I try to always be reading a middle grade or young adult book (since these are the two age groups for which I write). Reading widely in your chosen age group and genre is essential for anyone who wants to be a published author. This way, you can see how successful (published) writers tackle subjects and get examples of writing that resonates with the target audience.
As I mentioned in my last post, though, my family just completed a cross-country move. During the weeks of disruption, I really needed some comfort reading—something I didn't have to think about or analyze—so I turned to several of my favorite dog-eared women's fiction novels.
It was surprisingly enlightening. Even though these books were obviously written for adults, with plenty of bad language, violence, and even a sex scene or two, they shared many elements with my kidlit favorites. The writing is spare, without any unnecessary words or overly flowery descriptions. Witty asides are just as funny for kids as for adults. And my favorite characters were fully developed, with believable motivations and understandable reactions.
I'm going back to my writing with a renewed sense of what's important. Although I'm going to be switching back to MG/YA for a while, I'll try to read outside my usual age groups more often. Good writing is good writing, no matter where it's shelved in the bookstore.