In the box, out of the box

There’s nothing more fun and exciting than a brand new cardboard box to play in— just ask my kids, they’ll tell you. The day their father built them a house from the big old box the new washing machine arrived in, made for some pretty fun times in the Best household. Of course it took up a lot of space in the house but I knew it was temporary. I could put up with a little inconvenience for the sake of my kid’s pleasure, (Okay, I’ll be honest here)  that and the fact that it kept them out of my hair for hours on end.

Over the years the kids in my family have played in Carnation milk boxes, banana boxes, the aforementioned washing machine box, and in general any box large enough for a toddler to sit in without breaking the sides. Here’s a Cornfake box Guppy brought home form the store for Miss Charlotte.  It was a real hit.  She even took her “wittle house” home and now has it set up in her own living room. I’m telling you, these things are great. You could say I come from a long line of cardboard box enthusiasts. They’re fun, they’re free, they’re even biodegradable. What’s not to love?

Now, as much as the kids in the family love to play in boxes, and no doubt I was one of them back in the day, today I’m not so enthusiastic about boxes.

Today, when I got to thinking about that washing machine box, I started to think how ironic it is that, while kids love to play in boxes, most adults will do just about anything to stay out of the box. Being placed in a box is constricting, and leaves little or no room to move. Being in the box finds us labelled as this or that, people begin to predict our movements, there is nothing left for the imagination.

Last year when my book was short-listed for the Bilson Award the news came over facebook and twitter. Some of the tweets referred to me as kidlit author @ laura_a_best. I gotta say it sounded a bit weird. Felt a bit like I’d been suddenly placed inside a box and right away I knew I wasn’t happy there. Before that tweet I’d considered myself a writer, one who happen to have written a young adult novel. That day I felt the walls come up around me. I’d been labelled a “kidlit author.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re a writer and you’re happy calling yourself a kidlit writer, children’s writer or any other classification of writer, without feeling any restriction, that’s perfectly fine. But what if, like me, you do not write exclusively for kids, would you mind be labelled then? If I only wrote children’s stories I can’t say I’d mind. But I also write for adults.

I’m sure some of you are thinking what difference does it even make, you’ve been published? Stop whining. You’re probably also thinking that each author needs to have their own brand. I’ve had some time now to think about all this. While I still do not personally like the term “kidlit author,” I’m slowly coming to terms with who I am as a writer. Lately, I refer to myself as a YA writer, and that feels okay. Most of the projects I’m working on at the moment are in the genre. Just so you know, I don’t mind being in the box from time to time, but I reserve the right to come out and look around whenever I want.

Sorry, there are no photos of me in the Cornflake box for you to feast your eyes upon.. Maybe next time Miss Charlotte is home.

How do you feel about being labelled? Do you think it is a good thing or do you find it restricting?

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  • Publication date April 30, 2020. Available for pre-order NOW.

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