Friday, June 24, 2011

In My Most Humble but Strong Opinion

My dad was known for being an opinionated man. He didn't mince words, but he did manage to mince a few relationships along the way. I always admired that about him: his ability to feel strongly enough about something to speak up and then not regret a single word he spoke. I have a nephew just like him whom I admire quite a bit for that same reason.

Me? I try to be diplomatic. I weigh virtually every word before it comes out of my mouth. I have a filter through which you could strain the finest of teas. Do I pretend to approve of something when I don't? No. But I do hold back more often than one might imagine.

Getting to my point: a friend sent me a link to this article this morning. He knows I write young adult (though "publish" isn't part of the definition of "write" for me quite yet) and, more importantly really, that I read it.

Now, I'm not quite as plugged into the YA writing community as I was even a year ago. I won't get into why because it's irrelevant. But I did forward the article to a good friend of mine, Brigid Kemmerer, who is coming out with her own amazing YA novel in May of 2012 (and I can't tell you how excited I am because it would make you all sad, honestly, to understand the level of my vicarious living). She replied to tell me she'd read the article already and that quite the hubbub was brewing over it. I hadn't heard a word about said hubbub ([1] see above line re: being unplugged, and [2] I feel about 112 when I say the word hubbub but can't seem to help myself).

And my response to her is below. This is my opinion. But it's a strong one. You can blame my father.

I just don't have the energy to get worked up over much these days. What's the point?

And all writers prey on their audiences. It's the nature of the business. You go after the readers you want. These particular authors were just pointing out how going after teen readers might seem a little icky, but at least they (the authors) are appreciated there. If anything, the writers were ragging on literary fiction.

It's also all about reliving high school. Not a single YA writer out there (myself included) can say they're not thinking about
being a teenager when they're writing about teenagers. To go back and do things differently--to be different--is virtually everyone's fantasy, and that's where the obsession with the paranormal comes in. Wanting to do it all over again is, by definition, fantastical. I mean, come on . . . people have been obsessed with youth since time began. We're just writing about it more now, and the thought of a bunch of 40-somethings out there doing this is comical in a pathetic (pathetic in the best possible way, of course, because those who write YA also read YA!) sort of way. I can admit that. These authors are admitting that. They're laughing at themselves, not the industry. They're being self-deprecating, not insulting.

As for the authors' assertions that the story is what matters and not the writing, of
course that's what matters! No one is calling Stephenie Meyer a literary genius. No one is calling J.K. Rowling that either, for that matter. Teens are much more caught up in their story, not how their story is told. It's a selfish audience being written to, so you write what they want to read. They want to focus on the angst of being them and on the necessary microcosms they build for themselves so their drama can continue to matter more than the impending apocalypse. If you're a good writer on top of that--on top of creating a great story--then so much the better, b/c then you'll get the reviews and the adult audience as well.

The people getting worked up over this article simply have misplaced priorities, in my opinion. In a world where most teenagers can't afford to buy a book or eat lunch before reading one or even read at all, getting upset about someone saying something that might possibly be interpreted as insulting to those writing for teens is absurd in the most selfish sense possible. If you're able to write and to publish and simply do what you love, then god bless. Seriously. Maybe these are the authors who write YA not because they want to relive high school but because they never really left it in the first place.


Brigid Kemmerer said...

Bobbie G, as always, I think you're brilliant. (And thanks for the shoutout!)

Nora B. said...

I loved the way your Dad and your Mom stood for their principles. I loved to listen to your dad give talks in church, and enjoyed his class so much.

Bobbie said...

Hi, Nora. I loved that about my Dad, too (and still do about my mom). He was always more outspoken than her, but she was no less opinionated. :-) And I loved those talks and lessons too. For me, not many can compare.

Nora B. said...

Hi Bobbie. Your dad was amazing, and your mom still is. When I moved to Virginia I often looked to her to see how to be. She is a very classy lady, and I'm honored to call her my friend. I have since moved back to Utah.

You are an excellent writer. I wish you much success in all you do.