I promised a friend that I would post something for this.
In her heart–anger.
Her mind paints death red and black.
Run. You cannot hide.
I had an interesting discussion with a friend last week, and it got me to thinking about one of the reasons I like writing YA. More specifically why characters in that age group appeal to me so much.
The thing is, I’m old. Not like ready for assisted living old, but when you look at your upcoming birthday and can say, I’m more than twice the highest teen number now…well, by comparison, I’m old. Now, I am a firm believer that people grow and change, but as a general rule by a certain age, you have a pretty good idea of who you are. You may not have applied it in your life, but you more or less know. But I remember high school, and those years (along with college) were all about figuring it out.
Now, my journey of self-discovery was a fairly quiet one. I drank a little on very rare occasions, never tried drugs, smoked for a while in college, but of the “obvious” rebellion type things, I didn’t do those. I used to joke that it was the reason I rarely got in trouble. It wasn’t that I didn’t do anything “bad”, it was just that my rebellions were more subtle. I’m not saying that makes them better or anything, it’s just an example of how every teen does things differently.
But the point of the discussion was about how sometimes rebellion is just that and not self-discovery. That sometimes a kid just is who a kid is, and the hair dyeing or piercings or whatever are a cry for help. I can concede that point. Sometimes it’s true, and I would even say it’s often true when drugs, alcohol, gangs, etc. are involved (and by gangs I mean actual gangs as opposed to a different, and perhaps unsavory, group of friends). But a lot of things that some people list as rebellion, I see differently. Bleaching your hair and dyeing it in stripes? Not a rebellion. Maybe if you do it right before your mom’s second marriage and you’re supposed to stand up in the wedding, but generally speaking…it’s just hair. Piercings? Those suckers can come out the moment someone decides it’s truly not them, or they could stay in for life (or until their body rejects it, but that’s a different issue). There’s a reason most reputable tattoo shops have age restrictions (and parental consent for anyone under 18)–tattoos are permanent (yes, you can have them removed, but not easily like hair color or piercings). Hell, it took me fifteen years from deciding I wanted a tattoo to actually getting my first, not because I didn’t want it but because I wanted to be sure it was “me”.
In the manuscript I just finished re-drafting, there’s a character named Leta. She dyes strips of color in her hair. She doesn’t do it to piss her parents off, she does it because she likes it. Alternately, when Cass gets blood-drunk, it is both a rebellion (to a degree…peer pressure also plays a part) and a huge step in self-discovery. It’s a very bad thing for her, but it’s something that she has to do in order to truly understand her power as well as what role her vampiric half will play in her life.
I talk a lot (not necessarily here) about how important I think it is to not indoctrinate kids into a specific way of thinking. Great discoveries weren’t made by people who followed the rules or the crowd. They are made by the free-thinkers, by those who paved their own way. So when it comes to those easy-to-change-back things? A little rebellion is good for a person, and pushing them to get in line…not necessarily so much. Then again, in fiction, “not necessarily so much” can also lead to fun and dangerous places.
In other news, I’m seriously debating moving the blog over to blogspot. It’s simply a much easier system for me to use and (almost) all my blogs are in one place then. If that happens, the new address will be http://julieparticka.blogspot.com. (Yes, I’ve “made” the blog. No, it isn’t fully set up yet. No, I’m not sure I’m moving–I just wanted to reserve the URL.)
For those of you who were unaware, my darling son brought me a present from school. He wrapped it up in hugs and presented it to me in kisses. And I’ve been
battling enjoying this damn lovely virus ever since. On a high note, I think I’m almost better. And really, other than the fact that being sick sucks, there isn’t a low note. I got some extra sleep, got work done, got reading done…
In fact, I’m looking at having everything off to beta readers before October 1, which leaves me the whole month to do beta-induced revisions when they come in and read and prep for NaNo. Hell, that’s like a month off from working. Except…
I’m not taking it.
You see, I have this sickness. It’s called Too-many-stories-not-enough-time. I know, it’s a much longer name than “common cold” which I’m pretty sure is what my son gave me. The symptoms of Too-many-stories-not-enough-time involve panic attacks, cold sweats, overactive imagination, auditory and visual hallucinations, twitchiness, headaches, insomnia, emotional distress… ultimately leading to writerly paralysis.
You get the idea. Sometimes I can pretend I don’t have Too-many-stories-not-enough-time. But not for an entire month. It’ll never happen. Probably about a week in, the twitching and hallucinations will start. By two weeks in, I’ll have no choice but to treat it or have it take over my life. And with NaNo on the horizon, I can’t fall victim to writerly paralysis or I’ll never finish my 50k in November. Nope. The only treatment for Too-many-stories-not-enough-time is to write one of those brilliant ideas I’d shoved to the back of my mind to stew until I “have time”. Because, that’s what a break is…time.
So, rather than taking October off, I’m tempting this little seed of a story idea I had while traveling in Europe this summer to blossom into something bigger (but not too big–I want to get it done before NaNo LOL). It involves statues and caves and castles and legends that will span from Scotland to Poland and back again (hence the slight concern about it being too big). I’m sure there are some people who will want to beat me with steel pipes for this decision, but I’m not even done with the pre-beta revisions on the novel I have in front of me, and I’m already nervous about taking a month off. It’s just too long for me.
I guess what that means is if you’re looking for me, you’ll find me in my writing cave until at least December. Fortunately it’s a nice cave. Now that you know what I’m doing, what are your plans for October?
Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m a Gleek. Glee is one of the few shows that I really try to watch more or less when it’s on. (We DVR it, but usually watch it the same night.) One of my favorite things about the show is that it’s always encouraged kids to be who they want to be.
Tina the happy Asian goth? Rock on with your stripey hair and black clothes. Mercedes? You are a divalicious curvy girl! Brittany? You’re an idiot and we love you for it. Kurt? Out and proud. Even Puck, the bad boy is allowed to be just as bad as he wants to be.
Then there’s Quinn. Up through last season, she was like everyone else–totally permitted and encouraged to be who she is. From the pregnant Christian cheater to the reformed girlfriend and die-hard glee clubber to the bitchy, arrogant cheerleader. All of those things were okay. And during all of that, she looked something like the picture to the left. Beautiful, sweet, blonde–the picture of the girl next door.
Then season three started. Apparently the Finn/Rachel incident at Nationals at the end of last season hit Quinn hard. So she’s rebelling against who she was. Pretending for a moment that she’s a real person and not a character, she’s probably thinking things along the lines of “I tried to be perfect. Cheerleading captain, quarterback boyfriend, good grades, pretty…everything, and look where it got me.” Why would she even want to be that girl anymore?
She’s the girl on the right. Pink choppy hair, nose ring, cigarettes and “screw you” attitude. The only person who even tried to approach her from the glee club in the premier was Rachel (well, Santana did too, but that was with the “change back and rejoin the Cheerios” thing). Everyone else steered clear of her. I was almost okay with that since she basically told Rachel she didn’t want anything to do with Glee anymore (and again, who can blame her?). Then they showed the previews for next week and I had a WTF moment.
Idina Menzel is back as Shelby Corcoran…the woman who adopted Quinn’s baby. There’s a scene in the preview where Quinn says something to the effect of “Are you just here to torment me with my baby.” And it looks like she responds with “I want you to be a part of Beth’s life, but not like this” at which point she kind of waggles her finger at Quinn.
Now, I might be jumping the gun on this (wouldn’t be the first time), but it looks like disapproval of the new Quinn. Now don’t get me wrong. Quinn’s not the poster child for perfect teenage girl, but really…she never was. I might be okay with it if she was just caught doing something really questionable, but if it turns into a ditch the nose ring, re-blondify, etc… I’m sorry Glee, but I don’t approve. Discourage bad behavior, sure. I’m all for that. But if this turns into a “you’re not allowed to reinvent yourself”, I’m not okay with that. I hope I’m wrong. REALLY really hope I’m wrong, because for the first time, you’d be sending the absolute wrong message.
And to tell the truth…I like the new Quinn. I wish she’d stop smoking, but this Quinn has totally demolished the walls between who she was and the opposite end of the social spectrum. Of everyone on the show, she has the most room for character growth. I want to see her grow into HER as this new Quinn with the pink hair, the nose ring and the attitude.
There was an interesting and disturbing article going around Twitter the other day. An agent had apparently offered an author representation, but only if she cut a point-of-view character…who happened to be gay. As the author put it, this boy’s romantic subplot didn’t go beyond kissing (just like the straight characters), so it wasn’t a matter of going to far with sex in YA. And let’s be honest, anymore, you can go pretty far with that.
The only answer that makes sense is anti-gay bias. And that’s just wrong. (Please see the note at the bottom of the post as more information came to light after I’d already had this live.)
“But (I can hear people saying this), some parents don’t want their impressionable teens exposed to homosexuality in the books they read.”
2? So what? I may not want my kids exposed to…evil fairies. It’s my job as the parent then to steer them away from books about evil fairies.
3? Those same precious children are going to have to deal with homosexuality some day (unlike evil fairies…at least as far as I know). Now, I suppose if they don’t grow up learning that homosexuals are people too, then their parents’ hate can be passed down to another generation. That means they’ll never accept homosexuals, but since gay people are real, odds are, those kids will have to work with/talk to/associate with them.
But yeah, if those parents want to instill hate, they can still see point 2. Because when you look at point 3, unlike the evil fairies gay kids exist. Straight, bi and transgender kids exist. White kids, black kids, Asian kids, Latin kids, skinny kids, fat kids, boys, girls, hermaphrodites… they all exist. And that means they all have a right to see themselves in fiction, as good guys, as bad guys, and anything in between.
Every YA series I’ve started has had at least one gay character in it. Why? I don’t know. I didn’t “plan” it that way. Maybe it’s because I have gay friends who are awesome people and I wanted that level of awesome in my stories. Or maybe it’s just because that’s who the characters are. When Dani (in my temporarily shelved Divine Soldiers series) first showed up in my head, I didn’t know she was a lesbian, I just knew there was something different about her. But the first time she and Avery met, I saw it–and not because she was into Avery (she wasn’t).
You see, my characters are like real people to me. Some of them (usually my leads) come to me fully formed as if I lived inside their heads and we were one and the same–I just get them on that level. Others are friends who I know a lot, but not everything, about and I have to wait for them to reveal more. Others are like strangers, and at best I get surface details from them until they show their true colors.
Which means, sometimes I don’t even know a character’s sexuality until a couple books in. Then I look back and realize it was there all along, I just hadn’t “seen” that part of the character. Just like a teenage girl might not know that the cute guy sitting next to her in math class has a crush on the same football player she does. It happens that way because it’s real.
All kids matter, and all deserve a place to shine.
***Note: More information on the dispute that started all of this has come to light today. I didn’t feel it was right to let the post stand with out including it. ***
I’m not removing this post because the things I said still needed to be said. HOWEVER, further information about the article that started the discussion has come out and I don’t want to pretend I didn’t read it.
And it’s pretty enlightening.
There’s a saying about there being three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. Let’s hope the truth end up that all this attention means more diversity in fiction, especially for young adults.