I’m a classroom mom.
Once a week I brave the masses of runny-nosed, sticky-fingered little people, squishing my nearly six-foot-tall frame into chairs that don’t quite reach my knees and tabletops that are always covered in gluestick. At least five times in one day I can be heard saying:
Use your listening ears!
Get your finger out of your nose!
I mediate arguments over who cut line and who’s not taking turns and I try my best to impart some sage wisdom (like how the original Mario Bros is insanely better than the new Wii version)
I also get a front row seat to the sort of things that I write about.
As adults, we’ve (hopefully) matured past where those sorts of things matter. We develop the reasoning skill to recognize which things really do matter and which things we can shrug off. But we forget that for younger kids these are the things of life and death.
We also forget what it’s like to truly play. And I mean really play. To not care if we mess up our hair or clothes, or worry that other people will think we’re insane if we barrel across the grass toward a swing. In one fifteen minute recess you can watch Spiderman climbing across the ‘buildings’ to rescue the good guys from the bad guys, a fairy Barbie dancing her way to stardom, and even an intense game of angry birds where the birds are actually kids and the pigs are the other, poor kids getting knocked down. There’s monsters and zombies and heros and villains. Epic battles and dramatic death scenes.
The playground is simply running over with imagination.
One of the biggest struggles in writing middle grade is finding that true voice, and the best way to do that is to think back to what was most important to you at that age. If you ever need a refresher, stop in and have lunch with your kid, niece or nephew. Open up your ears next time you’re walking the dog past a park. Or, if you’re feeling brave, volunteer with a group of younger ones.
Just make sure to bring some wet wipes. Glue stick glue is a witch to get off your hands. 😉