Friday, July 8, 2011

YA Writers and the YA Community

As I've walked this writer's path these last two years, I've been trying to find where I fit.  My first book was not YA in that the characters weren't in their teens.  My second book was and wasn't YA.  It was traditional fantasy with a massive cast of characters who all took center stage as viewpoint characters at one point or another.  My third book was decidedly not YA.  I knew that going into it and I embraced that.  I'd found where I belonged, I thought.

Then the current project came along and I'm pretty sure it can fall squarely in the YA category.  I do plan on finishing it but I'm not entirely certain that it's one I want to publish.  It's a realization I came to on Wednesday as I watched the beginnings of something unfold on Twitter.

A few weeks ago (I can't remember how long it's been), there was that article published in the Wall Street Journal about darkness in young adult literature.  The vitriol that spewed forth onto Twitter and the internet in general disgusts me.  It disgusted me then and it continued to do so on Wednesday.  YA authors and those in the industry who took part vilified the author of that article when it hit the internet for the first time.  They seemed to relish the opportunity to attack this one woman who dared to voice an opinion contrary to what is currently the loudest voice in YA.

Then on Wednesday they delighted in the opportunity to pounce on this author again when she and a YA author were both on a talk radio program.  (There were other people, I think.  I didn't tune in for the reasons I'm discussing in this post.)  I shut down Twitter.  I couldn't bear the vitriol spilling forth again against the article's author.

Do I believe censorship is a good thing?  Absolutely not.  It's not the industry's job or the government's job to protect my children (figuratively speaking since I'm not married) from things they might not be ready to handle or that would damage them more than help them.  It's my job as a parent (again figuratively).  I have two nephews.  I buy them books for their birthdays and for Christmas.  Some day they're going to be reading YA books and I know I'll have to be more careful when purchasing.

Do I get that darker content in YA isn't going to go away and that there might actually be a lot of kids who prefer that darker stuff?  Absolutely.

Do either of these mean that I'm going to attack someone for voicing a differing opinion, for calling attention to a trend that simply means parents should be more diligent in being involved in and aware of their children's lives?  Absolutely not.

I don't necessarily agree with everything written in the Wall Street Journal article.  But I don't agree with how it was handled by the YA community within the publishing industry.  Earlier in this post I said that I might not necessarily try to get my current project published when it's finished.  The behavior of the YA community that I witnessed (major mob mentality) in the wake of the WSJ article and an article on Slate (though that one didn't garner near as hateful a reaction as the WSJ one) have made me question whether the grass really is greener on the YA side of the fence.

Is this sort of behavior indicative of the entire YA community in the publishing industry?  Perhaps not, but it does appear to be the most vocal.  And that voice isn't something I want to align myself with.  It's making me question many things about my writing and about where I want to go with both my writing career and any career I'm hoping to obtain in the publishing industry.  (The latter is probably shot to bits with this post.  If that's the case, then it's probably not an industry I want to join as a professional on that side of the fence and leads me to think I should stick with writing and maybe go the indie route.)


  1. You aren't the only one whose noticed the YA Mob.

    They are diligent creatures, with pitchforks and boiling oil for those who cross their path. They will defend their beloved genre to the death (yours, for preference). There is nothing wrong with YA, they insist. All of these books are perfect for all ages. Censorship is evil!

    So is parenting, making people eat their vegetables, living in moderation, and being tolerant of differences. All hideously evil, at least as far as I can tell from various tweets, rants, and blog posts.

    On the bright side, I think the YA Mob is a small (although noisy) minority. Most YA authors are calm, rationale people who understand that tolerance and differences are a good thing. Even if it means that some people won't love their genre.

    Don't give up all hope on the YA shelves. The mob is loud, but they aren't in charge. They are rude, but they aren't representative of the whole genre.

  2. I agree. Don't give up on YA! But I have noticed the YA Community can feel kind a clique. And if I don't agree with them, or something, I get snubbed. Kind of like, well, high school. Ha.

  3. Sorry, but I don't quite follow how if your YA mss gets published, you're required to take up torch and pitchfork and go witch hunting.

    Or how declining to do so would ruin any hope of being published. It's a big world out there.

  4. YA is a very vast community of people, it ranges from pre-teen, teen, young adult, adult and elderly. It is one of the biggest genres available and therefore the largest pot of potential fans. So you may have come in contact with the mob half of the YA but that does not include the other half as that half was not involved with the discussions. So just because you saw the pitchfork half doesnt mean you give up and fall off the cliff

  5. True, there may be a YA Mob, but I've found the rest of the YA community to be incredibly encouraging, supportive, and sharing. Doing interview and blog tours for each other, linking up with critique partners, giving other writers courage to submit manuscripts, and "paying it forward" in all kinds of ways. Don't let the incredibly verbal mob ruin your experience!

  6. Very interesting post. I think you hit it right on the head. We're each entitled to our own opinion, and have a right to read and buy for our children whichever books we choose. Attacking those with a different view is not the way to go. But also, I would love to see you publish your current YA project :) Don't let any crazies scare you off :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  7. Loved reading your opinion on the Wall Street Journal article. Everyone I'm speaking to has such a different viewpoint. I'm kinda with you on this case.

  8. I'm with you on this. Everyone has a right to an opinion - we don't need to turn into attack dogs one someone voices an opinion contrary to ours.

  9. Thanks for sharing your opinion. The idea of free speech is to allow people to express themselves and their thoughts. I think people reacted to how one-sided the WSJ article felt. Of course, the reaction pulled for the polar opposite of what the article supported, thereby making the pendulum swing the other way. I suppose it's meant to balance things out, LOL!

    I suspect the pendulum will continue to swing, as it does with all things. We can hope, in the end, there is some mutual understanding had by all...but that hope may be too much of a utopian idea, LOL!

    IDK, does any of that make sense???

  10. Amen!

    I've been getting tired of the witch hunts and mobbing mentality. It's ironic that the people screaming "Down with censorship!" are telling the rest of us who have different opinions to be quiet. And regardless of what a person's opinion is, one can still be passionate about it without tearing anyone else down in the process.

    I do think the mob is a very small, very vocal minority. I've lost a lot of respect for the people that participate in these things and just don't buy their books anymore. Plenty of other nice authors out there I can support. :)


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