Tuesday, January 5, 2010

yi <3 ya (2)

Let me tell you again how much I <3 YA.

Text to YA: 831

I know. Sometimes I make myself sick.

There is this great task that goes along with writing for young people, and writing about young people's lives. It's more than a responsibility, I think. Because people who write about the young adult experience -- and these books will invariably end up in the hands of "adults of all ages" (to quote my friend, Ellen Hopkins) -- get to pass down everything we know, everything we have witnessed and experienced as we've passed those same milestones on the journey to adulthood.

And all of those things range from experiences that approach holiness in their beauty to those which present the most difficult challenges and harshest images of reality. It's all part of the experience of becoming an adult, and it's also why I feel so strongly about confronting issues and having the freedom and guts to put it all out there.

That's why I love YA.

And when I read a really great YA novel -- I mean a really great one -- I know that author feels this same sense of satisfaction with, at least, attempting to fulfill that task.

There are lots of good YA novels out there -- and a few of them are really great. But I don't make "Best Of" lists, and I don't review the works of other authors. That's not my job. I said what my job was a few paragraphs ago.

I love my job.

I love waking up every day, getting a cup of coffee, and sitting down to work on my projects (I have two of them going on at the moment). I even love the feeling of not knowing whether I'm completely insane -- and writing stuff that is absolute crap.

But because I kind of fell into this non-genre of YA, over the past few years I've become unintentionally connected to schools and Young Adult librarians all over the country. And I really love that.

From the kids in Pennsylvania who made a podcast discussion of one of my books, and the kids in Wisconsin who enjoyed my latest novel during their Teen Read Week celebration, and the dozens of schools and thousands of students I've visited here in California, it's all been one of the most powerful and rewarding experiences I could ever imagine: it's about connection and communication with "Young Adults" who maybe see something of themselves, their friends, or their lives in the words YA authors give them.

That's why I love YA.

But, and I'll end this series on Why I Love YA with this, the number one reason why I love YA: It's when I hear from that one individual out there -- that isolated "Young Adult" -- who says something like, "Your book was the first book I ever read all the way through. When are you going to write another one?"; or kids who have the guts to sit down with me, one-on-one, and say "I really want to be a writer one day. What should I do when I get out of high school?"; and, especially the "Young Adult" readers out there who've sent me letters and emails about how much they loved my book, how it made them think about themselves, their friends, or their brothers, in a different way.

It doesn't get any better than that.

That's why I love YA.

This past year, I've had the opportunity to "get out there" more, and visit with readers, students, librarians, booksellers, and schools -- most likely because I'm a cheap date (I listed on Mrs. Nelson's forthcoming author directory that I would do a school visit for a T-shirt. Chino Hills High gave me a totally cool hat). Anyway, a lot of YAs have asked me for advice about writing.

I've posted "Advice for Writers" bits on here before, but tomorrow I'm going to give my honest, not-messing-around-with-your-heads, advice for kids... er, young adults, about what you should do if you want to become a writer.