Why Not YA?

When I was a teenager, the summer before I started high school, my Horizons-Upward Bound English teacher read an excerpt from my manuscript, Fatal Obsession (yes, that’s really what it was called; I was tweleve when I started it). She suggested that I should be writing Young Adult Fiction right now (which was, of course, at age 14). I never did that. I don’t know why I didn’t then, but as the years passed, my interest in YA fiction passed as well. Once I wasn’t a “young adult” literature wise (I still consider myself a young adult in real life, LOL), I never read or wrote any fiction in that genre.

The other day when I came across the note my teacher had scribbled on a copy of FO, I wondered about finishing it (I even mentioned it in The Girl Who Couldn’t Commit). The story is good. I love those characters. Why not finish this book? Why not shop it around for publication? Because it probably wouldn’t sell.

I wasn’t a typical teenager (I mean, I was writing a novel at 12! Hello!), and the things I wrote, while about teenage issues, weren’t typical of teenagers I knew. That way more true today. My main characters didn’t have sex or go drinking as a matter of course (although, my victim did those things when she was in her “bad girl” phase); those behaviors were the atypical ones in my story. The trend now seems to be having characters more in line with the characters in the movie Cruel Intentions than the books I grew up with.

I’m not ready to “get real” and admit that most teens are going around sleeping with everyone in my fiction. I don’t want to write what to me amounts to adults with teenaged emotions. Compared to Twilight or the Zoey books that were coming out when I left my YA phase, my character’s downward spiral is akin to her joining the real world.

As a teenager, I felt passionately about things. I wanted to be in love and have a boyfriend (I didn’t have a real boyfriend, someone I went on a date with, until my early twenties…told you I was abnormal). I had a crush I wrote awful poetry about (I’m lying; my poetry was wonderful :D). But to be quite honest, if my crush had become my boyfriend, I wouldn’t have known what to do with him. I would’ve been angry if he tried to hook up with me. I wasn’t that type of girl (and I’m still not). Most of my characters aren’t those types of girls, either.

So I admit it. I’m out of touch. I can write about peer pressure. I know about bullying. I can even write about those soul-rending emotions that we all had as teenagers that we just knew we would die from. But I can’t write about teenagers having sex as if it’s no big deal, as if they are mature enough to decide they want to sleep with all of these people and have babies. As if it’s legal for them to get drunk at 16 and not remember hooking up with that guy/girl last night. If that’s the current market, Fatal Obsession is fatally wounded, and will be buried until I die. I’m sure my well meaning husband (should he survive me) or children will discover it and publish it posthumously, when it’s really antiquated.

What do you think? Have I been given the wrong impression of YA Fiction? Is there a market for old fashioned values? What are you not willing to do to sell a book?

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Multicultural Reading Suggestions

Zora Neale Hurston, beating the hountar, or ma...

Zora Neale Hurston.Image via Wikipedia

Since I spent yesterday lamenting my love/hate relationship with the AA section, I wanted to spend today helping people diversify their reading list. I will be the first to admit that the AA section of most bookstores is not overflowing with great literature. You may have to go to Amazon, Overstock, or a bookstore website to get the books I would argue are worth reading, but it’s worth the extra effort (I recommend the library, as well. They usually have great exchange programs with other libraries if they don’t carry the book you want).

The selections that I am going to give you are composed from two sources: books I’ve read and books on my to be read list. I encountered many of them through classes such as Native American Literature, Women in Literature, African-American Literature, and through my own stumbling attempts to find other works by authors of short stories I liked from class. I will give you a very brief overview of what each book is about (what I remember). Feel free to take up any suggestions, and add your own in the comments section. *Note: These list is multicultural in that several cultures are represented here. No other claims of multiculturalism are being made.

  • The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston: I’ve read this book for classes at least three times, from junior year of high school to Women in Literature, this one keeps cropping up, and for good reason. Maxine Hong Kingston is the child of Chinese immigrants, born in America. She’s also edited a Best American Short Stories collection and written other books. This is a memoir.
  • There Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: This is the only book on the list I’ve read more than The Woman Warrior. I’ve read this ins Great American Books, African-American Literature, Zora Neale Hurston Major Author Study, Women in Literature, high school–everywhere, and once just for fun. This has some of my favorite literary quote. If you have issues trying to read vernacular, it can be tough going in spots, but Hurston’s prose it beautiful.
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez: The story of a Spanish family (Puerto Rican, I think), whose daughters go through the identity crises brought up being raised in America in a different culture. The girls struggle to identify themselves and be acceptable to both their family and society.
  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo: Yes, I actually read this for a class. It is a novel about Italians and Italian-Americans, primarily in New York. Aside from some harsh language and violence, the story portrays the life of struggling immigrants, a little race relations in the poor areas of town, certain ideas that are associated with the Italian-American culture (loyalty and family), and the rise of mob/crime families.
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: I’m sure many of you have read (and loved) Jane Eyre. If you’re like me and wondered about the wife in the attic (and thought she was done a disservice in that book), you may be interested in Wide Sargasso Sea. WSS tells the story of that wife, from her upbringing in the Caribbean to the fateful fire in Jane Eyre.
  • Love Medicine by Louise Erdich: A Native American novel encompassing generations of a Native American tribe. It’s a complicated one to try to explain, but well worth a read. It’s interesting to follow the evolution backwards and forwards in time and see the impact of losing their ancestral lands and their quickly disappearing languages and culture. Erdich’s writing is lyrical and crisp.
  • Persepolis by Majane Satrapi: The story of a woman’s early life to adult growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. Satrapi’s narrative shifts to her schooling in France as well. Told as a graphic novel in black and white, there are two books/parts to the tale. I bought the complete Persepolis. It’s a fast read and a rare look into a much maligned or misunderstood culture.

I’m going to have to break this up a bit. I’ll add more in the next post.

Happy Reading!

Let’s Talk Books

I’ve been spending so much time lately going over my current projects that I haven’t said a word about books or reading in quite some time. Reading is an essential part of my day, no matter what it is that I’m reading. I read several times a day. In the last few days, three Harlequins have met their match (all very good, by the way ;-)). But I have also been reading other books.

During my lunch break, I’ve been reading One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead (I think; going off memory). This book is all about consumerism and the wedding industry. I still have a little bit of book left, so I can’t give a full review, but I will say that Mead’s reasearch is thorough, and some of her findings are startling, to say the least. She also raises some big questions about why weddings are now so expensive, what we’ve been trained to think about them, and what big, expensive weddings are supposed to replace. I can’t wait to finish and review.

Also sitting on my shelf at the moment: Pledged: another nonfiction, investigative reporting style book investigating sororities. From the cover and introduction, it seems she focused on white sororities (that, and most non-white sororities are less likely to talk to her about their rituals and ways, seeing as though she is Caucasian, a non-member, and a member of the media); a book about a woman’s 40 day & night solo sojourn into the desert after a divorce (this is non-fiction as well); What Frenchwomen Know About Love, Sex and Men–pretty self explanatory, I should think; Faith Evans’ memoir, and; Heather Hunter’s attempt at fiction.

As you can see, their isn’t a lot of fiction; in fact, it leans heavily to investigative reporting style exposés and memoirs. While this is easier to jump back into (I usually read at lunch, while waiting, and in the evenings at home when I can), I can only guess the reason why I focused so heavily on these is because I’m going to be working on an investigative reporting style similar to Mead and others for the Marriage Kit book, and I’m going to be working on  a memoir of my college years. I’m taking a look at what works and doesn’t work in the genres, I guess you could say.

Does what you’re looking to write ever change what you are primarily reading? Are you a writer who stays away from all romance novels while you’re writing romance, or does your readership in the genre you are attempting to write in increase? How do you work reading into your day and not end up crowding out writing?