5 Writing Randoms: Why YA?

1) I write young adult fiction because I answered a classified ad. Penguin’s subdivision, Dutton Children, ran an ad that read in June 2005:

Dutton Children’s Books…is actively seeking writers who would like to entertain teenagers with novels inspired by topical events and feature stories. The editors at Dutton will supply the seed of an idea, and then you have the freedom to make it your own. Experienced writers (journalists, published novelists) are preferred, but the most important qualifications are strong voice, distinct characters, and good pacing.

I answered the ad and was signed in August 2005. Before I was signed, I was shopping a mystery for adults that received a lot of encouraging rejections.*

2) I continue to write young adult fiction because I love young adult and teen books more than the books written for my own age group.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a new Janet Evanovich or Susan Elizabeth Phillips as much as the next gal, but I also love a new Laurie Halse Anderson or Susan Beth Pfeffer, too.

3) There are a lot of perks when you’re a young adult writer. I can watch MTV without recrimination. I can debate the finer points of America’s Next Top Model in the name of research. I can freely admit I’ve seen High School Musical AND High School Musical 2.

4) I feel no embarrassment popping a squat in the young adult section at any and all bookstores. My contemporaries may be going to the check-out with the latest Jodi Picoult or John Grisham in hand, but I happily bury myself behind a pile of fantasy books, love stories, and historicals by the likes of Stephenie Meyer, Meg Cabot, and Libba Bray.

5) I’m in a critique group with no other young adult writers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Two write romantic suspense, one writes mystery, and the other writes women’s fiction. They keep me on my toes, since a story is a story. The formulas for romantic suspense, mystery, women’s fiction, and young adult are surprisingly similar.

*”Encouraging” rejections do exist. Instead of “This isn’t right for us at this time [so scram**],” I would receive “While this story has strong elements, it isn’t right for us at this time. Please send any other stories you may be working on.”

**I embellished a little bit. No one’s ever said “so scram,” per se. However, the worst rejection I ever got had the words “you lost your spark by Chapter Four.” In other words, “so scram.”

~S.C.

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