Today's post was inspired by Regan Leigh, who manages a highly impressive blog worth checking out. Writers have plenty of genres to choose from. And these days, it seems nothing is off limits (Remember when J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye was actually considered shocking?) Anyone compelled to to write has every option imaginable.
In the beginning, the blank page is exciting - at least for me. It's the only time in the process when anything is possible. But that moment is short-lived. Eventually, a writer must choose a direction, at least if they hope to complete a tangible product.
Although there are exceptions, most successful authors are known for a certain genre - Stephen King for horror, Nicholas Sparks for romance, and Laurie Halse Anderson for Young Adult. I once had a student ask why I only taught history. I explained that, at the secondary level, teachers focus on one subject area so they can, essentially, become an expert - that it's practically impossible for one individual to possess the knowledge required to become an "expert" in every discipline.
In a lot of ways, this scenario reminds me of writing. Can you be an expert in every genre? My gut tells me probably not. At least I can't, anyway.
My seventh graders once responded to the following prompt: "Is it better to be a jack of all trades or a master of one?" Obviously there is no right or wrong answer, but I think we can all agree it's not easy to be the first. Personally, when it comes to writing, I would rather study and perfect one genre. This way, regardless of what happens in terms of publication, I'll continue growing and be able to identify progress.
So, what was it that made me commit to Young Adult?
Easy; it's me. I never considered another genre. YA is what I read most. It's also the genre I most enjoy. Interestingly enough, I wasn't an avid reader as a kid. In fact, I hated it. I faked my way through book reports and passed English at the mercy of sparknotes.com.
But when I started teaching, I wanted to read more. I wanted to be familiar with popular titles and know what novels to suggest - especially for reluctant readers. In doing so, I discovered a passion I never knew I had. Reading became relaxing, cathartic, and enjoyable. Weekends were spent in bookstores with a latte in one hand, and a book in the other. It was the perfect escape - an opportunity to forget everything bad in my life. For the duration of the novel, I entered another world. Sometimes, I even became a different person.
Everyone knows you have to write your passion. I am, and always will be, an educator at heart. I want to reach kids - serve as a positive role model, instill values, and teach life lessons. I want to inspire - ignite thought-provoking discussions among teens and make them analyze the decisions they make. I want to give them hope - hope for a better future; hope for a better tomorrow.
But most importantly, I want them to enjoy books. And, if it isn't too much to ask, I'd like them to learn from the books they enjoy.
I like to think my background and experience gives me some validity - that by writing what I know, I might be one very very small step above the average person. We'll see.
Just before putting my feet in the water, I had taken a course in YA Literature. I was exposed to many new authors and contemporary pieces, and I fell in love a zillion new characters. As an adult, I realized I enjoy YA because I get to live through experiences I miss as a kid. Simultaneously, I can partake in experiences I personally never had.
My passion for YA continues growing with time. Aside from the fact he has never been born and doesn't currently have a pulse (minor details), my character is a real person. Currently, I may be the only person he communicates with, but believe me, I hear him loud and clear. At times we fight - I keep telling him I'm the boss, but he knows he is. He shares his experiences - spills his heart and soul into my ears, and I write his story to the best of my ability.
The fact that Michael and I have this kind of relationship tells me I'm on the right path. So, I guess you could say I write YA for a number of reasons: it's my passion, it's my expertise, and hopefully, it's my calling. To quote LK Gardner-Griffie, one of my favorite people ever, "I write YA because I have to."
How about you? What made you choose your genre? Why do you feel this is where you belong? I'd love to hear from you.