Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, September 27

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


April 10th the Independent Writers of Chicago will feature accomplished author Marlene Targ Brill, who will present "Writing for Children Isn't Kids Stuff," a discussion that will focus on breaking into the youth market, the opportunities and requirements in writing for children and how to approach publishers. Networking starts at 5pm, the program starts at 6pm in the Chicago Athletic Club's 7th Floor Lakeshore Room 12 S. Michigan Ave. $15 for members, free for IWOC members. For reservations and information, call 847-855-6670.

Visit Marlene Targ Brill's Web site at

Q: How inseparable are the values of entertainment and education within your work as a writer for the youth market?

Brill: I believe entertainment and education are part of the same package. If my writing isn't entertaining, informative, or interesting, no reader — adult or child — will continue to read. Writing for young readers needs to be as good — or better — than writing for adults. The challenge is having the same grabber beginning, coherent action- or information-packed middle, and satisfying closing in writing for kids as for adults, only with fewer words. So every word counts — big time! The younger the audience, the more punch each word requires.

But creating an entertaining manuscript does not negate accuracy and researching balanced information. Characters need to be authentic. Facts need to go beyond the mediocre and common knowledge. Sharing interesting tidbits that excite my readers about a topic is one of my goals.

Q: I'm sure you experience a learning process during your writing of a book. In writing for youth, how imperative — or perhaps simply how exciting — is it to share this learning experience with the reader?

Brill: Writing for me is a journey. One of the favorite parts of that journey involves research. I dig for fun facts. I interview experts and interesting people. I visit sites related to my subjects. I play detective, trying to put clues together to create a total picture of a given topic.

Research contributes to my enthusiasm for a topic. I hope I pass on that enthusiasm to my readers, whether youth or adults, creating a learning experience they will enjoy as much as I enjoyed in researching and writing the book.

Q: What are your goals as a writer for kids?

Brill: Beyond informing and entertaining readers, I have several additional goals in choosing the topics I write about for kids and adults. The first is making nonfiction fun. Too many adults think the only enjoyable, free-time books are fiction. They steer young readers to nonfiction to write reports or study for tests, so many kids grow up thinking nonfiction isn't much fun. But many readers, especially those who read reluctantly, prefer nonfiction because it is about real life. They connect with the material because it reflects topics either of interest to them or part of their experience.

Another writing goal of mine is to build understanding. I wrote about peace in Women for Peace, and I have several books about people with special needs or who deal with specific healthcare issues. I believe knowledge builds understanding. The more we know about each other the more we feel comfortable with people who might be different. This is a big issue with bullying and teasing. So I write about autism, Down syndrome, Tourette syndrome and asthma, for example. I write books for parents in how to raise children, such as in Raising Smart Kids for Dummies.

I also try to write women and girls into history. Although more books cover females and their accomplishments today, the girls and women still get the short end in numbers of titles about them and content in books about their accomplishments. A recent study of picture books revealed that many more books included male main characters, and boys led active, outdoor lives, while girls still nurtured and performed activities indoors. And we're in the 21st century!

GB store

About the Author(s)

John Hospodka is a life-long Chicagoan, and today lives with his wife in Bridgeport. He does not profess to be an expert in anything; he's just a big fan of the arts and is eager to make more sense of them. Direct comments or suggestions for interviews to

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15