China Miéville said this about Joan Aiken: “If that kind of writing hits you at the right time when you’re a child, the impact is like nothing else ever. Maybe it’s pure ego, but there’s something incredibly intoxicating about the idea of trying to do that.” *
This is true. Writing for kids is as intoxicating as it is wildly ambitious. It’s like shooting the moon in a card game, or deciding to land on the moon as a career choice. It’s the same kind of mad ambition that kids themselves have when they expect to become astronauts.
My agent Joe Monti once asked me the age of my inner child, and I said “Probably eleven.” Ten is double-digits, and therefore huge and important. Twelve is a number of great folkloric significance. Eleven is stuck in between, unsure, just figuring things out—but still ambitious enough to want to be an astronaut. And I have never loved books more than I did then.
Maybe it’s pure ego to mention this, to jump up and down shouting that Ursula K. Le Guin approves of my book. Probably. I have, um, mentioned it on Twitter a couple of times (and also announced it in public places while running around in circles, arms flailing like a happy muppet). But there’s something else here, something I find overwhelming and intoxicating. She said eleven. She wished she had read my book at exactly the same age that I first read hers.
I usually devote this blog to earlier bedtime stories, but right now I want everyone to remember the books they read at eleven. Some of you will immediately think of Aiken and Le Guin. Now go pick up a copy of Wolves, or Earthsea, or whatever it was, and give that book to a kid of your acquaintance.
The impact will be like nothing else ever.