Thursday, March 17, 2011

The way some stories stay with you

In my daily roundup of blogs, I read this post on Chasing Ray that really moved me.  In it, Colleen Mondor reflects on a series of books she read in her 20s that had a profound influence on her life.  She concludes with this:
We all have authors and books that serve as talismans; that are never forgotten. These stories were all of that for me and I'm ever so grateful to have had them. I hope they still have the same magic for whoever is standing before those shelves in the Noel Wien library today.
What she said really resonated with me and made me think of the seminal influences on my life that came between the covers of books.  I left her a long response that I'm going to repost and expand on here.

This is what I said:

This is why I keep returning to write for YA readers. For me the book that changed my life was "A Wrinkle in Time." I read it at a time when I felt very much 'less than.' I was insecure, socially awkward, and out of sync with my peers. When I read that book and discovered Meg Murray, it was a revelation. She was like me; I was like her. We weren't perfect or popular or confident. Meg made mistakes and still she was the hero of her story.

And even beyond the characters of the book was the author: Madeline L'Engle. Someone wrote books like this, books that spoke to me. I wanted to do that. What's more, I believed I could do that.

It took a detour through a different career and 3 decades from that moment to write my first novel, several more years to really understand the craft, write the next few books, get an agent.

Some dreams just take a little more time than others.

Though all the events in my life "A Wrinkle in Time" has been a touchstone, a book I have re-read many times, well into adulthood. There is a little bit of magic in the books that speak to us in our formative years. I want to be part of that magic for someone else.

A few weeks ago, British writer Martin Amis incited controversy (again) when he said he'd "need to have a brain injury before [he wrote] for children."

It's a sentiment I have heard twice over.  Not only do I write YA stories, but I also write (gasp!) genre.  SF&F to be specific.  Sophie Masson already did a phenomenal job in responding to Amis, so I won't try to duplicate her post on Writer Unboxed., but I feel sorry for Amis.  I wonder about a writer who can't respect the importance of the stories that validate one's experience during a time of great upheaval.

YA stories draw me precisely because they are can be stories of finding personal power and agency.  And in our complicated and often painful lives, isn't that a wonderful thing?

1 comment:

  1. What an odd comment to make: "A few weeks ago, British writer Martin Amis incited controversy (again) when he said he'd "need to have a brain injury before [he wrote] for children." A good lesson for all writers; don't verbally broadcast your insecurities.

    I have yet to understand the classification, YA. The characters are young, true. Yet, in most of these novels the plots, the people and the stories told are vital to people of all ages. Besides, even in my 60s I love having the fae in my life!

    Children did not purchase Harry Potter or the Twilight series. Although it may have been purchased for them, I'll bet you that a large percentage of the people purchasing those books read them.

    Most of us who grew up on SF/Fantasy/YA look at the world asking, "What is the result of this" instead of accepting things as they are fed to us. I truly believe that an enhanced ability to create one's own life is a direct result of gaining the alternate perspectives provided by those genres.