I’m delighted to have been asked to help judge the entries for the Hot Key Books & Kobo young writers prize. For this competition the definition of a young writer is 18-25 and the prize divides into two areas; manuscripts for ages 9 – 12 & manuscripts for ages 13 – 19. I’m there for the Middle Grade or 9 – 12 age group because that’s the age group I write for –
Now I have a belief, and I’d love to be proven wrong.
My assertion is that the younger you are as a writer, the more likely you are to write for teens, the less likely you are to write for middle grade. The older you are, the more likely it is that you will write for younger children.
Amongst my compatriots from Bath Spa, I noticed that there was only one real exception – Sam Gayton, who wrote the Snow Merchant, and was I think, still under 25 at the time. Otherwise, there was a strong leaning to teen or Young Adult fiction. Those of us over 35 wrote younger books.
I wondered if it was remotely true and did a little research (on a famous online encyclopedia) into famous middle grade writers:
CS Lewis was already 41 when he began the Narnia series.
David Walliams was 37 by the time The Boy in the Dress was published.
Jeff Kinney was 36.
Nina Bawden was in her mid thirties when she started writing for children.
Michael Morpurgo was over 30.
Roald Dahl was 27. His first book, the Gremlins, was published in 1943.
This is utterly unscientific, and taken over a small number of writers, but I really can’t think of many exceptions to the rule.
So prove me wrong young writers – I’m dying to read your manuscripts.