By Kristelle Bechayda
Reading is an integral part in the development of kids. Books enable them to widen their horizons and be more imaginative. However, writing for children can be a bit challenging since they think differently. Award-winning author Erin Entrada Kelly shares her experience and some tips on writing children’s books during this year’s Philippine Readers and Writers Festival.
Inspired from her own childhood
When asked on whether she takes inspiration from her own experience, the author of Hello, Universe admits she incorporates her childhood of being a half-Filipino in an all-white community.
“My first book, Blackbird Fly, was inspired by my growing up as the only Filipino in my school, in my neighborhood. Pretty much everything that I write has some element of me in the book,” she says.
While most writers inject a piece of themselves into their writing, each has a different voice and style. And Kelly finds hers to be suited for young people.
“I find them interesting. They’re energetic and creative,” she explains. “I just feel like I have a shared commonality with them. So writing for children is a fit for me,”
Having gone through difficulties as a child herself, Kelly draws enough from her own experience to understand kids.
“I think that young people want to feel respected and that someone understands them,” she explains. “I still remember what it’s like to be young and to go through all those challenges that they go through. So when you are able to tap into what that feels like, you will be more successful writing for children,”
She adds that being a mother to her only child also extends to how she wants to make her readers feel safe from the world.
“I hope that when young people are spending time with my book, they feel less alone,” she says. “I want them to embrace who they are and where they come from, to be proud of what makes them different or unique.”
Know the audience
Kelly says that apart from reading, those who wish to write for children should read more books dedicated for them.
“You have to understand the world that they live in,” she reasons. “Number one thing in writing children’s books is you can’t speak down to children. You have to respect them and you have to empathize with them.”
But understanding how children think still isn’t enough. The author adds that it is also important for writers to have their own unique message and to establish what they want to say before writing their books.
To find out more about Erin Entrada Kelly and her books, you can visit her site at erinentradakelly.com. Hello, Universe is available at Nationa Book Store branches.