book worth the trouble it takes to read it.

I do write to that target audience specifically, yes. They are my kids, and it's intensely rewarding.

I write nonfiction, but I know of other fiction writers (Bruce Coville, Jon Scieszka, Chris Crutcher, Dav Pilkey and others) who also target this audience. They use guy friendly plot devices including humor and the "gross" appeal, along with their obvious storytelling skills.

Your best bet is to read their work for a better understanding. But it's a fantastic thing to write for these kids. I wouldn't trade that opportunity for anything.



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