The middle grade market

Friday, June 6, 2014

headshot of Archie Fusillo
Archie Fusillo

Award-winning author Archie Fusillo will be leading Writing for Children - Intro to Chapter Books workshop at Writers Victoria in October 2016. He spoke to WV’s membership intern, Helen Krionas, about understanding this burgeoning market.

How difficult is it to write for this specific audience? How would you advise the novice writer to approach it?

The difficulty of writing for a specific audience is maintaining that mental link with them, in terms of where they may be at emotionally, psychologically and even temperamentally. As a writer, you need to be conscious of what suits that audience, both in terms of the language you can utilise and the issues and situations you can explore. In this way, it’s important that you think closely about the audience so that you are tailoring the work to their sense of where they may be in reference to their life experiences. (Be conscious too, of course, that there is no hard and fast principle that applies to all members of any audience.)

What is the most significant difference between middle grade and children’s fiction?

It is difficult to explain the mindset I get into when I’m writing for a particular audience, other than to say that I try very hard to get back into my own experience of what it was like to be that age – while being conscious of the changes inherent in the passing of many decades between then and now. The most significant difference between middle grade and children’s fiction is, I think, the degree of silliness you can get away with in the middle grades. There seems to be a greater sense of pure fun for the sake of it – a sense that time and place and possibilities are rather more endless and pliable.

You’ve tackled some serious topics (death; masculinity) in novels like ‘The Dons’ and ‘Bruises’. Is there room to explore young adult concepts in middle grade literature?

Middle Grade is not the place for exploring YA concepts; that’s why we have YA literature – because the audience for YA literature has developed a greater world awareness, a greater differentiation between fact and pure fiction. This is in no way disparaging; it seems to me more a case of maturity and a readiness at various levels, including emotionally, to start dealing with darker, more disturbing or challenging issues. This is not to say that death and dying, for instance, have no place at all in middle grade literature, but that the approach tends to be more oblique, less confronting.

‘Dead Dog in the Still of the Night’ will be published by Ford Street in June. What can readers expect from your latest offering?

Readers can expect some twists and turns in the plot, with greater emphasis on character actions and their consequences. This is a novel about the cost of belonging to family – good and bad, wanted and obliged. It’s about the demands we put on ourselves when we feel that our positions and standing are under threat … and our ability to cope with change being compromised by our blinkered vision of what we think we are capable of.

About Archie Fusillo

Archie Fusillo’s work includes novels, short stories, plays, feature stories, critical essays, reviews and advertising copy. His work has been published internationally, and in 2012 he was awarded the prestigious Premio Globo Tricolore for his body of work, to add to his many other critical and popular awards. Archie presents writing workshops and author talks all over the world, and his new novel, ‘Dead Dog in the Still of the Night’, will be published in early 2014 by Ford Street Publishing.

About Helen Krionas

Helen Krionas is a screenwriter and sometimes-novelist. Her article discussing contemporary YA fiction was published in "The Victorian Writer" in 2014.