Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Deconstruction of our Youth

I love teenagers—as should anyone who writes about them and for them. However, yesterday a few teenagers left me feeling something very different than love. I have two best friends. I love them both like sisters and yesterday both of them were violated by teenagers.

One of my friends had her back door kicked in my three teens (not one of them over 17). As my friend said, they would’ve been sadly disappointed when they saw she had nothing to steal, but it doesn’t make it any less violating. Idle minds resort to destructive—sometimes dangerous—behavior. Fortunately, nothing was taken from my friend’s house. Thanks to alert neighbors and the fact that these would-be thieves broke in to the basement and couldn’t get into the main part of the house, she came home to find only a damaged door. Still, it’s scary.

My other friend was violently attacked yesterday by a 17yr old girl. My friend has been a social worker for 15yrs and has never had anything like that happen to her. Unfortunately, her job takes her to terrible neighborhoods, into sketchy homes and around unstable people. But she has dedicated her life to helping teens who need shelter, food and education.

I don’t get this behavior, but maybe I’m not meant to understand what would provoke teenagers to kick in a door or physically attack a person who is there to help you. Mental instability speaks for a lot of it, but I think there is also a lack of structure, a lack of morals and a lack of hope. When you feel like you have no chance, why try?

I think about that when I’m writing. While every story doesn’t have to end happily, I think we owe it to our teenage readers to show them another alternative to violently acting out. Does that mean we don’t write about drugs, sex and violence? That’s certainly not what I’m saying, nor am I saying we have to have moral of the story either. We have to tell the truth because kids are smart and will know when the there is bullsh*t on the pages.

The problem is these teens kicking in doors and attacking people aren’t reading our books. If they were, I can almost guarantee they wouldn’t want to engage in such destructive activities. When you know there is a world out there bigger and better than what you know, you begin to hope. Maybe I’m corny or misguided, but I believe hope changes everything.

My question is how do we reach these violent, door-kicking teens? Because I honestly don’t know.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Should I Give Up Writing?

Last week a guy asked what my plan B was, concerning writing. I didn’t understand what he’d meant at first so he clarified.

“What will you do if you don’t sell this book? Will you go back to school to learn something new, more marketable? Will you try to get a promotion at your current job?”

His questions left me silent for a long while. I’ve never been asked that before so when I finally had an answer it seemed anticlimactic.

“I write another book,” I said.

I don’t think that was a good enough answer. Writing another book probably didn’t seem like a plan B to him, more like throwing good after bad. No one who really knows me would ever ask me such a question because they know that giving up on writing is not an option. Most writers do it because they love it. You really have to because it’s such a solitary thing that I’ve been accused of being a recluse, an old maid, you name it. That’s just the way writing is. I’ve never met a writer who could do it with a room full of people talking, with the television on and babies crying. It requires concentration, so yeah, I kinda have to be alone—at least in the room alone. It’s often thankless. You have to wait months, years, or decades—if ever—to see any type of profit or accolades. So if you’re in the business for the glory then get out.

Yes I want to be published and yes I want to make enough money from my writing that it’s my single source of income, but if I don’t sell this novel, I HAVE to write another one. In this guy’s mind, not getting a book published would probably be the ultimate failure, but that’s the view of a non-writer. Actually, there are quite a few people in my family who think this way. They ask, “Are you still trying to get that book published?” It’s easier to say, yes, than it is to explain “that book” is now on the back burner and I’m querying a new one.

Writing for publication is filled with a million little successes so I don’t feel at all like a failure.

The first time you complete a novel = Success!
The first time you take hard criticism and make yourself a better writer = Success!
The first time you write a well-crafted query letter = Success!
The first time an agent requests a partial = Success!
The first time an agent requests a full = Success!
The first time an agent offers representation = Success!
The first time an editor wants to buy your novel = Success!
The first time you see your novel on a shelf in a book store = Success!
The SECOND time you complete a novel = Success!

Tell me, why would I want to give up on that? I’ve only gone through half that list! So if any of you out there are thinking of quitting, if there’s anything on that list you want to stick a pin in or mark off your list, hang in there. It happens every day so why wouldn’t it happen for us?