A new video in the “It Gets Better” series. I’m posting this because I found it on a book blog this week, watched it, and recognized something about halfway through the video. A group of authors share their “It Gets Better” message and they are wearing my husband’s high school’s sweatshirts. They were the group of authors who came to his high school a few weeks back. I was thrilled when I saw it! And very proud. Also, the video is very important and wonderful.
Last Christmas my city was buried by a snow storm that canceled the holiday. A few weeks later, J.D. Salinger died. Just before Valentine’s Day, the final book of the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay, was revealed and a thousand hearts exploded in anticipation. In March I traveled to Indiana to go hiking through the woods in order to discover the landscape of my novel and met John Green at a book signing in Indianapolis. In April bullying was the watch-word and authors, would-be-authors, and celebrities came out to tell their stories about bullying and to encourage kids not to let it define them or destroy them. I did too.
In May I switched from Blogger to WordPress and lost half of my graphics that I’m still trying to reconstruct in my archive. In June I experienced my first major burn out and my plot got lost on its way to chapter fourteen. I abandoned writing for several weeks just to feel normal again.
In July I hit up OSFest 2010 and wrote several extensive posts about character tropes which are what originally started luring new friends to my blog. I realized then I had something to share with the world.
I dedicated August to Hot Dystopian Summer Nights and wrote about some of my favorite books and genres. September was all about banned books and October I wrote every day about haunted things but embarrassed myself by calling it an October Blogfest but really meant a festival of blog posts. Whoops.
November was National Novel Writing Month and I started a new steampunk fantasy though I never hit 50,000 words. I wrote blog posts every day and cross-posted them over at Nathan Bransford’s forums where they were well received.
December I paraded out my Top 5 lists, caught the plague and wished for a swift death. I tried not to get buried beneath the shopping frenzy or be run over by psycho shoppers.*** I succeeded at one of these two things. Santa brought me The Mockingbirds and Anna and the French Kiss so 2011 will begin with some fine YA lit.
There were plenty of book contests out there. I gave away copies of Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor, and lots of others. I won Morgan Matson’s Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell, Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers. I discovered Melina Marchetta and fell in love with words all over again. I met the wonderful Victoria Caswell and I never miss a post by Em and Nora at Love YA Lit, also The Story Siren, or Steph Su Reads.
I discovered that authors are like anyone else (Carrie Ryan, Courtney Summers, Saundra Mitchell, Kiersten White, Melissa Walker), but are also amazing, involved, grateful, lovely and so full of kindness I can hardly put into words but try to model myself after every day.
I read 73 novels, 80 if you include how many times I reread Jellicoe Road and The Sky is Everywhere. I think this says something about my dedication to reading, but I also think it says something about the quality of books that are being published these days, particularly in YA.
I discovered Nathan Bransford’s forums and the crazy personalities that populate its streets and I can honestly say I will never be the same person I was before I met them. They forced me, at linguistical gun point, to become a better thinker. My writing became deeper, more complicated, my characters more diverse and complex, and during those moments where I thought I was done, couldn’t go on, wasn’t even sure I still wanted to, there they were with a hanky and hot chocolate, kind words, naughty jokes, and giant emoticon eyerolls that said “Oh hell girl, we’ve all be there. And we’re all still here. You’ll be fine.” They might not mean anything to you, but the names Margo, Mira, Quill, Polymath, Watcher55, J.T. Shea, bcomet, and sierramcconnell and so many others will always stand out in my mind as people who helped me Take The Next Step, question myself, and speak up without fear of reprisal or derision. I. Am. In. Awe.
Now we come to the final days. These final hours. One more day is gone and I wonder how many people realize there is no going back. No reset button, no do-over. I wonder if the people who say, “I do not have time to write a novel today,” understand that tomorrow is just as temporary? I’m not very old, 31 is the new 21 and all that, but I can’t help but think – did I make the last year worth every last second? Did I waste any of it and if I did, why? It isn’t like we can get it back when it is gone. And I think – am I going to waste any moment of 2011? Will my novel go another year without being finished and why would I allow that to happen? We cannot get back the time we’ve spent and I believe that if we do not spend it well we do not really deserve it.
Did you spend it well? Will you spend it better?
No resolutions.+ This isn’t a competition when you are only competing against your own ability to make excuses. If I do not finish that novel this year, then why am I writing it? Go big or go home right?
2011 will be the year I get out of my own way.
*** True story – a friend of mine got cussed out in a parking lot when he got to a parking spot before another shopper. She then stalked him and tried to run him over after he came out. People never cease to amaze me.
+ I lied, there is one resolution. For two years I have made a resolution to learn how to sew a button and for two years I’ve put it off and avoided the Closet of Coats with Lost Buttons. No more! This year I will learn to fix my own bloody buttons or I’m switching out all my clothes to Velcro.
Mockingjay has spawned dozens and dozens (and here, here, and here to name a few) of conversations about violence in young adult literature these past two weeks. The questions being asked are: “Is there too much violence in YA lit?” “Is there too much violence in Mockingjay?”
This is a subject I feel very strongly about, as you’ll see in a moment. This is honestly how I believe. And if you disagree? That’s ok! There are enough opinions and plenty of space for everyone to have their own view on the matter. This is just mine.
“Is there too much violence in YA lit?” I have two counter questions: 1) For whom is there too much violence and 2) Why is the violence there in the first place?
I think saying there’s too much violence in YA literature because young adults should not be exposed to violence is not a good reason to withhold books from kids. It doesn’t answer any fundamental questions about why the violence is there, what it teaches, what it means, and what it has to do with our world right now. As terrible as it is, there is violence and darkness and tragedy in the world and in the news. I’m not saying this is a good thing or a reason that violence should be acceptable, I’m saying that we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist to shield kids from those truths. They aren’t protected if they don’t have a good vehicle by which to ask questions and discuss the consequences of violence (as government against citizen in The Hunger Games.)
Questions we should ask about the violence: why is it important to the story line? What message does it convey? How do the characters react to the violence? How does it change the characters? The society? What does it say about our real world? What can we learn from it? Is it important?
Violence for violence sake is not good in general, but you don’t tend to find glamorized Hollywood violence in YA books. The violence almost always has a purpose. I’m not saying it always teaches that violence is bad, but it usually teaches something. In the hunger games, it teaches us about tyranny and the consequences of a society oppressed and abused and in Mockingjay it teaches us about war and revolution and power. This isn’t made up, it happens. It takes a real life problem and places it in a context that teens can understand and become invested in. Most American young adults will never have to face that kind of oppression, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t understand its existence or what it means when they read about it in the news. It’s an amazing way to open up discourse about these topics.
The same can be said of Sunrise Over Fallujah about war, or To Kill A Mockingbird about violence against women and race, or The Outsiders about social hierarchy and economic street war.
The other issue here actually borders on censorship- If we say there is too much violence in YA lit, it suggests to authors the need to censor their writings and messages into a more socially approved manner or that parents, schools, and libraries should withhold these titles from young adults.
It also suggests these authors singled out for violence in their books should be ashamed of themselves. And that sucks too.
All young adults are at different experience levels and different maturities. What one 13 year old can read and understand another may not be ready for. Age doesn’t even necessarily tell you whether a young adult is mature enough to be reading a book with violence in it. This goes back to individual young adults and their parents to decide, not one person to decide for another.
(I also think that if your kid’s teacher is teaching a book with violence in it, that is probably the BEST environment they’ll ever get to read a book like that where they get to ask questions and talk with an adult who can break down the material and open up discourse on difficult topics.)
It begs the questions: as adults are we uncomfortable with the violence? Are we uncomfortable talking about violence with our kids? And then do we project that discomfort on authors and books? Or are we concerned with exposing our kids to violence and somehow damaging them by it? As adults we have the tricky task of discussing violence with our kids in meaningful ways because the reality is by living in this world they aren’t shielded from it. They aren’t protected from it. They won’t remain innocent until their 18th birthday. They witness bullying in the school hallways, they watch war coverage on the news. It comes down to us saying “Violence is real, now let’s talk about what that means.” And if a popular young adult novel can serve as a contextual middle ground, then all the better.
On that note, I think this is a great time to segue into tomorrow’s post about Banned Book Week. I’ve already mentioned I’m participating in Steph Su’s Banned Book Week Challenge. Tomorrow, instead of Inspiration Point Friday, I’ll release my banned books reading list for the next month and some special projects for Banned Book Week 2010.