We’ve got Jaleigh Johnson with us today. I recently enjoyed her new Middle Grade novel, The Mark of the Dragonfly, which has a wonderful premise and setting. Johnson is best known for her contributions to the FORGOTTEN REALMS shared universe, so Middle Grade is a new realm for her. Curious about how she approached this challenge, I asked her what she does differently when she writes for kids. Her response is below and, at the end, she wants to know what YOU are looking for in a story for children. One commenter from the U.S. or Canada will win a copy of The Mark of the Dragonfly.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/fanlit/images/author/JaleighJohnson.jpgI’m asked this question fairly often, and I understand why. Now that The Mark of the Dragonfly is out in the world, I’ve officially written books for adults and a book for a middle-grade audience. I should totally know the difference between writing for kids and grown-ups, right? And I do, to some extent. Certain language and themes in my adult books won’t show up in the kids’ section, of course. But beyond that, I dread the question because I haven’t been able to come up with a good answer.

For example, I say, “Well, when I write for kids I keep the story moving along at a brisk pace to hold the reader’s attention. The Mark of the Dragonfly takes place on a train — it moves constantly. What could be better!”

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsErm, wait a minute. Adults like stories that move at a good pace too. And they like trains. I mean, who doesn’t?

Okay, let’s try again.

“The characters,” I say, “are so important. They have to be relatable. Kids have to see themselves in Piper, Anna, and Gee.”

Um. Except adults like that too.

And on it goes. Sometimes doing a thing is easier than trying to explain how you did it.

Then again, maybe there isn’t as much difference between writing for kids and writing for adults as I thought, and maybe that’s why middle-grade fiction has such broad appeal. Parents are sharing the reading experience with their kids, and I’ve been very happy to see adults responding with enthusiasm to Piper and Anna’s story.

What do you think? What do you look for in a children’s story that’s different from what you see in adult fiction?

Fans of The City of Ember will love The Mark of the Dragonfly, an adventure story set in a magical world that is both exciting and dangerous. Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields. The girl doesn’t remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she’s from the Dragonfly Territories and that she’s protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home. The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect–everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible. Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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