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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Boys, Books, Firetrucks, and SCBWI

The New York Fire Department made an unexpected guest appearance last week at the 9th Annual Winter Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Their visit was brief, thankfully. Saturday morning, as most of the guests and speakers were in their respective showers, the hotel’s fire alarms went off. A small blaze had started in a laundry chute. The fire was quickly put out; the alarms were switched off. In her opening remarks, Executive Director Lin Oliver explained the situation to the attendees and gleefully enjoyed crying “Fire in the Chute!” She said it had always been part of her “boy fantasy” to say those words.

Too bad there weren’t more words given over to boy fantasies, or mysteries, or adventures. The 1000+ crowd included only 160 men. This may not be an accurate reflection of the overall industry, but it made me think. Last year’s conference was all abuzz with “books for boys.” All the major trade houses had talked up their commitment to bring out more titles and series for the young male reader. But this year, the buzz was gone. The excitement was switched off.

Yes, there are a few more books out there with boy heroes and boy topics, but the big houses are concentrating on girls. Again. I guess they realize that’s where their biggest market is. Why not boys? Why not give every kid an adventure that can be found only on the written page? I want to create books that the reluctant boy reader will grab and devour. I don’t think of this as simply a trend, or something the team at Stone Arch Books will do just this year. It’s a daily preoccupation in our office. Sparking a boy’s imagination, firing up his curiosity, feeding the burning need for adventure and heroics. Fire in the chute!

--Michael Dahl
Editorial Director, Stone Arch Books

1 comment:

Dee said...

A couple of years ago, I attended my first SCBWI NY conference. On the last day I shared a taxi with someone from your company. We had a most passionate conversation about reluctant readers and what kind of books need to be out there. I had such a wonderful time! I'm glad that mission is still being carried out by this company, even if the big guns aren't hyping it up. Keep up the great work!