Kiwi author Tom E. Moffatt on writing for 9 to 12 year olds

As part of Kiwi Middle Fiction Month, we talk with Rotorua author Tom E. Moffatt about why he likes writing for 9-12 year old readers.

Tom creates fantastic joke books to encourage Kiwi kids to laugh and develop their own comedy and joke-telling skills. He also writes bonkers short stories with hilarious scenarios and mind-twisters which appeal to loads of young readers.

We love Tom’s comments  below that local authors help inspire Kiwi kids to write their own stories… Read on!

Why do you like writing for the 9-12 age group?

I love writing for 9-12 year-olds because you’re not restricted to simple language like you are with younger readers, yet the kids haven’t grown too serious yet. You can play and tinker and have fun with words and characters and plot ideas. My inner child gets to poke and prod interesting storylines and perspectives.

And with an eight- and a ten-year-old at home, I soon find out if I’m being too silly or not silly enough.

What inspires your writing?

The seeds that inspire my fiction could come from anywhere. A conversation with my kids, a random thought or dream, even other books or movies. But each seed must be planted and nurtured. Fed and pruned. Many of those seeds come to nothing, but with continued effort and attention, some sprout into short stories, chapter books, or even an entire series.

Jokes originate more from perspiration than inspiration. I choose a topic that has scope for a few laughs, then I brainstorm words, phrases, and idioms around that theme. When I find punny soundalike words, like sent/scent and tuna/tuner, or interesting expressions, such as cooking up a storm or on a roll, I shape them into jokes. Some work, some don’t, but I keep going until I have at least five jokes every day. Many of those won’t make the final cut, but after days, weeks and months of wrangling words, I have enough jokes to fill a new book.

Why do you think it’s important for Kiwi kids to read Kiwi authors?

The big-name authors are great for getting kids into reading. But they don’t encourage the next generation of writers. It’s local authors who do that. When a child meets an author during a school visit, a book signing or at a local market, they discover that authors are real people, which—hopefully—inspires them to write their own stories.