With this essay, Vanessa Joosen wants to contribute to greater awareness regarding age. She argues for more openness about age norms and more dialogue between different generations. To this end, she focuses on people who engage in such a dialogue on a daily basis. For this book, she interviewed twelve British, Dutch and Flemish authors: David Almond, Aidan Chambers, Anne Fine, Ed Franck, Guus Kuijer, Bart Moeyaert, Aline Sax, Hilde Vandermeeren, Joke van Leeuwen, Edward van de Vendel, Jacqueline Wilson and Anna Woltz. Most of them wrote books for both children and adults. Joosen specifically went looking for authors who debuted at a very young age or who have a long writing career behind them. How do they manage to bridge that distance?
The oeuvres of ‘crosswriters’ or ‘dual audience authors’ who write for both children and adults form the perfect touchstones for research on the similarities and differences between children’s literature and literature for adults. By means of stylometry, a digital research method that aids in studying style, the works of ten Dutch and English language dual audience authors were examined. Are there similarities to be found across the oeuvres of these authors? And are there differences within one author’s books that are targeted at different age groups? To research these questions, the target audience and the publication date were factors that were taken into account. By including interviews with the authors, the researchers also considered the writers’ views on style and readers. The main conclusion drawn from the case studies is that the style of the texts usually correlates more strongly with the age of the intended reader than with the time period in which the texts were written. In other words, books for young readers share more similarities than those for adult readers.
Haverals, Wouter, Lindsey Geybels & Vanessa Joosen. ‘A Style for Every Age: A Stylometric Inquiry into Crosswriters for Children, Adolescents and Adults’.
Language and Literature, vol. 31, no. 1, 2022, pp. 1–23.
Bart Moeyaert has been writing for decennia. Ever since his debut, Duet met valse noten (which was published when he was nineteen years old), he has acquired great fame both in Belgium and internationally. In 2019, he won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, perhaps the most important international prize voor children’s literature. His personalexperiences and the age phases he went through influenced the ways in which his authorship evolved. Four experiences were especially important: meeting the British children’s literature author Aidan Chambers, writing early reader books, performing for broad audiences, and being the Antwerp city poet. These factors all contributed greatly to his personal and artistic beliefs, and to his ideas on what his readers and society in general were in need of.
Joosen, Vanessa. ‘Bart Moeyaert as Writer, Author, Performer, and Public Figure: “That’s Also What Literature Can Be”’.
Views on age not only determine the stories in children’s books, but also have an impact on the field of children’s literature. A lot of attention is paid to the dynamics between children and adults. While you could consider children and adults as two different age groups, you could also see them as part of a continuum made up of an array of age phases that gradually merge into each other and that show many similarities. The ‘difference model’, ‘deficit model’, and ‘kinship model’ are approaches that are used to research such topics. Bart Moeyaert has always criticised the distinction between children’s literature and adult literature. Throughout his writing career he has been through different age stages while expressing varying age norms. As he got older, he put more emphasis on the kinship between children and adults. In his novels, he depicts adults who missed out on a lot because they didn’t spend enough time with their children, but he also evokes role models who show what is to be gained by the kinship between young and old.
Joosen, Vanessa. ‘Van kind naar kinship : de constructie van leeftijd in de literatuuropvattingen van Bart Moeyaert in de loop van zijn schrijverschap’.
Spiegel der Letteren, vol. 63, no. 1–2, 2021, pp. 89–112.
Duet met valse noten (1983) started as a diary when Bart Moeyaert was twelve years old. When it was discovered by an older brother, Moeyaert transformed it into a novel about first love. Young authors who use experiences and desires prompted by real life as material for stories are often considered experts on such matters. Given the fact that they are young themselves, they are said to attract readers in a special way. Texts by young authors are often adjusted and marketed by adults working in the field. For some researchers, such adult interferences impede the authenticity of the young author’s voice. When examining the writing process of Duet met valse noten, it appears that quite a few people had a say in adjustments to the manuscript, including young people. Apparently, Moeyaert himself was not happy with some revisions, although they did influence his development as a poetic writer.
Joosen, Vanessa. ‘Writing when Young: Bart Moeyaert as A Young Adult Author’.
European Journal of Life Writing, vol. 10, 2021, pp. BB65–BB83.
How can you show which ideas regarding age are passed on in and via children’s using digital tools, among other methodologies? A first step is the assembling of digitised texts, which we acquired thanks to publishers, authors and the DBNL. Those texts generate masses of data, which means that it comes down to making choices. We looked into how often characters from certain age groups are depicted speaking in books, and whether differences are to be found regarding gender. We also wanted to find out which topics these characters talked about, and whether differences in age could be revealed. Books by Bart Moeyaert and La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman formed touchstones for these first steps. The observations and hypotheses that were the result of this particular study serve as guidelines for further research.
Joosen, Vanessa.‘Constructing Age for Young Readers’.
International Research in Children’s Literature, vol. 14, no. 3, 2021, pp. 252–268.