September 20, 2015

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: AGAIN! About Writing for Young Adults/Teens/New Adults the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #2417 (page 53). The link is provided below…

PG-13: Violence, Sex, and Teen Readers: When writing for teens or choosing books for young adults to read, is there a PG-13 line that needs to be drawn? Is there more violence, sex, and alcohol in young adult books today or have we just become more aware of it? And what the f’ing language kids are using in books? How does a writer address difficult or sensitive topics without going too far? Panelists discuss the danger zones within young adult fiction. Darlene Marshall (m), Wesley Chu, Fonda Lee, Jenn Reese, Alaina Ewing

You know, I was going to rant here, asking what these writers know about young people today; and while some of them are “young”, Chu’s bio doesn’t appear to give him a lot of contact with young adults – except for the fact that he’s just shy of thirty and might still be considered “young”. Fonda Lee has one book and her resume is impressive – but has nothing to do with young people, except for the fact that she’s young. Jenn Reese has been writing for many years, almost entirely in the YA genre. Alaina Ewing is a relative newcomer but has one other book in the YA genre. Moderated by romance writer, Darlene Marshall, this must have been an interesting panel. As I read about these folks, I found my focus shift.

I confess that I am puzzled. I am sure that all of these people were young adults once.

I am sure that all of these people have some number of young adults in their lives.

I am certain that I have wondered why Judy Blume’s book, THEN AGAIN MAYBE I WON’T, is still in print as I can’t imagine what she could possibly know about a boy going through puberty who is on the road to becoming a peeping tom. She could have probably written more convincingly about a what it was like growing up as a slave girl in the South and I’d have been more convinced. (But then, “Judy is a longtime advocate of intellectual freedom. Finding herself at the center of an organized book banning campaign in the 1980's she began to reach out to other writers, as well as teachers and librarians, who were under fire. Since then, she has worked tirelessly with the National Coalition Against Censorship to protect the freedom to read.” [] It may be that questioning her writing is unwise, so I am NOT questioning her writing, I’m just wondering at the level of experience with the subject matter. OTOH, I have never lived in the clouds of a Jovian planet, either, so my right to write that story could easily be called into question.)

To the subject at hand, I wonder a couple of things: What do these authors know about how kids in a high school talk today and what kind of language they use?

Also – if these novels take place in the future, on another world, or in a magical place, how can anything be “wrong” or go “too far”?

My bigger question is if authors attempting to be relevant, address issues, or be “edgy” and are proud of their work – do they ever wonder what their YA/Teen/NA audiences think? Can we be edgy today, as we’re writing, only to find that we’re passé by the time the story comes out.

Even with my own writing, I wonder if what I have to “say” matters. I think I’m addressing issues and providing an entertaining story, but AM I?

Are ANY of us old folks (aka: “YA writers”)?

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