Friday, June 10, 2011

Why I write YA/MG

Ghenet Mrythil and Gabi (of Iggi & Gabbi) are hosting this blogfest, in part because of #YAsaves discussion generated by article titled Darkness Too Visible which appeared in the Wall Street Journal last Sunday.

I'm definitely in agreement with the opinion of agent Janet Reid and my blogging friend Lisa Gail Green about this article. Some young adult books do broach dark subjects, and I think they should. Everyone needs to know they are not alone in whatever troubles they face in this world, and I'm all for books that can give teens some insight into some of the darkness they will encounter sooner or later in this life.

But our hosts want to know, why do we write YA? "Why is YA so important that as writers we choose to write it above all else?"

I came up with three reasons. Though I'm sure once I've read the other responses I'll add some more to this list.

1) When I made my list of my favorite all time books a few years ago, I noticed that 9 out of the top 10 were YA/MG. These were books I fell in love with between the ages of 9-14, and I STILL RE-READ them and LOVE them as an ADULT. When I started writing, I wrote without thinking if it was for adults or for children. The list helped me realize I wanted to write for children and teens, because of those books I loved and never "outgrew". Great YA/MG books will leave an impression that lasts a lifetime. I sometimes wonder if the greatest and most lasting impressions are those that are made as children - I'd be curious to see if you agree/disagree?

2) But why specifically do I love YA/MG books? I've heard other YA lovers say it's because it's all about firsts - first fight, first love, first betrayal... this is true, but there's more to it than firsts, for me. Mike Duran wrote this great article about how as an adult, he was amazed by C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, a children's series. Lewis made the point of distinguishing between books aimed at the “childish” and the “childlike.” There is an assumption by some adults that YA is “childish,” an intellectual downgrade...but I disagree. Anyone who has read the Narnia books, or Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, or Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light,  knows that YA/MG can be just as full of depth and meaning as adult novels. But the reason why I love YA is this “childlike” quality that still comes through, a spirit of wonder, awe, imagination - that anything is possible.

3) Another reason why I write YA/MG is that I've learned some really important lessons so far in life, and I wish I could go back and tell my younger self about it all. On the opposite side, I think I managed to avoid some thorny situations as a teen because I'd had my nose in lots of books and I learned good stuff from them, stuff that I might have scoffed at if my parents had tried to push it on me. Stories are a great way to teach or to pass on knowledge and experience without being preachy or overbearing. #YAsaves - I really believe in this.

What's your favorite YA/MG book(s)? Please tell me - I love discovering new gems. And what do you think about my question above? Are the greatest/most lasting impressions of our lives made when we are children?

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