"So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place, you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall. Then fill the shelves with lots of books." - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I have always loved epic children's stories, whether it be Charlie and Chocolate Factory, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, Goonies, Pixar, or Tim Burton. My 2 cents is that the world needs 10,000x more of it, and much less of the vapid noise that makes up social media. Time spent on wonder (not the book but the concept), is too little. Now middle-age, the thought of spending my time in pursuit of creating wonder seems not only a worthy purpose but a necessary one.
Roald Dahl wrote:
"If you don't believe in magic you'll never find it." - The Minipins
There is too much attention on measurement and results, and I don't need to reference the glut of articles about the anxiety to perform placed on today's children. I cringe thinking how I might fare growing up now — I'd wager not well. The amount of sculpting that we do on our children alarms me. Parents chisel far too early and far too deep, rather than appreciate the rough form, the imperfect, and the wonderful innate weirdness that comes with being a kid. Childhood should not be designed, and this rush-to-success mentality is counter to everything I believe.
Recently I ended a twenty-year experiment building and selling a business. With that end came some long-earned success, and in particular the ability to be momentarily existential. I swapped my life as a CEO for that of a stay-at-home dad. In doing so I found going back to square one was much more difficult than expected. I was less sure of what I wanted to be when I grew up than my young daughters. I felt dull, fatigued, and dissatisfied. I had forgotten how to play.
"Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn't everything." - James and the Giant Peach
Luckily I have two ridiculously interested children who adore reading and imagination. We have books everywhere in our house... everywhere: Harry Potter, Mysterious Benedict Society, Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library, A Monster Calls, Circus Mirandus, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Lemony Snicket to name only a few. I had stories on the brain, and I began creating informal ones at bedtime—the sillier and more fantastic the better. When my oldest daughter suggested I turn one of them into a book, I somehow agreed and quickly found myself inside one of the most rewarding puzzles of my life.
There is a particular joy I've found in writing for middle-grade readers, who are no longer just children, but still far from being adults. It is a bridge from adolescence, before self-awareness and teen relationships take over, when things like magic still have profound importance and influence. Oddly (or not) I've found exploring middle-grade themes (aka "who the heck am I?") similar to my own current stage of life. If that sounds a bit like a midlife crisis, so be it, I'm having too much fun to stop now.
Roald Dahl once wrote in Boy: Tales of Childhood:
"A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it."
Doesn't sound so foolish to me.
Taylor Tyng is a children's book author focusing on middle grade fiction. Taylor is represented by Erin Clyburn of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City.