Unfortunately, nowadays, I only get to see my brother once or twice a year, always at major holidays. In 2009, it was during my wedding in May and then again at Christmas. This year, I'm sure it will be during his wedding (in two weeks!) and again at Christmas. I'll also admit that my family isn't huge on phone calls. We talk on the phone maybe once a month, not because we don't love each other, but just because we are afraid of the brain tumors that cell phones obviously cause (just kidding - I think it's really the sweaty ear factor that turns me off.)
So when my brother visited during Christmas last year, I was catching him up on several months of my life. Our few phone calls had touched on the Big Stuff - how law school was going for him, how day job was going for me, whether I liked being married, etc. Then we started talking other life events, and I decided it was time he knew what I was spending every evening from 8pm - 11pm (times may vary) working on (my sister, a loyal blog reader, already knew. For the record, I love her too.). The conversation went something like this:
Me: So I'm writing a novel.I know what my brother was trying to say. He was assuming that I was using YA as some kind of easy-in (ha!) to establish a career, then I could write something more serious, literary fiction or something, when I was established. But I bet my entire Harry Potter collection that every YA writer winced a little when you read what he said.
Big Brother: Yeah? What about?
Me: It's a YA future dystopian novel.
Big Sister: It sounds really interesting, I really want to read it. (Told you she was loyal and I love her.)
BB: What does that mean?
Me: YA? Young adult.
BB: And that other thing? Dystopian? (I promise my brother is an intelligent guy. But he's more math/science, not as much English.)
Me: Like the opposite of utopia.
BB: Oh. So you're writing for young adults? What's that, like teenagers?
Me: Yeah, pretty much.
BB: So are you going to use a pen name?
Me: Why would I do that?
BB: So that when you get published you don't pigeon-hole yourself, and when you want to write real literature you can.
I've mentioned before my thoughts on the snobbery associated with YA lit, and how I hate when people assume that just because something is written/published as YA means it's easier to read. And when I was at my conference, I'll admit that I got more than a few side-glaces or mislaid pieces of advice when I told people I wrote YA (for example, multiple people told me, "You should write about angels! They're the next vampire!" Sure they are, if I have Becca Fitzpatrick's timing.) Ultimately, though, I found myself telling a lot of people why I chose to write YA - and when I explained it (aside from the fact that it's one of few markets where debut authors are actually getting published), everyone seemed to back off - my brother included.
So, why do I write YA?
Even more so, teenagers are going through such a crazy time. So much is happening, so much is changing. Many of them are looking for a place they can escape to, or they're looking for somewhere or someone like them, or they're looking for advice - I know when I was a teen, I turned to books for all of those things. That's why I write YA. For the undeniable chance to change a person. For life.
Why do you write YA, if you do? And if you don't, why did you choose the genre you love?
Special thanks to Heather Zundel for inspiring today's post. I kept thinking I would write something on this topic, and you can tell I've been gathering material for awhile, but her post today reminded me to finally do it.