I was welcomed home from an amazing SCBWI writing retreat by this adorable pooch...and a 48-hour, internet-free power outage. Thus the delay in this post. Well, one delay. The bigger one was the world turning upside down. Terrorism, grief, a world filled with pointing fingers and people crossing their arms against compassion--and people showing immense love and compassion. And I sit here, now shame-faced for complaining about my two days without a dishwasher.
I've written and deleted several blog posts today. I've been thinking about the kind of diversity we are privileged to be able to demand in the publishing industry...of how our perception of the events of Wikileaks may change now...of the disturbing array of reality-star-style individuals who make up the sad majority of our options for president in next year's election...of my friends in the military and their children and what this terrorism may mean for their families...of my own sons and the world into which I brought them...
I wonder if the world is unimaginably different since last Friday (I also wondered this on September 11, 2001, when my third son was not quite one year old). I wait, but no answers come. No reassuring words leap from my fingers to the keyboard to this post. I'm sorry.
In this intense, focused workshop open to writers in grades 7 to adult, Sara will discuss backstory, likeability, and the intersection between plot and character. Bring paper & pencil, some pages of your work-in-progress, or just the most amazing character name you can invent!
REGISTRATION is preferred but not required (though clicking the registration link will also lead you to more details). Sara is a thoughtful, intelligent and highly supportive teacher--a not to be missed class!
I just watched a CNN documentary called "Being 13: Inside the Secret World of Teens." Short form: Kids use their phones too much and often unwisely.
While my first thought was that social media could not be ALL THAT BEING 13 was about, my second though was, WHOA. Could social media be playing such a massive part it the world of MANY TEENS that this is the sum-total of the not-all-that-scientific CNN report?
I have heard mystery and horror authors comment on the challenges of writing thriller-style plots in the age of the CELL PHONE. I mean, how many times can a battery die or a teen find him/herself on a wi-fi-free island? But, I think this is only the tip of the iceberg.
An anecdote: As an alumni interviewer for my undergraduate school, I am given a roster of teens and told that they should make first contact with me (instead of my tracking them down). Their first method is almost always email--I was astonished when one kid actually phoned me. Thinking about this, I've realized that even my sons prefer to be reached via text (versus old-school call). Perhaps the cellphone/text/IM dynamic has changed teens' comfort levels over interpersonal interactions. In writing fiction, it would be implausible for a kid to work out pick-up logistics with a parent via phone call, or for a group of teens to arrange a club meeting by anything other than group text. And this leads us to the use of acronyms and other lingo that seep into all forms of dialogue--even the spoken kind--such as when my son says, "JK, mom" (just kidding).
As I revise my current novel, I have added another (and there are MANY) manuscript read-through for TECHNOLOGY. As I re-read the text, I ask myself:
Would this really be a conversation, a text, or something else?
If a character is having difficulty communicating with a parent or other older adult, how might social media help/interfere/be implied?
Is there enough social media in the text to make the lifestyle of the protagonist seem realistic?
To what types of social media does my MC subscribe? Does my MC use internet technology in other important ways (e.g., YouTube, watching NetFlix, restricted school web services)?
What kind of phone does the protagonist have, where does s/he keep it, what are the school rules about phones, etc.?
Without being too trendy, are there technology-based expressions that might authenticate dialogue or description in the story?
Are there any plot gaps that might be helped/hindered by internet access?
Wow, another revision layer. Ugh. And TTFN (okay, that's an oldie, but you get it).
After reading, and loving, DEVOTED in preparation for a writing retreat, something joggled in my brain and I pulled a title from my sorrily epic TBR pile: THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST. What a read-beside pair! Both titles deal with teen girls who feel that they don't fit--perhaps cannot exist--within the moral and social confines of their communities.
In, THE MISEDUCATION..., Cam is a scrappy, only-child orphan living in a highly traditional Minnesota ranching town with her unmarried aunt and diabetic grandmother. And, she is a lesbian.
In, DEVOTED, Rachel is one of 10 children in a fundamentalist Texan family, lead by her father, and guided by the pastor of the Christian church they faithfully attend. And, she dreams of being more than a wife and "helpmeet" after high school.
Both Cam and Rachel are reviled for the things that make them different, which leads them to feel the pull of love for family members pushing against the need to become their most complete selves. Both Cam and Rachel interact with other young women (Coley, Lauren) who have powerful impacts on their journeys. Both Cam and Rachel must confront the Bible--down to the actual interpretation of passages--and neither simply accepts nor rejects this book but instead really thinks about its content and its implications for "imperfect" followers of the text.
How do these protagonists ultimately discover what it means to be "good," "moral," or even "whole"? I don't want to say more about the plots because I'm not fan of spoilers. And, frankly, the richest parts of both of these novels is the truth of these main characters as they search for a greater kind of Truth. Two voices that are heart-breakingly spot-on. (I can only imagine the gut-wrenching experiences of the authors as they unleashed these stories onto pages.)
It would be wonderful if happiness and fulfillment could be found by simply following a set of rules--be they biblical or otherwise. But writers and thinkers (and teens) know that nothing in life is all that simple. Here are two stories that help readers navigate the how-and-why, the-good-bad-and-ugly with thoughtfulness, intelligence and, ultimately, two unique kinds of grace.
In support of this year's theme, "Get Away," (and also because I'm preparing for a writing retreat) I am reading DEVOTED by Jennifer Matthieu, the story of a teen girl growing up in community of religious fundamentalists. For me, it is a getaway in two ways. 1-As a reader, I am visiting a world that is unlike my own. 2-Rachel, the main character, is struggling with the question of whether the boundaries of her world feel too tight. Are you reading a GET AWAY book this week? Hope it's a great one!