Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I'm OK too.

Along with dozens of writers, YA and otherwise, this week, I want to talk about Margo Rabb’s piece in the Sunday Times Book Review. (and also say, if you haven't read, you should certainly read Rabb's Cures for Heartbreak, which is indeed heartbreaking, and funny and true and beautifully written)

My first instinct is to stand up for my genre, so to speak, to say that Rabb is perpetuating a snobbery that is not nearly so widespread as she thinks. But the truth is, I know exactly how she feels. The words of Mark Haddon and the defenses of Peter Cameron are scarily familiar. Apparently, if you write for an audience who is still in high school, your intellectual capacity is questionable, your literary merit dubious. You get funny looks and awkward silences and conversations come to strange halts. I was in a conversation last week in which an educator, referring to a series of books used for a particular course stated: “This one is a young adult title but I found it very valuable.”


My editor, Andrew Karre, has an approach to YA Literature that is inspiring, comforting and frankly, makes a lot of sense. He believes that “young adult is a point of view, not a reading level.” I can't help but want to ask the YA critics of the world about the novels they've celebrated that were narrated by a child or a teeanager--just not marketed to them.

I had never set out to write a young adult book before I wrote THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU. In fact, it began, as I’ve said before, as a book about the twins’ mother, a very dark and grown-up story. But the more I wrote, the more it changed. What I wanted to write about was intensity and passion and first times and an inability to not tell the truth. I wanted to write a story that was specific about an experience that was universal. And what, I thought, was more universal than adolescence, the raw pain and joy and experimentation. Apparently, this makes me a certain kind of writer.

And whatever kind of writer this is, maybe the kind that won’t be reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement or excerpted in The New Yorker or blurbed by Nathan Englander or Andre Aciman (I note these two authors, not because of anything they’ve ever said about YA Literature, simply because they wrote my favorite books this year), it is the kind of writer I am. I’ve found an actual home in the stories I write now. I may have to defend the literary merit of my books from here on out, but I’m hoping my audience can speak to that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Moving is like Writing

I do both of these things all of the time. I mean ALL of the time. One I am exhausted and inspired by. The other I am… exhausted and inspired by.

1. I can’t help doing either one. They’re equally impulsive, natural, crucial.
2. They’re cleansing. In this way that says I am purging and preserving all at once.
3. They remind me, give life to, the millions of worlds out there that I am living, have lived and have yet to live.
4. They bring new people into my life, real and imagined.
5. They make it hard, no, impossible, to think about anything else.
6. They let me create new space—sometimes within the confines of my imagination and four walls and sometimes outside the limit of possibility.
7. They make me crazy and I want to stop forever.
8. They make me exhilarated and I can’t imagine NOT moving/writing.
9. They make me realize I have too much STUFF—both tangible and intangible.
10. They make me realize I will always find a place for this stuff.
11. I feel intensely sad, doing either one, about the things I am leaving behind and haven’t appreciated or realized and the absolute uncertainty about what lies ahead.
12. They’re costly—mentally and financially.
13. I am, apparently, defined by both of these things.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

This is what Summer looks like

While we await summer with this intense hope and giddy anticipation, it tends to fly by in a way that's impossible to slow. And here it is, mid July and I can't recall all of the things I meant to do... I know I'm supposed to be writing and Anna introduced me to this killer Roman street artist who's been inspiring me much.

Kira came to visit and in the middle of one last time at Yankee stadium, too many great meals, a day at the Met and lying in the sun in more than one park, she was the guest of honor at my birthday party, a perfect mix of the very best people and some pretty tasty food and my other dearest guest of honor and in-house entertainer and blue-dressed twin, Chloe.

I've seen some outdoor movies under the majestic shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge and celebrated the 4th with my family and beautiful (and I mean BEAUTIFUL and not even cause we're related) niece, who is just about the happiest girl in the world...

and Darc, who, in the absence of fireworks at our mountain-top cookout, lit sparklers with such enthusiastic delight that it was good enough for all of us...

And then this music filled weekend I listened to the folk-singing tales of Texas musician Steve James at a lower east side club, joined tens of thousands in Central Park for a sing-a-long to the likes of Livin on a Prayer, and spent a sun soaked day in McCarren Pool (and I've got the red shoulders to prove it) revelling in the high school nostalgia of The Breeders.

All in all, not bad so far, even if I can't remember all of the things I meant to do.