Coming Next Week
The Mikaya folks promise to have their first batch of work-in-progress next week, and I’ve also gotten several emails from individual authors interested in sharing their work. We should see the first of those in January. So, folks, you are going to be let into the lab, to see the bubbling pots, the experiments, the trail-and-error of creating nonfiction.
To be honest, I am not entirely sure of the format — I may just turn the blog over to the work-in-progress person, or I may be the voice-over, the guide, leading you through what they send to me. As you see this feature develop, give me your thoughts on what you’d most like to see, how we can keep refining it.
One post the other day was about how to give cues to readers so that they don’t fall behind. I think I mentioned that Jim Giblin was bringing up exactly the same problem to me — though for him it was a matter of historical context, not vocabulary. How, for example, can you explain McCarthyism without dealing with the whole Who Lost China flap, or the Spanish Civil War, or, for that matter, the Cold War — of the three, kids may have heard of the Cold War, but it will not have any emotional resonance, while the other two are likely to be as familiar as, say, how to dance the minuet.
This is a big issue, which I keep pondering. I think we are obligated not merely to identify terms, but to try to give readers some entry, some sense, of what the subset parts of our larger story. I really have no solution to the question of vocabulary — define words in context where necessary. But I am pleased that my 7 year old son is learning to use the dictionary. He doesn’t like it, he’d rather I tell him how to spell something or what it means. But he knows that the dictionary is there, "waiting to be read" — as he puts it. So to some extent we need to teach kids what resources they have to use with our books, as well as doing our best to make our books clear and engaging.
But, who knows, maybe our work in progress folks will be struggling with similar issues, and will have their own solutions.