I recently submitted a story to an agent for a critique. She said that my writing was good. Her only concern was that she didn't feel my work would be mainstream. At 996 words it was considered too long to be a picture book and that there was no longer a market for storybooks.
No more storybooks?
I was told that parents want to read short books to their children at bedtime, 300 - 500 words ideally. It saddened me to think that at the end of the day, when work is over and lessons are complete and the kitchen is cleaned and you finally get to see your child, all you can offer them is 300 words.
That's not to say that there aren't many wonderful books written to that length. But that comment did seem to speak to our hurried and harried way of life.
My first thought to the agent's advice was, 'Okay, I can do that. Shorter? No problem.' And I could, if I wanted to. The thing is, I like writing storybooks. I like stories that are lyrical, that are just as much for the parents as the children. Stories that are, dare I say it, sweet.
If I have a message in my work it is for parents and it is this. Pay Attention. Childhood is over in the blink of an eye and trust me, it's not the children who grow up and remember those bedtime stories. It's the parents who pick up a long forgotten book and remember how it felt to be snuggled up against their little one lost in the midst of a story. A fairy tale perhaps.
How long are we allowed into the world of our own children? Not long. The real world with all of its demands asserts itself far too soon. And we are left with the task of saying everything we have to say in 300 words.
So I will continue to write my storybooks. Perhaps I will read them to a grandchild one day, all 1,000 words of them.