I had the opportunity to chat with actual teenagers yesterday at the family picnic. I’m young enough that I figure I’m pretty in tune with my target audience, but was I surprised. Today’s teens are much savvier than I ever was – am – fine, will be. I couldn’t help being impressed. (Then again, my cousins are above par. :grin:)
They reminded me what an honor it is to do what I do. We write for connection, and to be reaching out to people who are so fearless and smart, it makes you want to step up your game. Writing YA requires a different mindset, and that’s one reason I love it. You can’t take anything for granted in YA. You shouldn’t in adult fic, either, but everyone knows that teens have really fine-tuned BS meters.
To be honest, my audience inspires me, though I hope I can encourage them a bit, too. They push me to try harder and risk more. I talk to my cousins and hear about jobs and tests and schools, all things I stumbled through, but the vibe is different somehow. They will succeed because this is what they do. It’s refreshing.
They reminded me how big this world is, and to see it that way. To treat everything with value – it’s considered a fault that as teens our emotions make us overdramatic, how everything *is* the end of the world, but there’s something to be said for it. The joie de vivre and the utter despair – a full life is beautiful, and we grown-ups always need reminding.
I recently did a series of posts on achieving your goals and the common thread in them is that need for fullness. Life doesn’t have to be lived in grayscale. As we grow up and get burned and burned out, we get cautious. We lose the do-anything spirit of youth as our options dry up, as we live with our choices. Writing YA gives us our options back – in fiction and sometimes even in life. My younger cousin wants to be a writer, too. I said, just do it. He is. That’s so cool to me.
I’m not knocking adulthood at all – experiential wisdom is the shiz – but so often we don’t realize how much more we can be. Teens don’t have that problem. In my novel, AFTER YOU (Penguinw 2013, woo!), my main character says at a funeral, seventeen-year-olds are all potential. We forget that so are twenty-seven-year-olds and seventy-seven-year-olds. People are a fantastic mix of what was, what is, and what could be. Grown-ups get hung up on the was, the more was there is. (Say that three times fast.)
Writing YA is about confronting the could be. Bring it.
Jessica Corra eats, sleeps, and breathes words, and is only nominally crazy. She spends her days flouncing about Philadelphia and writing. You can read her blog here or stalk her on twitter here. She won’t mind.
Thanks so much for having me, Kait! 🙂
We have a group at church where women ranging from 30-52 get together with younger girls ranging from preteens to teens. We always have fun, and the older ones learn as much from the younger ones as vice versa. I think older adults would do well to listen to what teens have to say.
Love this post, and the reminder that, at any age, the possibilities are limitless. It’s so important to maintain a sense of wonder and optimism, which teens and kids have in droves. Think how much more hopeful a place the world would be if more people did that. Maybe we YA/MG writers can lead by example and change the world! LET’S DO THIS.
Agreed! I teach an Introductory Psychology course and I have always said that I learn so much from my students young and older. It is so revitalizing to see people reaching out to achieve their goals.