It seems every few weeks, someone says something misguided or general about the Young Adult section at the local library/bookstore. While I usually miss the inciting incident, I enjoy pouring myself a bowl of Rice Krispies and sliding into my front row seat on TweetDeck to watch the publishing industry retaliate.
Have I ever mentioned I love social media?
#YAShowdown was the more amusing hashtag, while #YASaves was more of an emotional outpouring, trumpeting the lessons and triumphs, the sights we saw, the scents we smelled, the roads we traveled when traversing some of our favorite stories considered: “Young Adult”.
I’m not a teen. I’m not a parent. I’m not a high school librarian.
So, why do I read YA?
No, I mean, it’s really good.
It’s well-written. There’s a story. The characters are compelling. The styles are diverse. It wants to take risks in the good way.
Life isn’t candy-coated, sugar-sweet, let’s all go to the prom and be happy.
Life is hard. It sucks. We weren’t born with an instruction manual. People make mistakes. Reality is tough and it doesn’t wait for you to be an adult to start throwing curveballs.
Why wait in literature?
My mother read A Wrinkle in Time to my siblings and I at the dinner table when I was a youngling.
My favorite section in the library was that little corner with the crusty sign above that said “TEEN” with half the “N” scratched off. I go to the library now and see their WHOLE ROOM dedicated to young adult literature, and there’s a prickle in my eyes as I try to imagine what it would have been like to have that many books way back when.
I love it. I love the voice. I love the stories. I love the characters.
I even love the covers.
So, that’s it. No great insights.
You either get YA or you don’t. Find something you like, nay, love, and tell everyone about it.
Because reading is awesome.
This little blog-o-mine. Imma let it shine.
Today, I take presumption to a whole new level and tell you the meaning of life (hint: it’s not 42). Those of you who already know the meaning of life will continue reading and nod knowingly. Those of you who don’t will throw things and scream ‘how dare she, blasphemous Internet troll!”
It’s “make the world a better place”. It’s actually a really cool deal. You see, once you start trying to do this, everyone around you sort of takes notice. Since this blog is inherently selfish, I’ll give you an anecdote.
The other day, at Starbucks, my barista handed me my drink. As I reached for a sleeve, I cheerfully flashed a smile and said, “Thank you!” You know, because he was my enabler for the day. But, no, seriously. He just made me a cup of coffee. My Midwestern manners, wait, no, hold that thought, my humanity dictates that I should express gratitude for services rendered.
As it so happened, I accidentally cut him off mid-‘thank’. We both stopped and did a suspicious staredown. You know the one; eyes narrowed, sizing each other up out of the periphery. Now, on one hand, I understand why he would thank me. I’m a customer and the head honchos dictate that such things are supposed to be said to a customer, probably with a certain level of welcoming charm that encourages them to return. But, I was reacting to his reaction.
Did he really not have people say thank you with any sincerity? I mean, God! He could have burnt himself on scalding coffee! He was heating milk with a piece of equipment that blasts out a jet of super-heated water! Thank you for putting yourself in mortal danger so that I may enjoy a tasty soy misto! IT’S DELICIOUS!!!
Granted, I was not in a part of town that has a gracious reputation, but can we please treat other people like human beings?
I have lots of brains, lots of ideas, and very little money, but I’ve got stuff to work with. There are things that I would like to do, things that I can do, and things that I will never be able to do. I’m not going out of my way to treat another human being like a human being because it’s surprisingly natural. It’s a little thing I’ve taken to calling “not-being-a-sociopath”.
All right, all right. Yes, you might have had a bad day. Yes, things might not be going great in your life. Jobs suck. Deadlines loom. Cats start throwing up on your carpet. Your dad won’t let you walk out the door without trying to engage you in a game of 20 Questions. But none of those things are a reason to lose sight of what it means to be human.
The “hello, how are you?”…not enough. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.
I’m not claiming sainthood, here. I usually kvetch to my friends, which is a burden they don’t deserve to bear, but they do, with patient grace, and they sort of signed on to seeing the Monster before the Man.
So, when you are tempted to collect your decaf soy Carmel Macchiato in eye-contact avoiding silence, or you find yourself snarling at the grocer, maybe give Dr. Jekyll a minute to regain control, hm?
Be human. We were born that way.
Mom decided to start reading my blog (one year later) and, of course, she joins my small herd of followers on the post of the family reaction to moving to LA.
She was less than thrilled of my portrayal of her. So, Mother, if you still count among my followers, this is the one post devoted exclusively to you.
I’m sorry, but I’m going to continue posting stories with you in them. In fact, I’m starting a new topic about growing up in the Midwest.
I’m sorry you wanted to be a perfect parent. Perfect is boring.
If you were a perfect parent, I’d be a lawyer married to a small-time politician who cheated on me with his campaign manager, but we would stay together for the kids. I’d hate my job, my husband, my house, and my dog. I would be satisfied with that life because it carried the facade of perfection and it would be good enough.
I wouldn’t read. I wouldn’t have listened to Janis Joplin. I wouldn’t have Motown in my karaoke wheelhouse.
I sure as hell wouldn’t be a writer.
I’m sorry that you think I only remember the bad things and the friction. I’m your daughter. We’re not going to get along all the time.
But, who would have gone with me to the Cher concert? I know everyone there saw us and thought, “Oh, what a good daughter, coming with her mother to see Cher,” when they should have been thinking, “Oh, what good mother, coming with her daughter to see Cher.”
Who would have flown up to Boston in the hot-as-hellfire summer of 2007, so I wouldn’t have to drink alone on my 21st birthday?
Who would have sat out in the freezing cold night after night while I struggled to breathe through my fluid-filled lungs?
So, why do I focus on the negative? Because that other stuff makes people sad. No one watched Everybody Loves Raymond to see how nice Marie was to Deborah.
There’s conflict, there’s story. And, while there’s universal truth in the sweet as well as the bitter, it’s just not funny.
I know I don’t have any children, and you think I can’t possibly understand what it’s like, but that’s not true. I’m a writer. I have children. My characters hate me more than half the time. If I was a perfect nurturer to my stories, who knows what that crap would look like.
So, that’s it. That’s the only blog apology you’re getting. If it makes you feel better, just pretend I’m talking about someone else. Usually, that’s what I do.
*shuffle shuffle shuffle* SQUEAK! *clears throat and steps onto soapbox*
I’m about to pontificate, so feel free to ignore my opinion.
I stumbled across something I’m not going to link to because I don’t want to support the cause, even indirectly, but I want to be clear.
eBooks should not be the be-all-end-all direction of the publishing industry.
I know what you’re thinking, “Kate, you have mentioned on your blog several times how much you love your nook, and your iPad. You are addicted to gadgets. How can you say such things?”
I love eBooks. I love my nook. These things are true.
But, unless it’s an actual, physical book at some point in its history, I have a hard time taking it seriously for the simple fact that an author can’t sign it.
Every time I see that scene in Beauty & the Beast, when he shows Belle the library, my heart races, my pupils dilate, and a little voice in my head sings, “I want to go to there”. If I’m ever rich enough to build my own house, that library, be it physically possible, will make the final blueprint. You better believe there will be a track ladder.
I suggested an author to a friend. Said author has a new book coming out soon, which I also drew to the attention of aforementioned friend. This author is someone who I know and have spent time with. Friend freaked out.
Squees, all caps on Facebook, I was thrilled, thinking, “Awesome. She’ll enjoy a good read, as all people of the world should.” Then I got this note.
“What’s your address? Will she sign stuff?”
Um. Well. Yeah, I guess. I mean, why else would you become an author if you couldn’t sign a body part…er…flyleaf or two?
Now, imagine you meet J.K. Rowling (in a parallel universe where Harry Potter is available on eBook). Would you have her sign your nook? I mean, come on. That’s not really the same. You could add a digital flyleaf in an iPad app, but it’s not the same.
As I am clearly the conflicted character in this novel, I’m going to tell you right now: if there were seven books that I could have with me at all times, the Harry Potter series would make that list in a heartbeat (maybe not all of it, but still).
eBooks rock portability, and, coupled with an eInk screen, things look pretty good. But there are some things that you need to see in hard copy.
There are some pages you need to thumb through.
There are some things that you need to get signed, if only to show off to your friends who don’t happen to eat pancakes with awesome authors.
If you’ve ever been to a book signing or plan on going to one, hold that book in your hand and think about this: without that person sitting at the table at the front of that line, this thing – this gigantic, momentous bundle of cardboard, paper, and ink squeezed by your hot, little hands that took you to a place you’d never been – would not exist without them.
You are holding a piece of someone’s soul and it’s not trapped in a little computer box.
It’s contained in this thing that you can give to your mother when she’s lonely. Or, you can read to your son when he’s sick. Or, you can rediscover when you’re swinging from your track ladder on a rainy Sunday evening.
Typical Midwest middle class family.
If that phrase doesn’t help you form a mental image, I apologize. This post may not make that much sense.
The first family member I told about my move to Los Angeles was my younger brother.
“When are you leaving?”
His thumbs twirled as he delved back into Call of Duty, and I could see his brain processing the news as ‘I get your room’. I called my older sister, who lives in Washington, D.C. the next day.
“Oh my God! That’s so cool! Have you told Mom and Dad yet?”
“Are you going to?”
After a pause that was longer than it needed to be: “I guess.”
“You’re going to have so much fun. I’m jealous.”
“Really? I’m having an anxiety attack.”
INT. KITCHEN – AFTERNOON
MOTHER sits at the table on her computer.
I didn’t sugar-coat it. I want to write for TV. LA is the place to do it. I told her about some of the places I found with housing potential.
Mom: “Can I just say one thing?”
Kate: (sighs) “What?”
Well, she kept it to one thing. Silly me. While I was worried about affording rent and a car, not to mention food and healthcare, I should have been thinking about my drug budget. I’ll have to stick with the cheaper drugs for a few months. The mountain of cocaine is a dream…no. I don’t do drugs. It’s never been an issue. Now, it is, for some reason.
I let her ramble. Things like: “you don’t have a home there,” and “I guess that means you’ve given up on horseshoeing school,” came up.
I kid you not. My mother had a dream for me and it was shoeing horses. How do these things happen? Mom had my whole life planned before I hit ten years old. She even picked out the guy I was supposed to marry by the time I was eight. Seriously? In the words of Sarah Palin: you betcha. Imagine her disappointment when he moved away after second grade.
I know this because she told me. It is one of my greatest failings (in her eyes) that I haven’t pursued a relationship with a guy I haven’t seen or heard from in sixteen years who may or may not remember me.
Are you starting to see why I need to break free?
Let’s tack a lesson on here:
Life’s hard. The economy sucks. People will do obscene and degrading things for minimum wage just to have a job. Can you imagine what they would do for more?
But, things can get better. Maybe you don’t need to pack up the car and take a Thelma and Louise dive into something, but you need to get out. You need to be on your own. Your parents will never see you as an adult. They had dreams for you, but you aren’t their horse-shoeing Barbie.
Lesson learned? Good. I’m going to make the world a better place.