Our last class meeting was notable for what we didn’t achieve: namely, a hard-and-fast definition of what writing-for-kids “should” be like. Comparing and contrasting my two Red Riding Hood stories (“I Shall Do Thee Mischief in the Wood,” and “Lupe,” both, interestingly, in anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling) produced some surprising similarities, and an important difference in tone.

Is there an adult obligation to tell young readers the truth? Absolutely: we all agreed on that. But is there an instinct to temper the truth with hope, insofar as that truth permits? Some of the students weren’t so sure that protection was what was required; others wondered if truth were subject to a certain elasticity when it came to ideas and behaviors sanctioned, and desired, by adults.

The students who spoke were articulate and strong-minded. Wish the discussion could have continued. . . .At any rate, we all have a firmer idea of how porous the boundaries are, when one writes for young people, and how difficult it can be to make one rule address all cases.