Writing for Boys

Several years ago I interviewed Jon Scieszka, author of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and so many other wonderful books. He had just started his campaign to get boys—universally known among librarians, parents and educators as reluctant readers—to read more books. He launched the site, http://www.guysread.com/ and has since edited several books of short stories by authors just for boys.

So I was happy to sit in on the session entitled “Writing Genre for Boys” at Book Expo America the other day, to hear Jon and other “boy” writers Kevin Emerson (The Dark Shore) and Jack Gantos (From Norvelt to Nowhere) say that the situation has improved. Overall, boys are more interested in reading.

In part, all three authors agreed, that’s because there are many more choices for boys now—and because authors finally understand them. Here are some of the points they shared. Writers take note: This is important info for you to know and absorb.

  1. Boys expect adventure in their books, but they also really like to hear about all the awkward failures kids experience with girls, friends and school.
  2. Boys can be trapped in their interior worlds as much as girls can, and they like stories that help them find a way out.
  3. Humor is the welcome wagon, but kids also like a buildup to intense scenes.
  4. Readers are simply more sophisticated now because of their exposure to culture. They look for a full spectrum of characters.

One last tip that is important for all of us, especially men with a young boy in their lives: Be a role model for getting boys to read publicly.

Liza N. Burby
Liza is an award-winning journalist for some of the top publications in the country, a magazine editor, parenting speaker, children's book author and a motivational speaker/expert on getting your work published.

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May 2022