Monday, January 4, 2010

yi <3 ya (1)

It is my job to say what I think.

Or plagiarize Voltaire.

It was Voltaire, I believe, who actually first penned the immortal line, "I love YA."

Well, I think he used the emoticon, <3.

Way ahead of his time.

And I know this is going to make a bunch of people crazy, especially those who got really really pissed off at me over the last three days, but today I will confess: I am in love.

I love YA.

Let me tell you why.

I got my first professional writing gig when I was a teenager. So, I've been writing for quite a long time... if you do the math. It wasn't until about six years ago or so, that a great friend of mine (an author whom I'd known since those teen years) talked me into trying to publish a novel. So, I'm, like, okay... I've actually got this novel called Ghost Medicine, that I think is pretty good. I'll give it a whack.

This is absolutely true. So, before I started looking for an agent (because I knew that I would need one if I was going to be successful), I described my novel to my friend. Here's what happened:

FRIEND: Oh. That sounds like YA.

ME: YA? WTF is YA?

Seriously. I'd never heard of YA. I just wrote a novel with young characters, but I wrote it with the idea that I would be the person who'd read it.

Okay. So, if you were going to make a diagram of what constitutes YA, then, quite obviously one of the unifying characteristics of the non-genre is that the works involve characters that are "young."

I love writing about young characters (therefore I <3 YA) for a few simple reasons.

First of all, "Young Adults" are new at the game of making grown-up decisions. So, they're going to make mistakes. As a reader, it's a lot easier to forgive a kid for making a mistake than it is to forgive a forty-year-old stockbroker. So there's a natural emotional buy-in for characters who have the freedom to do lots of different -- and crazy -- things, but still don't get written off as "losers."

I <3 writing YA because of that.

Now, back in October, during Teen Read Week, I had the opportunity to stealthily observe an author of YA fantasy speaking to a group of high school students. I know... my bad... the author had no idea there was another "YA" author present.


Anyway, this author actually had the audacity -- when talking to kids about writing -- to say that there are no new stories that can be told, so if you aspire to be a writer, you'd better craft something that will excite and attract your prospective buyer.

I'm not kidding. The author actually said that to kids. No new stories. When I looked through the author's book, I wasn't surprised to see it was a fantasy with a big war, elves, and wizards.

I'm not kidding about that, either.

But, whether or not this author's conviction that there are no new stories is valid (and I -- in the most self-esteem-preserving way possible -- think this author is a nut-job), "Young Adults" always tend to see themselves as being totally unique. Kids can't possibly believe that anyone else in the world is living a story exactly like their own.

Kids who embrace that idea have the right stuff to get started on the road to writing, and I love (<3) the thought of empowering kids to believe they can become authors.

And I believe that, too. Every kid, and therefore every valid YA character, has a story that is unique, and potentially worthy of being told and listened to.

That's another reason why I <3 YA.

Making you crazy?

I'm just getting started on this.

[Author's Note: My New Year's Resolutions did include the abstention from ever using exclamation points, the word "awesome," and emoticons. I apologize.]