30 August 2006

The road that led to Treegap...

A coupla years ago I sat in on a session about writing fantasy at Vermont College's MFA in Writing for Children program. One speaker was Natalie Babbitt, author of the now venerable Tuck Everlasting.

As Babbitt noted, her novel has a rather leisurely start, even for 1975: an entire chapter of scenery description. There's only a hint of human characters ("the Fosters"), and no sign of a young protagonist, conflict, or action. You can read it for yourself, courtesy of Amazon.

Sometime in recent years, Babbitt told us, she asked her editor whether that opening would have kept Tuck from becoming as popular if the same book were published today. (As she'd noted already, most new readers now come to it through school assignments, and thus have an outside push to get through any slow spots.)

"Natalie," her editor answered; "With that opening, it wouldn't even be published today."


Disco Mermaids said...

My writing friends and I have discussed this topic to death...usually after a particularly unwelcome manuscript rejection. So many of the books we loved as children (the ones that made us want to write for children) would never get published today. Or if they did, so much would be changed that they would be nearly unrecognizable.

Thanks for sharing that Natalie Babbitt quote.

- Jay

J. L. Bell said...

I think the only consolation might be that there are books that can be published today which would never have been acceptable back in 1975, or 1955, or 1905.