Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Angsty Post

A warning to protect my friends: this post will be long (super long) and full of ranting.
You do not have to read it, but if you do, please leave a comment and give me your opinion on the matter, because I am interested to hear it, maybe.. ahem, yes... even if it is a different opinion from mine.

Here goes:
Every single time that I have ever told anyone that I want to write young adult fiction, without exception, they have said "So you want to be the next Stephanie Meyer, huh?"
That makes me want to claw their eyes out.
This is a violent reaction and that is because my hatred for Stephanie Meyer and everything she stands for is itself very violent.
I do not want to be compared in any way to Meyer, and that is because I feel that she writes rubbish and I do not.
Once someone close to me, who will remain unnamed, said, "You can criticize her when you've written a best-seller."
Movie critics do not have to be great directors. Food critics do not have to be great chefs.
I do not have to top the New York Times Best Seller List to recognize the worst books (please do not say literature) ever written.
I get very defensive when people criticize books like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and I practically snapped Travis's head off the other day when he asked why everything has to be nonsensical in the novel. (Not the garbage movie, folks, the novel.)
"It's about a little girl growing up," I said over and over again, "She doesn't fit, she's too big, too small. Adults expect things of her that are absurd. She doesn't understand what people want from her. Everything seems confusing."
"But why does the baby turn into a pig?" he asked. "Why do they play croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs? It doesn't make sense."
"Nothing makes sense!" (I think I was practically yelling at him) "Don't you remember being a kid and thinking absolutely everything around you was crazy and confusing and adults were nonsensical and you couldn't get a handle on anything because it was always changing? It doesn't make anymore sense than the real world!"
Don't even get me started on Peter Pan.
Too late. I am started.
I am sick and tired of me saying "I love Peter Pan. I think it is among the most wonderful and important Children's books ever written," and people responding with "James Barrie was super screwed up. His balls didn't even drop."
I do not care about James Barrie's balls. I care that he wrote a magical book about someone who could imagine the world into being as wonderful as he wanted it to be.
I do care about Barrie though, don't get me wrong, I used to --and sometimes still do-- wish that I was Barrie, merely so I could be the one to find Peter Pan, to understand him completely. I know Barrie's life totally sucked.
Sometimes I think it was worth it. I love Peter Pan more than words can express.

I know that I will not produce the next Peter or Alice.

But I like to think I'm a pretty good writer
(and yet I know as soon as I say that ever, even to my friends and family, people picture the kind of kid that is the main character in Gentlemen Broncos. A terrible writer who thinks they're Gods gift to literature, constantly asks their friends to read their work for them and hovers over them asking what they think.)
Why is saying "I want to write," looked at the same way as a short uncoordinated kid saying "I want to be the next Michael Jordan" ?
It's an unobtainable, laughable dream. Right?

And if you want to be a good writer, not just a popular writer, oooh boy. Keep dreaming.
Stephanie Meyer is the devil.
Her book of distopian, obsessive, suicidal, sexual-primitivism lust and "love" is just another bomb being dropped on literature.
Because I know that if I want to write and have people hear me I have to write something like Gossip Girl, Twilight, Shiver, garbage.
Because girls who want to read literature read Emma, or Wuthering Heights, or Pride and Prejudice.
And literature, real literature, is so out of fashion that no one knows what books have won the Printz award this year. And even the winners, which I normally really like, are not always the type of literature that mean.
I don't know any ten-year olds that would read and enjoy Peter Pan or Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Maybe I feel angsty because I read so much YA lit. At least the angst is how I remember being a teenager, and can write about it.

So here's what it all boils down to, I think: All children know that adults absolutely do not remember being a child.
All adolescents are caught between being a "grown-up" and a kid and do not know how to behave and have absurd things expected from them, no matter their circumstances.
Even if these kids and teenagers have friends and close family, they're all going at it alone. They're all "coming of age" and you know, "finding themselves." They're doing all those cliche things that everyone does around that time between ages 11-19.
And I honestly feel that I have something important to do. I feel that writing can help.

Don't you remember those few friends, the ones who stuck by you no matter what? Don't you remember that they weren't girls in your grade or the young women in your ward? It was Anne of Green Gables. It was Francie from a Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It was Jonas from The Giver.
They were the only people who knew, exactly how it felt to be you, because they were SUCH a part of you.
I want to help people feel like someone knows how it feels to be them.
But the more YA lit I read, the more I feel like that is an immpossibility.
I want to do something important, but the world has decided (against my wishes) that it is not important. It is useless.
Teenagers read the soft porn of Twilight and Anne, sweet red-haired Anne Shirley, is forgotten in place of Bella Swan.


lana.aleyse said...

I completely understand your frustration. It almost hurts when people think that literary genius can be nullified by the crazy who penned it. I don't care that Lewis Carroll was obsessed with Alice -a real little girl. I don't care about the rumors of him proposing marriage to a child. I care that he understood, and that when I read Alice I understand her plight completely because I once was her. And I DON'T care that Meyer "knows how to captivate an audience." You know what else captivates an audience? Trash like Playboy, and then the garbage TV shows like "Real Housewives of Orange County" and "The Girls Next Door." They captivate an audience! Is anything that can captivate an audience worthy of our praise? Hell No. I wish I could write. I have a burning desire inside me to pen some of the indescribable beauty and magic that still pervades my 'grown-up' life. I want to provide literature to my children (especially my own, but even the ones I will teach) that will only inspire and uplift. Not only 'uplifting' topics apply here. Uplifting as in taking them from their lonely isolated growing-up period and lifting them to a place where they are understood and they are free to learn to understand themselves and others. I want that sort of literature to pervade my life and the life of the upcomings. If you can, write it.

Tammy said...

This is your best post. You should get angry more often. Not that I don't like your other posts but I don't know you well but know I feel I know you a little and I have seen some of your depth. I agree with everything you have said. I am constantly arguing with people about the Twilight series and how it will ruin young girls and their view of the world. I think I am inspired to post again. Thanks.

Jessica D. said...

She is the devil. I hate her with such a passion. Vampires are amazingly complex characters that can be used to describe the world in complex ways. Instead they sparkle. GAH!

ALSO! Bella... this is the message "Be dumb, that's how you get lots of guys to fall all over you".

I hate Twilight and all that it represents and all that Stephanie Meyers has brought to this world.

The Stanley's said...

Thank you my dear. After reading your two latest posts, I feel exhausted and yet inspired at the same time. You write your book!!

Sam said...

That is so cool Becky. Stick to your guns, you're so into this stuff, that kind of passion will lead you someplace if you pursue it.

cole said...

becky, i don't have a lot to add—you said everything perfectly—but I want to let you know of my respect for you for standing up for something you strongly believe in, for allowing literature to come alive inside of you (this is a special gift), and for being brave enough to get over the fears that cripple so many would-be writers and for actually penning your book. I'm really, really blown away and cannot wait for r2 of your manuscript.

MARCIE said...

Thank you Becky. I thought I was the only one who had not fallen for this vampire crap. Keep writing. You don't know from one day to the next what will flow from your fingertips.