I’m pretty open about the fact that I love young adult fiction, both as a reader and as a writer. I know the same is true for a lot of my friends, largely because books written for teens are less likely to include gratuitous sex scenes and excessive violence (though this is changing, particularly in edgier books geared at older teens). But I think there are other compelling reasons to read young adult literature.
As Sarah Burnes (a literary agent at the Gernert Co.) wrote for the Parisian Review:
When I read YA and children’s fiction, I feel knit together with the person I was and who I am, still, becoming. It feels, in Gilligan’s words about girls’ relationships, like a “continuing connection” with my past internal selves—especially my reading selves, my favorite selves.
I like too, what Neil Gaiman says about reading for pleasure (which is where most YA books fall for me):
And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.
I think this year’s Whitney finalists for young adult literature (non-speculative) do just that: they provide a window on the world, they allow readers to experience (or re-experience) the pleasures and pains peculiar to being a teenager, and (mostly) they offer hope.
The quarterly theme at Segullah is on how-to–and given that it’s the last week of the semester and my life is full, the only things I feel like I know how to do are the things I’m currently doing. And even then, I’m not sure.
But it occurred to me that many of our readers might also be writers (most writers start with a love for the written word), and some of them might be interested in something I’ve recently spent a lot of time learning how to do: writing and publishing a book.
About a month ago, while reading Elder Eyring’s First Presidency message in the February Ensign, I was struck—and stricken—by his admonition to be less selfish: “The Lord taught us that when we are truly converted to His gospel, our hearts will be turned from selfish concerns and turned toward service to lift others as they move upward to eternal life.”
Parenthood has cured some—but not nearly all—of my selfish propensities, but I struggle with ways to be more selfless, particularly as a writer. In the intervening month, I’ve wrestled with the question: how can I be both increasingly selfless *and* creative? As a writer, I have to carve time for myself—time away from my husband, my children, from other people I could be serving. Much of my creative energy gets spent in pursuits that appear, on the surface, to be selfish.
We’re told repeatedly to develop our talents. My own talent for writing is one I feel prompted to pursue. And yet I still struggle with guilt, with the feeling that my creative needs are not only an indulgence, but a selfish one at that.
I’m (slowly) coming to believe that my problem is two-fold: part of my problem stems from a cultural conditioning, particularly of women. And part of it stems from a too-narrow understanding of creativity. Continue reading
Seven years ago, I sat in a small office, surrounded by several smart, supportive faculty members who were serving on my dissertation committee. I had just (successfully) passed my dissertation defense, and thankfully, the revisions they wanted me to make were minor.
But one of the women had a question. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
I was quiet for a moment. The truth was, I had worked hard to get here–but I had an almost-two-year-old son and I was pregnant (though I hadn’t announced this yet) with my second child, a daughter. In five years, I saw myself teaching part-time and otherwise staying home with my children. But this wasn’t an answer I could easily give to this woman in particular, who was pregnant with her first, and who would continue to work full-time while she raised her. And it wasn’t the answer the committee expected, these wonderful people who had invested so much time in me and my potential career.
To be honest, I don’t remember exactly how I answered. But I do remember that paralyzing moment, and the doubt it spawned.
Was I doing the right thing? My husband and I had prayed about it, and while finishing a PhD was right for me, continuing into a tenure track position immediately was not. The real question was not: where did I see myself? But, where did God see me?
I’m not a fan of surprises (temperament type INTJ on Myers-Briggs). I like to know what’s coming, so I can anticipate or plan for the worst. I don’t deal well with uncertainty. (Ha! Welcome to parenthood. And life.)
But I’ve been wonderfully surprised by a few things in life, particularly mercy.
The other morning, I was wrestling with my oldest son. He’s nine, and so far, he seems to have inherited all of my worst qualities. In the mornings, when we’re both sluggish and irritable, we’re neither of us at our best. The day before, I’d sent him to school while we were both still fuming—and spent the rest of the day thinking, what if something happens to him and our last words were angry ones?
I resolved to do better. And I did okay, until he shouted at his sister and squeezed her until she retreated, crying, to her room.
What were you thinking? I asked him.
He snarled at me, which didn’t help my temper. I sent him to his room to finish getting ready, thinking of all the things I wanted to say: what is wrong with you? Is this really the person you want to be? If you keep this up, you won’t have any friends.
But something stopped me. In fact, I had the distinct impression that what my unlovable child needed most was love. Continue reading