Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Flashback: Teen Truth

All of us who write YA, Middle Grade, or any genre really, have been asked the question ‘why do we write what we do?’ I know I have popped off a quick answer without thinking too hard on it. I might have said the voices in my head belong to an angry teenager most days so it made sense to write YA. Or that it was the most fun or…whatever. But that’s not entirely true.

Some of us look back on our teen years with a rosy recollection of prom dates and pep rallies but you know that’s not how it really was, at least not all of the time. That was just what floated on the surface for the rest of the world to see. It was the mask we wore. Most of the time it was painful, confusing, terrifying, and…if we were lucky…punctuated by short flashes of pure joy.

Another blogger wrote once of ‘a joy like pain’. I will never forget it. That feeling is like an old friend. It still visits once in a while, when I look at my child or I see my husband unexpectedly in a crowd, but never as often as when I was a teenager.

Many teens spend those years being afraid of being too…anything. Too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, too smart, or too stupid. We want to stand out as special, and blend in at the same time. We are just finding out that our parents were right. Life isn’t fair, and every part of us wishes we had the power to change that.

But mainly it’s about choices. We just didn’t know it at the time. Every choice moved us farther along the path to where we are today. Even the little ones. Sleeping with Tommy might not have been the smartest choice but it helped shape who I am. Fighting his ex-girlfriend might have been stupid but she became my best friend and we stay in touch to this day (Tommy is married with four daughters-that is sooo punishment enough).

The truth is…I write YA because it’s about a time in life when anything is possible. You are teetering on the edge of fantasy and reality, between being a child and becoming an adult. One foot is still in a world of Santa Clause and monsters under the bed…and the other is making college plans and future career decisions.
The world is spread before you like a buffet of what ifs.

All you have to do is choose.


  1. I agree, great post!

    Teen years had some really wonderful moments, but you're right, the not-so-rosy ones are there, too. I think that's part of what shapes us as adults. We (hopefully) learn from our mistakes, and encourage our strengths.

    Cool new background, Marsha!

  2. Awesome post!! And man. The life isn't fair lesson can be such a hard one to learn--AND accept!

  3. Boy I wish I could go back and time and right all the wrongs of my youth. I'd LOVE a do over however I wouldn't be who I am today without al those wrongs. I'm afraid if I wrote YA it would be way too gritty. I wrote a bunch of stuff I thought was YA but was corrected, it was MG.

  4. I agree with your last paragraph. I wouldn't say my teen years were all that enjoyable. But STILL I recall parts of it with such fondness. It's the same with my single days in my late 30s, after my divorce but before my remarriage. What I went through then reminded me so much of adolescence and how, as you said, anything's possible. I don't think that's the case once you're married and especially once you have children. So maybe for us it's a way we can revisit our youth and maybe try to get it right this time...through our characters.

  5. I think I write YA because adults are boding and I don't want to be one :)


It helps to know I'm not just talking to myself.