Craft Talk with Elana K. Arnold: Writing Difficult Topics for Young Readers

Photo from IG Live conversation on 12/15/20

Consider me verklempt. I am overwhelmed with gratitude, inspiration and hope after this conversation with Elana K. Arnold around writing difficult topics for young readers. Elana is a craft expert, of course, but it’s her soulful approach to the world and her readers that resonates above all else. NOTE: we had some lively troubleshooting issues early on (3:44-8:12), so feel free to scroll ahead!

Here are some of my favorite treasures from our conversation:
❤️ Write about whatever you love that also terrifies you, NOT what you think a child needs to hear. Kids want what adults want: connection, honesty and vulnerability
❤️ A story is like a house with wonderful doors where you can enter: character, plot, setting and beyond. But theme is a false trap door— it is something that should be discovered, not a starting place
❤️ Theme is a complicated expression of belief about what it means to be human; help your readers see what you believe, not convince them of it
❤️ What happens when we invite sex, death and G-d to our dinner table?
❤️ Story = lived experience + observed experience + “what if.” Watch to see how this process played out in Elana’s gorgeous crafting of AN ORDINARY DAY

Thank you for your time, heart and belief in children as whole humans worthy of truth. I will come back to this conversation time and again to remember why I believe in this work, and why stories are critical to grappling with the big, scary topics in life.

AND: Scholarships are available for Elana’s Revision Season course via @weneeddiversebooks! One more day to apply!

For quick reference, here are the books discussed in today’s talk:
AN ORDINARY DAY by @elanakarnold, illo by @elizabetvukoviic
WHAT RILEY WORE by @elanakarnold, illo by Linda Davick
STARLA JEAN and HOUSE THAT WASN’T THERE by @elanakarnold (pre-order!)
THE DEAD BIRD by Margaret Wise Brown, illo by @theartoffun
THE UNDEFEATED by @kwamealexander, illo by @kadirnelson
FINN’S FEATHER by @rachelnoblewrites, illo by

(Conversation held on December 15, 2020 on IG Live @carolinepritchardwrites)

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