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Writing For Children: Write Your Fears
by Kathryn Lay

I remember it very clearly, as a child traveling through the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado with my family. Most of the tourist attractions were at the top of a mountain, at the end of a long and twisting drive around the outer edges of the mountain, and at the end of narrow roads overlooking sheer drops. I was terrified. The majority of my memories of those trips were not the fun times my brother and I had at the Santa Village or Cliff Dwellings. They were of sitting in the floorboard of the backseat, scrunched down as I listened to my Mom yelling at my Dad (with the inner ear and dizziness problems), “You’re too close to the edge!”

Those trips left me with a tremendous fear of high places that still rules me as I refuse to drive over bridges or walk up winding stairs to see the top of a lighthouse.

What are you afraid of? Were you afraid of it as a kid? What led to that fear? Does it still give you chills, cold sweats, or a racing heart? Are you embarrassed to let others know about your fear?

Why would readers enjoy reading about something that makes them afraid? Sometimes, it’s fun to be scared. Sometimes we want to know others have the same fears as we do. And then, we want to know how they overcame it, survived it, or learned to live with that fear.

I’ve found that writing about some of my own fears have gained me many bylines from editors who know that their juvenile readers experience the same types of fears.

My fear of heights became, “Don’t Look Down,” about a girl in gym class trying to overcome her fear of the uneven bars. It was published by two different religious Sunday School take-home papers.

My fear of dark places led me to write, “Cave-A-Phobia,” published in SPIDER.

I remember being afraid of losing a good friend, which became “Lost and Found Friendship.”

A fear of tornadoes led to “A Voice in The Storm,” published in Boys’ Life, as well as numerous other tornado stories that have won contests and been published in various magazines.

And my youthful fear of losing a family member to death was used in “Grandpa’ s Swan Song.”

Children feel strongly about their fears. If a story or book can make them laugh about it, understand it, or feel that they are not alone in that fear, then the author has given their readers a great gift.

Picture books for the very young often deal with fears of monsters in the closet or under the bed, getting lost, losing a pet to death, or being forgotten when the new baby arrives.

If you were afraid of something as a child, there are children who are feeling that same fear.

What are your fears? Have you written about them? Have you explored the situations that put you there or the emotions, however unreasonable they might be, that come with that fear? Go ahead, share your fears with your readers. Don’t be afraid. You may touch on an editor’s own childhood fears, and help a young reader see that they are not alone.

© Copyright 2008, Kathryn Lay

Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through rlay15@aol.com

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