Saturday, May 5, 2007

Talking to my sister, prime target of the YA author.

At brunch today with my little sister (who's 13) and mom, my sister and I had a conversation on books. She said to me how she hates when books she likes are turned into movies. I asked her why, and she said it's because when she's reading, she's imagining the characters and what they're doing and how they look like, and she hates when she sees it on screen because it ruins that image in her mind.

That's as good of a reason as any, I suppose.

Later, me and my mom and sis went for a random drive on this beautiful day down to Princeton. There was a "Teen Book Bash" going on right outside the Princeton Public Library. Tables of YA books (mostly girl books, not surprisingly) and their authors, sitting around, ready to sign their books and talk to anyone who was curious. Seemed strange to me, because my sister seemed to be the only person in their target audience range around, but, hey, I don't know what they read down in Princeton.... Anyway, we went to a reading for a short bit, listened to this woman, Patricia McCormick, read from her new novel, Sold, a story about child prostitution trafficking in India and Nepal. Diminutive woman who seemed incredibly affected by the topic at hand, and almost brittle when answering questions on her experience writing the book. However, it was clear her passion for the issue, and for that, I was incredibly intrigued.

My sister then wanted to leave, even though there were more authors coming up to read afterwards - she decided she didn't like readings because they ruined the book for you. And the subject matter by Patricia McCormick was too heavy for her. Despite that it's about a 13 year old girl like herself, I don't think my sister has the maturity to deal with such a gut-wrenching , difficult topic. In so many ways, still an innocent young girl sheltered from the world... So we got up and left even as a new guy was getting up and explaining that he had written a book called Girls about, appropriately, a girl....

On the other hand, I was incredibly interested by all of these authors sitting around me, paging through each of their books. So many teenage chicklit books with their bubblegum covers, maybe 3 books written for boys - 2 of which were about basketball, with a third I can't really remember. Goes to show you they know who's reading at that age, although I sorta feel like maybe more people should try to write books that will make boys want to pick up a book more. But it made me wonder how these people came up with the stories they came up with, and who this fair was for. And why did they decide to pursue writing for this market? What made them come back down and empathize with the shy adolescent girls like my little sister and want to write books for them?

My sister has been clamoring me for some time now to write a book "for her". She wants a book dedicated to her and one she can read. The girl tends to be more picky than me in her taste in books though, despite that she liked the few I've recommended to her (recently, Elsewhere) and has hated books I loved as a child (Homecoming). I joke with her that if I wrote her a book, she'd probably hate it, but the truth is I wouldn't know what to write. It's true that at one point in time, I really wanted to write children's/YA books, but I don't know if I remember enough about what it was like to be that age to be able to write something appropriate, or rather, I wouldn't trust myself to be age appropriate with both style and subject matter. So it intrigues me that these authors here today, a whole bunch of people who continuously churn out stories written for people decades younger than them. I wonder what drives them, and how they decided upon this niche - such a tenuous, impressionable, important age. In a way, I feel like writing for the YA market is a huge responsibility, bigger than adults or young children. So I wonder how all of these authors decided that this was where they wanted to hit. What their vision as authors were.

Interesting how even when I'm taking a break, this thing about books and writing follows me everywhere.

1 drops:

moonrat said...

In Sweden, they have a neat rule--in order to be elligible for any of their prestigious national literary prizes, you have to have published a novel for children or for the YA market.

The theory: you can't be an artist if you're not contributing to society. If you purport to be a literary artist, you have to be contributing to literacy.

That's why there are so many great Scandinavian children's novels and series and writers--a lot of people take a stab at children's books to fill their quota, then realize that it's a lot more fun than adult books, anyway.

Eg Astrid Lingren. Among many others. Finn Family Moomintroll? Etc.

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