Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Young Adult Literature" is Not an Oxymoron

A while ago I was talking about The Hunger Games with a friend of mine. After strongly recommending it to her she had read it. Her response: she enjoyed it, even though it wasn't "great literature."

That got me thinking. What is great literature? This isn't a new question. People have asked it and asked it again and again, and there is no good answer because people never completely agree.
I suppose there's a difference between great literature and good writing. Good writing should be graceful, entertaining, and it should show rather than tell. That's what I try for in my own writing, and I'd like to think I accomplish it at least some of the time.
But I don't try to write great literature. I tell my students that great literature is timeless. Shakespeare wrote great literature because even now we can connect with the beauty/poetry of the language, and the timelessness of his themes.
Which could mean that Romeo and Juliet was the first piece of young adult literature. There are others that have been written more recently, like The Diary of Anne Frank, the Harry Potter series, and yes, The Hunger Games trilogy.
I'm sure there are people out there who will disagree. But I believe all of these books will stand the test of time, because they're about more than the surface plot, they were written with eloquence and originality, and they express universal themes of loss, hope, and love in a way that people, especially young people, will connect with for years to come.
Which leads me to mentioning my favorite young adult author, Sonya Sones. Her books, What My Mother Doesn't Know, and What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know, may not be timeless, but they are beautiful in their simplicity. I always show examples of her writing to my creative writing students when I'm introducing language devices to them, because she uses them frequently and naturally.

An example:
"My mind know this is greedy
my mind knows this is messed up
my mind knows this is just plain wrong
But my body

has a mind of it's own."
(from page 65 of What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones)

I tell my students it's an example of anaphora, which is repetition of leading words. I think it's more than that though. It's simple, it's easy, but it's also graceful and dare I say, poetic?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I Can't Go to Egypt

The other night my baby Pauline, who just about always sleeps through the night, woke up three times.She's a very laid back baby, and she rarely complains about anything. So when she does make a fuss I usually take it seriously. Obviously that night she was thirsty, or for whatever reason she needed some extra attention. The first two times she woke up I fed her. The third time she woke, which was at around 1:00 am, my husband Rich took her downstairs and gave her a bottle.
Pauline isn't big on bottles, and she made it clear as Rich was walking away with her that she preferred my company. But I had a full day of teaching ahead of me, and I've learned from experience that facing a room of 35 high school students without a decent night's sleep is a dangerous prospect.
It was no matter. I felt so guilty hearing her cries from downstairs, that I couldn't sleep anyway.
Long story... after holding her and soothing her back to sleep I finally fell back asleep as well.
That's when the real drama began.
I had a dream that Rich and I were going on a trip to Egypt with my dad. Our plan was to leave out a bowl of water for Pauline, sort of like she's a cat, and a neighbor was going to come in and check on her. I was frantically trying to feed her as much as I could before we left for the airport so I wouldn't leave her thirsty.
Then I realized I had forgotten to look for my passport. I started digging and digging through file folders, but I could find other people's passports and I couldn't find my own.
Secretly I was relieved. I knew I would have to cancel the trip, which meant I wouldn't have to leave Pauline.
But Rich was mad at me, and my dad felt let down, and I was left with that feeling that no matter how hard I tried, nobody was completely satisfied with my efforts.
Hmm... couldn't be symbolic of anything, could it? (Balance between work and family...)
But why Egypt? In the dream I was thinking pyramids, but maybe I have a subconscious desire to be a part of a revolution.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How Do You Have Time For That?

I teach high school full time, and I have two children - Eli, 6 years, and Pauline, 9 months. Whenever people find out that I write books in addition to that, they ask me how I have time for it. I tell them I don't spend much time cleaning.
It's true; my husband Rich can attest to it. There is of course more to it than that. Rich is actually one of those rare and wonderful guys who does at least his fare share when it comes to our household and family, often he does more. That frees up some time.
As a teacher, I also get several weeks off in the summer. That's when I get most of my writing done.
Still, I can't really answer exactly how I do it, or more importantly, why. It's not like I have a huge, lucrative book contract waiting for me. Yet, when someone reads one of my books and likes it, or when I've visited book clubs, or when I've gotten a good review from someone - well, nothing feels better.
But I guess the most important of it for me is that I enjoy sitting down at my computer and writing about as much as I enjoy anything. It's just so fun... getting to invent a character, shape their world, and control their life. It's a release, and it's one I need. So I find the time because I really, really want to.
My books so far: