Me, as a YA writer

24 Aug

       Earlier today @BostonBookGirl — otherwise known as Lauren E. MacLeod an agent at The Strothman Agency who twitters — asked YA writers: “YA/MG Writers: What do you do to get in the head space of a tween/teen?Just curious as I binge on partials today.”

      I gave a standard answer in my 140 characters and then got in the car to do the long drive to Portland, OR. And THOUGHT. Stupid thinking.

      This is a question people have asked me before. My answer always is light and quick. But now, as I deal with the book I’m currently finishing, I thought I’d sketch out the truth more clearly. There are several reasons I’m a YA writer. I wasn’t someone who said, “Oh, YA’s hot” or “Wow, my stuff isn’t working, I’ll try something new.” This is where I started and this is where I see myself. But HOW do I get into that YA mindset?

      Let’s skip the fantasy I write and go directly to the new set I’m working on. I’ve started writing something I can only describe as “hard books, funny” because I was told calling them “Rom Coms” is misleading. Don’t get me wrong, they’re funny (thank goodness, I just watched someone read my stuff while I was in the room constantly asking her “are you laughing because it’s funny or, ya know, AT me?”). But my Hard Books, Funny are stories about girls dealing with serious issues with humor, because honestly, that’s the only way I survived adolescents…oh, and the rest of life too.

      So, let’s use me to look at what makes this YA writer.

      First off, my YA years. My YA years were stressful. I didn’t come from a HEA home. I came from one where I found reasons not to go home for days at a time. That time shaped my life in a way that sticks. Don’t get me wrong, those years shape everyone, it’s just how big of a wave in your own personal pond did the rock known as “the teen years” cause.

      Next, I’m young. OK, my years may be a little older than “young”, but I’m young. The things I do, like, listen to, wear, etc are younger than what I would have guessed someone my age would have. Also, yeah, I look younger than I am. On the trip around the country I’m on, people keep asking if I’m on my way back to college (thank you all you partially blind people) but I’m sure that has some weight on my worldview. One of my closest friends has similar taste in clothing to me, but how we wear those pieces we both own and what we wear them with makes it look as if we couldn’t possibly shop in the same store let alone own the same clothes. She always looks so grown up. If I dressed like her I’d look like I was playing dress up. You should see me in my business suits 🙂

      Also, I mentor girls. I live with them for weeks at a time on summer trips. I’m on their speed dial. I get their emotional purge emails. I’m confident and guru all in one. Plus, I can kick their butts at air hockey. How is that relevant? It’s really not, but I just wanted you all to know because how often do you get to brag about that?

      But, the biggest issue is one that will most likely come as a surprise to many people. I’m very open about this, so don’t feel like you hear the Dun Dun DAAAA! in the background.

      I have BDD – Body Dismorphic Disorder. BDD creates a fun-house mirror effect…not my words, but I’m stealing them from a friend. Every way I have of seeing myself is distorted, negative. I typically hear two responses when I say this:

  1. You need to just accept that you don’t look like that
  2. OMG! I must have it too

      Stop. There’s a slim chance you have BDD. Everyone has insecurities, I’m talking Extreme Life Altering Can’t Leave The House If You Don’t Get Help issues. My life now? Normal. The BDD doesn’t rule my life. I have slip-up moments of anxiety during extreme stress, but if you met me, you’d probably not believe me. 

      But, you’re asking: Bria, how does this push you toward writing YA? Especially if it’s something you’ve dealt with?

      It creates a certain connection with that time in life for me. I LIVE at that awkward phase and I’ll never truly outgrow it. What I write about — that time I write about —  is the place where a girl is dealing with a tough issue while coming into her own and falling in love for the first time. It’s  something I can constantly relate to because BDD means that I’m always at that “coming into myself” period. It makes me question everything in that way I did as a teen. Sometimes things feel dire. Urgent. 

      Now, in Secret Life,  I’m writing about a girl who’s coming off her meds. She’s gotten cognitive therapy, done the work, and is in a good place…Until extreme stress enters in the worst way possible. I’m amazingly excited about this story. It’s not my story, but it I’ve kept it true to life as someone with BDD might feel. I’m hoping that one day someone will read it and see that they aren’t alone and that, yes, even the “unfixable” is overcomable.

      I guess what I’m saying is I write YA not just because I love teens, not just because I feel young and drawn to those types of stories, but because remembering is a daily way of life for me and I want to make it hopeful for those who still live there.

4 Responses to “Me, as a YA writer”

  1. gwen hayes August 24, 2009 at 8:48 pm #

    You are particularly amazing.

  2. Kaige August 25, 2009 at 12:47 am #

    What Gwen said!

  3. danieford August 25, 2009 at 6:36 pm #

    what gwen and kaige said.

  4. briaq August 25, 2009 at 11:37 pm #

    Oh, thanks dears.
    Honestly, I’m really not particularly anything (maybe nerdy, you know, Magna Carta blah blah blah) but it’s good to feel the love.

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