Monday, June 8, 2015

SCBWI Florida Workshop Part I- Why Write Young Adult?

Congratulations to Vijaya Bodach who won Rory's Promise on last week's blog.


Last Saturday I attended the Florida SCBWI's mid-year workshop. I spent the entire day soaking up information from two talented women, Erica Rand Silverman and Jacquelyn Mitchard. Since they generously agreed to share the content of their workshop, my blog posts over the next few weeks will be from my notes.  I will be listing the main speaker for each topic, but my notes include contributions from both women. 

Erica and Jacquelyn

Why Write Young Adult?

Jacquelyn Mitchard

  • Protagonist and (usually) the antagonist are teenagers. They do the heavy lifting; they're the ones who get in and out of trouble.
  • They're usually 16 or 17. 
  • Rules about writing are there. You can break them if you do it with authenticity and class.
  • Young Adult literature is relatively new. Catcher in the Rye (1950) was first YA book. 
  • Voice--the way in which things are said--is so important. "Young adult literature often expresses the alienation that even happy teenagers feel."
  • Young adult is the only segment of publishing that has been growing for 20 years.
  • The topography of teenagers' emotions is huge. "In high school they are changing on a molecular level into another person."
  • In the 20th century, psychologists realized that an adolescent had to separate from family to become his/her own person. This was reflected in literature such as The Chocolate War and The Outsiders.
  • Young adult is often written in an intimate, conversational style. Reader can connect with the characters on a friendship level. Adolescents still have enough of the child inside of them that they believe characters are real. (Reason why they'll get dressed up as a character for a book signing.)
  • New Adult is already over.
  • As an editor at Merit Press, Jacquelyn is looking for realistic contemporary fiction. "Hormones and heat, but not foul or graphic."
  • Write large, not subtle. Don’t attempt young adult if you don’t read it and enjoy it.
  • Unusual set-ups are good.  Fresh. Not contemporary slang that will give the book a shelf life of two years.
  • In young adult fiction, layers are pealed back. Emotions are up front and genuine.  The teen's survival (either physical or emotional) is at stake.
  • One half of young adult readers are adults because dark and light are more extreme.
  • Young adult brings rebels to life.  Readers can live vicariously through characters. 
  • Love and respect your teen audience.  "When you do this kind of writing you can change the world without preaching."
  • When she is in the middle of writing a book, before she goes to sleep Jacquelyn thinks, “I’m going to be X now.” This taps into her sub-conscious.
  • A book can’t be about an issue, like a parent's alcoholism. It’s about the conflict that is raised within the protagonist as a result of the parent's alcoholism.  
  • If you want to write young adult, you better be reading it. 
This is one of the books from Merit Press.
Written by my FB friend, Christine Kohler,
it's on my TBR list!


Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Ah - so cogent for me right now. Thanks Carol. And cool to see No Surrender Soldier on here too. Was Christine at the conference?

Christine Kohler said...

Joyce Moyer Hostetter, no, I missed this fabulous conference. However, I met my editor Jackie last year at the Tuscon Festival of Books and got to hear one of her talks about what Jackie looks for when acquiring YA books. Since my book was about the fifth she acquired (and maybe because I was in the audience), Jackie talked specifically about my book, and even how it broke rules. (For example, it has a prologue and the one POV characters is an old WWII Japanese soldier.) At the TFOBs Jackie also gave away some copies of my book NO SURRENDER SOLDIER, which was fun.

Vijaya said...

Thank you Carol. I'm looking forward to RORY! I'm going to make sure I get to the mailbox first. So great to see Christine's book featured here!

Great tips from your workshop leaders. I write YA because it is such an amazing time of growth and now I'm the mother of teenagers and I do so love it. We love talking books. It's funny, at times I think they are like toddlers, only with better vocabulary. Tee hee. And I give them the car keys. LOL. What am I thinking?

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks friends, for leaving comments! Vijaya- we went around the room and shared why we wrote YA. I think everyone would agree with your assessment! Christine- I didn't realize Jackie was your editor until I googled links for her name and found your blog! Happy coincidence!

Linda A. said...

Carol and those who agreed to share,
What a great gift for writers out there. I'm not a YA writer at present, but I am tuned in anyway. You never know...

Carol Baldwin said...

You never know, Linda! Thanks for commenting.

Vijaya said...

Um, does Jacquelyn ever sleep? She sure wears a lot of hats and has a lot of kids. I am wowed by all she's doing and done and so well :) Brava!

Carol Baldwin said...

yes, I was pretty impressed with her energy too! I believe several of her children are adopted--she's doing lots of work at home figuring out what makes teenagers tick!

Anonymous said...

Carol, thank you for sharing such great information! Thank you to Erica and Jacquelyn for such great YA insight.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kathleen. Hope the other posts are helpful to you too!

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