I just read a really funny post called “Six things not to ask a writer” at The Blood Red Pencil. Now, I am only a really, really new baby writer so, often I am happy to be asked any question at all about my writing. I’m just happy that’s my job now! But there are some common questions that people ask me as a YA writer that do confound me slightly:
- YA fiction? What’s that? Oh! Kid’s books!
- Do kids even still read these days?
- How can you write from the point of view of a teenager when you’re so clearly much older than a teenager?
- What, do you think you’re going to write the new Twilight (hahahaha)?
- Isn’t that a bit of a childish thing to do (and yes, I have actually been asked this)?
- Well, it must be much easier to write a YA book than an adult book, mustn’t it? And my personal favourite:
- Do you think you’ll start writing real books one day?
My answer to all of these questions is … complete and utter, dumbfounded silence. Well, apart from number two. Number two I could talk for hours on, but the simple truth is, most adults wouldn’t find my answer in any way interesting. And that’s really disappointing.
The only bad thing about this whole YA writing thing is realising how many adults, apart from those involved in the YA sector – writers, librarians, teachers etc. – don’t actually give two hoots about YA literature. They think it’s a secondary art. They think it must be much easier to write a YA book than an adult book because, obviously, teenagers are less demanding about quality when it comes to their fiction. They think most teens don’t even read anyway. Having worked in a bookshop for two years – one that is regarded as quite “literary” – I have encountered so much literary snobbery when it comes to YA fiction. That’s why it’s so heartening to see the kids fighting back. In Hobart, we have a branch of the John Green fanclub, Nerdfighters, who are no passionate about reading that they go around bookshops turning John Green titles face out (and Stephenie Meyer ones back to front, but that’s another story). I lost count of the number of times I had exciting, passionate chats with teenagers about their favourite books. I also lost count of the number of times I had to apologetically tell a teenager that no, the next book in whatever series is not out yet and see theire face crumple in disappointment.
The number of times I had the same experiences with an adult? I could count them on one hand.
Teens are passionate about their literature. They DO demand quality. They do still read, and with more fervour than most adults.
And, by the way, the reason I can write from the POV of a teenager? Because I’m not cynical. Because I still have hope for the future. Because I still see life as huge and exciting and dramatic and wonderful. Because I don’t take myself too seriously. Because I value the opinions and company of teenagers and my greatest dream is to give something back to them with my writing.
My aim, now, is to remember all I just said for the next time people ask me if I aim to write “real” books. I’ll also ask them if, one day, they might take the time to actually talk to a teenager about whether they think their life, concerns, passions and loves are “real”.
I’m sure that our witty, eloquent teenagers would give them a better answer to that question than I am able to give.