I spent the better part of last fall (and the holidays, and quite a bit of January) working up my required lecture for my graduate residency. So much anticipation and anxiety for that forty-five minutes of me talking in front of my peers, and it washed over me like a swelling tide that hardly seemed like five minutes had passed. People seemed to like it.
“The Boy Book Manifesto: A Six Point Plan Toward Making Books More Boy-Friendly (and why we, as writers, should care)” wasn’t so much a political screed as it was a general outline of the sorts of things boys tended to respond well toward in their reading. Speaking to a group of published writers and graduate students in the field of children’s literature, over 95% of them women, I felt a little like I was treading on dangerous territory; after all, shouldn’t boys be able to appreciate a well-written book without being pandered to? And how dare I suggest that it falls on writers to be more proactive in reaching, building, and maintaining boy readerships!
But my lecture was an exploration in understanding that most puzzling of questions: what, in a quantitative way, do boys want from their reading? In seeking out answers I found a whole bunch of data about what boys are drawn to, what sort of topics can hold their attention, and was able to come up with a list of general ideas that could be incorporated into a writer’s approach to storytelling. That list was originally ten points that, due to time limitations on the lecture, I had to whittle down to six points. It seemed a shame I couldn’t include them all, but some of those points could have been an entire lecture themselves.
Many suggested that I could rewrite the lecture as an article, and encouraged me to do so. I admit, I probably could, but honestly? My heart isn’t in writing about boy books any more, I want to actually write some boy books.
So I’ve decided to break up my lecture into manageable chunks and try to present it as a series of blog posts. I can already see that I’m going to have to modify some of the sections for “print” but otherwise the first parts will be pretty close to my original lecture. Beginning next Thursday, February 4th, and for each Thursday after that I’ll be posting another section of what I think I’m going to call Building Better Boy Books.
I realize that by saying “better” the implication is that boy books out there aren’t as good as they should be. You know what, sometimes they aren’t that good. And while the general focus will still be on the creation of boy-friendly books I found that the information helped a lot of parents and teachers better understand the reading preferences of the boys (and men) in their lives.
So I think I’ll start gathering the ingredients and start tossing them in the blog pot. The stirring will begin in a week. Hope to see y’all then.