Author Adrienne Kress has a guest post on Nathan Bransford's blog about why she writes for children. Her answer is pretty simple--she writes the kind of stories she likes. Although I haven't been published yet, I've had a couple of people ask me that question as well. They say things like: "Oh Jay, you're so talented. Why don't you write real books?"

Or, "I know it's harder to get an adult book published, Jay, but I think you should try."

Or even just "You're wasted writing books for kids."

Notice how all of those comments have a couple of things in common. The first is that they all incorporate some kind of backhanded compliment about how I'm so awesome. And I am awesome, sincerely, but I'm also not the next coming of Shakespeare or Stephen King. I'm not, by any stretch of the imagination "above" the talent level of young adult literature.

And that's the second thing--the idea that somehow authors who write for children have some sort of cap on their ability, that they aren't capable of writing for adults or they would write for adults. That books for teenagers and children take less work and talent than books for adults.

Yeah, I'm sorry, but no. No. Don't get me wrong--there are bad books for kids. Badly written, insipid, puerile, and just plain dumb. TONS of them. But there are also bad books for adults out there. TONS of them. Tons more, I suspect, than those for kids. Writing a good book takes effort and skill and a whole lot of time, whether it's a good picture book, or a good chapter book, or a good YA romance or a good literary novel.*

I'm sorry...I got sidetracked. The question is why.

Why do I, an adult woman, write books whose target audience is teenagers?

My answer doesn't differ that much from Adrienne Kress's--I write the kind of stories I like to read. It's like that quote from Gandhi--"be the change you want to see in the world." Well, I am. I mean, I'm not changing the world, but I want to see a certain kinds of stories, with certain characters and certain plots and certain language, so those are the kinds of stories I write.

I like stories where characters feel things intensely.

I like stories where characters are doing things for the first time.

I like stories where characters are trying to break out of other people's pre-conceived notions of them.

I like stories where characters are limited by forces outside themselves, but are trying to free themselves from those limitations.

I like stories where characters are learning something about themselves that they didn't know before.

Do any of these things require that my main characters be teenagers? No. But all of these things are in play when people are teenagers. All of these things are characteristics of teenagers that may or may not be characteristics of adults. In other words, the young adult setting is the setting most conducive to the stories I like to read and the stories I like to write. Not the only setting, but the one that is the most natural.

I also love the idea that, maybe, something I write can be an inspiration or a comfort to someone like the books I read when I was a teenager were to me. I still fall in love with books as an adult (Into The Woods by Tana French is a prime example of that), but it's not the same intense love that I had for certain books when I was a teenager. Just like with romantic love, the first ones are the most overwhelming, just because they are the first. They may not be the most permanent,** but they burn bright while they last. And the idea that, maybe one of my books could be that book for someone? God, it would be an honor.

I guess what I'm saying is that I write YA because I love to read it, and I hope that other people will, too.


* And yes, I think mine are good. Obvs, since none of them have been published yet, opinions may differ. I hope that I will get the chance to have opinions differ about them, as a matter of fact. Fingers crossed! :)

**If you've gone back to a book that you loved as a child, you may have experienced that. Like "I liked this?" But if it's a good book, you'll still love it, just not in the same way.


Good stories and good writing are good, no matter the age of the intended reader. One might argue that those wonderful books read as a child or young adult actually stick in the memory far better than things read as an adult. I have VIVID memories of things I read as a young boy, much more vivid than many of the books I read today.

I think you're capable of writing for young adults and for adults. There's nothing wrong with the genre you've chosen. I don't see what difference it makes who you're writing for as long as the writing is good and the story is worth reading.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 9:12:00 AM EST  

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