I first heard that term coined by an editor I met at an ABA event in Washington D.C. and to be honest I was wounded, though I tried valiantly to appear nonplussed. That may sound melodramatic but I was 20 and working as a PR intern for an L.A. based publisher of sci-fi and self-help books. I was full of starry-eyed, romantic, admiration for books of all genre and their creators. It was a shock to realize that there were jaded souls about, in the “biz” no less, who did not share my reverence for children’s books.
It may be true that we wordsmiths are each drawn in by different aspects of the craft, it is also true however that we all come forth from the same humble beginnings: being read to and reading books. I had the marvelous good fortune to grow up with Dr. Seuss, Sesame Street and Captain Kangaroo. I begged my mother to re-read Where the Wild Things Are, The Owl and the Pussycat and Beauty and the Beast so many times she had learnt them by heart and had even developed character voices to keep the tales fresh for both of us.
In Elementary School I struck out on my own, with the caring guidance of a few exemplary educators: Mrs. Edwards who, through phonics, taught me to read in Kindergarten. Mrs. Barrows who in the 1st grade encouraged my imagination and creativity by teaching me that the only way to really learn is by making lots of mistakes. Last but not least was dear Mrs. Honeyman, our town Librarian, who paid me the honor of allowing me to preview every new children’s title the library ordered. I will always cherish having had the privilege of knowing you all! During those 6 wonderful years I read every story ever penned about horses, all of the Nancy Drew Mysteries, every Laura Ingalls-Wilder book, Madeline L’Engle’s Time Quartet, The Secret Garden, The Diary of Anna Frank…
In Middle School I became a disgruntled pre-teen, as such my taste for word became equally dark and contrary. I discovered Stephen King, Anne Rice, Ray Bradbury and Arthur Clarke. For comic relief and erotic curiosity my friends and I also discovered our mothers’ “beach reads” – titles by authors like Harold Robbins and Jackie Collins full of hysterical euphemisms for unmentionable anatomy and grown-up’s games. The bottom line; at least we were still reading books!
In High School I devoured all of the university prep requisite classics (e.g. Dickens, Hardy, Steinbeck, Whitman, Bronte sisters, Sophocles, Homer et.al.). Thanks to the fact that my parents were readers I also discovered Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Pearl Buck, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Wolfe… I thus realized that lots of interesting people who had lived ages before I was born had had many of the same questions and uncertainties as I had. That was simultaneously a comfort and a source of uneasiness. Great food for teen thought.
The point I am working towards with all of this is that all the very whimsical, fantastical, and often silly works of “Kiddy Liter” I read provided me my introduction to the written word; not as a profession but rather a palette for creative thinking. Those wonderful journeys of the imagination instilled in me a very deep seeded love of language as a medium for expression and communication. My resulting thirst for discovery has enriched my life in unimaginable ways.
Those tales I read and re-read taught me to be inquisitive, tolerant and compassionate – daring, brave and true. They encouraged me to dream vividly and live intrepidly. They cultivated in me the ability to create unique worlds in my own back yard, and later, the desire to learn about the world that had gone before. It was only a matter of time before I would begin to postulate about the worlds yet to come as well!
In short the (by some) undervalued realm of “Kiddy Liter” shaped my life and contributed to my development in so many ways that I can’t help but feel an intense sense of gratitude and indebtedness to all the wonderful beings who created all of those fabulous stories (whether high or low profile) that I enjoyed so immensely during my formative years. It is a source of pain and anguish that my own children, growing up in the digital age, do not share my love of books. Their father and I have read to them since they were in the womb, they have seen us reading for pleasure, they are proud of the fact that our house is “full of books” and that I am actually in the process of getting one published (whatever that means but it sounds important) – neither of our daughters are terribly keen to read it, but that is not surprising given the subject matter. Our hope is that they may discover that it is possible to read books on electronic devices and thus might just get interested, not in mine but in other good stuff available out there!
I have lived by my pen for nearly 20 years (editing, copy writing translating) but only now can I claim the auspicious title of “almost published author”. This is hardly my first literary effort; several other manuscripts also inhabit the drawers of my desk in varying stages of development. This however is the first to navigate the Labyrinthine process known as publishing: a bittersweet achievement seeing as my longtime friend and co-conspirator, Don Schwarz, the one person who believed in and encouraged me more than any other when it comes to writing, did not live to demand we consume a bottle of Maker’s Mark to celebrate the blessed event.
Having reached such a significant milestone has made me realize that my ultimate ambition is to cultivate enough imagination and creative thunder to eventually produce a classic work of “Kiddy Liter” and thus encourage and inspire new generations of language loving youths who just might grow up to continue this great literary tradition!
Victoria Andre King is a freelance writer and audiovisual professional her novel The Führer Must Die is available for pre-orders and will be released on November 8th 2016 with Yucca Publications, an imprint of Sky Horse Publishing NYC.