If you write for kids, you will not get respect from universities, and you will not get it at literary-type cocktail parties, either. For a long time, I wanted that kind of validation more than anything else, even after I began publishing my stories.
The turning point was when I was ready to go on the academic job market. I had published two books for children and a commercial collection of essays for adults, all from major publishers, and was advised by the professor overseeing my job applications to leave the books off my curriculum vitae — in other words, to pretend to be a more serious person than I was. To him, the children’s books and even the essays were not accomplishments but shameful evidence of my lack of conformity to the university’s academic ideals.
That was when I decided to take seriously the person I actually am rather than try to be a person whom others define as serious.
Leaving academia to write fiction for children and teenagers was a return to that person I had been — the one who laughed easily, who liked makeup and baking and dance. I stopped being afraid of being thought silly or weak and instead pushed myself to be more than competent at the things I loved best to do.
I am true now to what brings me joy and to what I do well — and most of the time, to hell with the rest.