Guest post: ‘Writing for Children and Adults’ by Sheila Dalton

I’m delighted to bring you tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of writing for various ages by multi-genre author and spotlightee Sheila Dalton.

‘Writing for Children and Adults’

People sometimes ask me if I prefer writing for children or for adults. I answer that I like both, for very different reasons. They seem to come from different parts of the psyche. Writing for diverse age groups keeps me in touch with different stages of life. I get to feel like a kid again when I write picture books. They also take me back to the time when my son was small and loved stories. It was such a wonderful feeling, sitting in my rocking chair with him on my knee, reading storybooks to him. The only time I got fed up was on the twenty-third or so repeat of Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, when he insisted we look for Goldbug on every single page.  Again.

I think writing for children helps me create young characters in my books for adults. The same is true in reverse, but not to the same extent, because in a children’s or YA book, the adults are seen through the child’s eyes, not mine.

Writing for the very young is fun. Writing for teens can be heart-wrenching if you were a teen like me – miserable and skinny and awkward. Going back to that era in my head is no fun at all, at least it wasn’t when I was writing my YA mystery, Trial by Fire. It’s my own fault, though, I suppose. I chose a serious topic and I chose to write about a teen boy who was picked on and misjudged, and had a zillion problems to deal with.  The book was criticized, actually, because he had so many things on his plate, but he was based on children I had known through the Children’s Aid Society. The problems my character had were actually fewer than these real teens had to deal with on a daily basis. Thinking about these kids was another reason writing that book was sometimes a difficult experience.

The pluses for me in writing for adults are that I do not have to be careful about my content in the same way as I do for teens, and I also don’t have to try to see through any eyes other than my own. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t adopt my characters’ viewpoints and outlooks in order to make them more real, but, overall, I don’t have to adopt another whole sensibility, or try to. I find it hard to imagine how a book will strike a teen reader, and that’s probably why I’ve only written one YA book.

Ironically, perhaps, my latest novel for adults, The Girl in the Box, features a teenage Mayan girl, Inez, who is held in captivity by her parents who believe she is cursed. When she’s rescued by a doctor and taken to Canada, she ends up killing him. Inez is so unusual, and so much my own creation, that I didn’t have trouble seeing things through her eyes, as I might with a contemporary teen.

I hope we didn’t need a spoiler alert there. Thank you Sheila!

Sheila Dalton was born near London, England and came to Canada with her family when she was six. When she was twenty, she returned to England to study at the University of London, ended up dropping out, and working as a barmaid at an Aussie pub in Earl’s Court where, as she says, “I could not make change, let alone mix drinks. All that saved me were the kindness of the owners, and my name. Aussies call all women ‘Sheilas’.”

Back in Toronto, Canada, she took up crafts, and worked as an independent craftsperson for a few years before completing her degree at the University of Toronto, later returning for a Masters in Library Science.

“I did not want to become a librarian,” she says.  “I wanted to be a writer, but as I specialized in dense, inscrutable bad poetry, the chances of making a living at it were non-existent.”

She married and had a son, then became a freelance editor and writer for many years. During that time, her first book of poetry was published, then a literary novel, and then a series of books for children, both fiction and non-fiction.

She has been a reference librarian at the Toronto Public Library for over twenty years. “And I found I loved the profession, after all,” she says. Her latest novel for adults, The Girl in the Box, is due out from Dundurn Press in November, 2011.

You can find more about Sheila and her writing via…

Her website, The Girl in the Box on and The Girl in the Box book trailer. You can also read her spotlight hereSheila is also kindly running a Goodreads Giveaway (US & Canada) which runs until 18th November.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with scriptwriter, novelist and actor Gregory Allen – the one hundred and seventy-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

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