Staying in Good Company

Writing for Children Blog
May 5, 2016

By Jan Fields

I once heard someone bemoaning nastiness, elitism, and envy in the writing
community. Since this was a situation where people of all genres gathered, I
made a light-hearted remark that perhaps the author should switch to
children's writing since I had never experienced either nastiness or envy in
the children's writing community. Instead, I always found children's writers
quick to help and support one another. The other writer promptly told me
that it was the children's writing community she was talking about! I was

How could two people have such totally different impressions of a community
in which they work? I've gotten into tiffs with individual children's
writers before when we've disagreed on some aspect of the business -- we're
all human and we have very differing viewpoints and reactions -- but they've
been disagreements, not nastiness or envy. I've been misunderstood before --
online relationships are so complicated with everything being interpreted
through writing only -- but again, that has never been an outgrowth of
nastiness or envy and usually after a few exchanges, we're all clear and
there are no lingering hard feelings. Now, my career is not that enviable so
perhaps that has saved me from being abused. I've been writing a long time
and gotten a lot of things published but I'm still basically a part of the
children's magazine writing community - the red-headed stepchild of
children's literature. So perhaps if I had a book, I would find more people
being all nasty and envious toward me. Maybe.

Because I wasn't sure, I asked. I shouted out the question to a group of
thousands -- what kind of experiences have they had in connecting with other
children's writers?

Support, assistance, and friendship. Some told of critique groups that throw
small parties when members get published. Some told of incredible generosity
offered by near strangers. One told of a group that supported one another as
they all tried for the same writing competition -- a competition where there
could be only one winner! If ever competition should have arisen, that
sounds like the case. And yet, somehow that's not the thought process.
Pretty much they told of the kind of experiences I had seen myself. Of
course, they also told about misunderstandings that arise because no two
people look at the course of a career the same way. But envy? Nastiness?
Nary a peep.

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I'm sorry for the writer who started me on the search for common networking
experience. The one who saw a friendship destroyed when one person succeeded
faster than another. I know it can be incredibly frustrating to feel like
everyone is making the "big time" before you. But I really don't think it's
really a competitive fear that all the good spots will be taken. I think it
is just frustration.

As much joy as exists in children's writing, there is also an incredible
amount of frustration. And the frustration doesn't really stop once an
author is published though sometimes it can seem like the support thins down
a bit. For those just starting out, it can seem like the published writers
"have it made." They don't. They just get a new and different set of
frustrations. There are few who feel they've "arrived" in children's
writing. We're all just at different spots on the road. We can help other
people by passing out maps to the places we've been but we all know there's
plenty of journey ahead of us.

One truly unique thing about children's writers that, I believe, is a main
component in the camaraderie and helpfulness we feel amongst ourselves is
that our goal is a bit different than that of many adult writers. We really
do tend to keep our eyes on our readers -- on meeting their needs and on
helping them through their own tough journeys. Everything we do is about
handing out those roadmaps for a tough journey -- the tough journey from
childhood to adulthood. The roadmaps are full of comedy and angst and wonder
and support. And since the heart of our job is helping -- we just naturally
extend that to one another. That's what I believe. And that's what I've

I'm pretty proud of the company I keep. I hope they'll always know they can
count on me. After all, I've gotten a lot of help when I needed it. So if
you're wondering if it's safe to connect with other writers -- it's better
than safe, it's fantastic.


If you want more writing instruction like this, plus lots of tips and great resources, click here!


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