Thursday, February 11, 2016

on writing: why ya?

The other day I was talking with a friend. I shall not be sharing the name of said friend. In fact, being that I'm a storyteller, it's possible I am completely making up said friend in an effort to give validity to this blog post. Or maybe I was struggling with how to approach this topic and thought, 'hey, what about saying a friend asked me all these awkward questions verses a troubling amount of people have been asking me questions that are a wee bit worrisome?!' But I ain't tellin', thus you'll never know for sure.


Said friend -- having first picked their jaw up off the floor after finding out that the book I'd been talking about writing for five long years was in fact an actual book and had been published -- asked me some interesting questions.

And while I don't feel I need to defend myself or my writing, I do think there is some merit to discussing my friend's questions in a public forum. You see, since publishing, I've noticed a trend in the way people -- specifically adults -- react to my declaring I write YA contemporary coming-of-age. In fact, it's gotten to a place where I feel a little ... ashamed. Like it's some kind of dirty secret I should hide. Thus, in an effort to cleanse myself of this feeling, I've decided to air these questions out and hopefully put them to rest. Or open up a can of worms that's about to explode in my face. Only time will tell.

Question One: Why write YA? Isn't that cheating?
Right out of the gate my friend came out swinging. This question completely stumped me. I've never thought to question why a mystery writer pens mystery stories nor considered their choice of genre cheating. And it was in this moment that I realized something shocking and concerning, there are those who believe some genres aren't real or important. Thus to some if you tack YA onto a book suddenly it's not worth reading and could even be viewed as cheating. Instead of answering the question, I asked 'well, why not YA?' To which my friend stated, 'well, YA is for kids and it's not about real life.' Now, I'm not sure what my friend's childhood was like, but let me tell you, some of the most turbulent and heart-wrenching years of my life were spent between the ages of seven and eighteen. As I was too shocked to respond, they barreled on ahead with this next gem.

Question Two: And by writing YA aren't you limiting your audience? Don't you want adults to read your book?
Now as an avid and eclectic reader the thought of not reading a book based on genre or sub-genre or whatever other label is being thrown at a book has never crossed my mind. I know just as many adults who love reading the Percy Jackson series as I do kids. In fact, I started reading the Percy Jackson series based on two recommendations from adults and then I got a few more adults and a handful of kids hooked on them as well. But before I could shake myself out of my stupor and answer, my friend continued.

Question Three: You're just writing YA because it's so popular and marketable, aren't you? 
This was the part of the conversation during which I pondered why we were friends and how I could easily exit the conversation without maiming another human being. Not bothering to wait for a response, my friend plunged ahead.

Question Four: Not to mention, why such a boring sub-genre? Coming-of-age is run of the mill, everyday life, and uninteresting crap. Don't you want people to be entertained? 
Clearly not. Clearly by writing a YA contemporary coming-of-age novel, my main goal in life is to a. bore the hell out of people while b. writing a book in the most popular genre all while c. alienating all the adults on the planet thus d. limiting my audience and oh yeah e. cheating. Once again, I was gobsmacked. However, the next question woke me up.

Question Five: Why not write a different genre? Something worth writing?
Here I did speak up. And I'll share my answer.

I have in fact written other genres. I've written a story about a man in his late thirties who's a recovering drug addict and is struggling to put his life back together. I've written a fantasy novel set in a circus featuring a ghost, a murderer, and an old man with dark secrets. I've written a story about a woman whose possessed by an alien that makes her kill her husband. I've also written a story about a vengeance demon who goes around killing for the sport of it.

There are more, but Ashley's story was the first to ring true. All The What Ifs was the first time I thought, 'AH-HA. I've got something here!' And I didn't think about the genre or marketability or if I was cheating or who my audience would be. All I thought about was getting her story right and making it worthy of her. Everything that came after that was arbitrary.

And if there are those who don't want to read All The What Ifs based on the genre or the sub-genre or whatever personal feelings and opinions they bring to the table that's totally, completely, 100% right and good and valid and their prerogative. Not every book is for every person. It's just a fact.

But to say one genre is better than another or one story is worthier of telling than another ... well, that's a dangerous and slippery slope and it's what most concerns me about my conversation with my friend.

There's a quote I love and it goes a little something like this:

I'm not going to defend my book to my friend. I'm not going to defend my choice of genre or sub-genre or any of that jazz. But what I will defend is every writer's right to be treated with respect whether they write YA, erotica, political thrillers, fantasy, self-help, or whatever the case may be. Writing is hard enough without dictating to authors that there are better genres or more worthy stories. Writing is a place for hopeful and struggling dreamers. It's a place where all should feel welcomed and all should have the chance to give this crazy life a try. Once we start defining what stories are worth telling we limit the potential for greatness and possibility. And what a shame that would be.

So write, my friends. Write about mysteries and kissing. Write about heartache and first loves. Write about zombies and ghosts and faeries and axe-murderers. And don't let anyone tell you it's not worthwhile. It's all worthwhile. It's all welcome to the party. It's all a thing of beauty.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ang reads: the February 2016 edition

2016 is underway.
As I posted last month,
I'm making it a goal to blog about the books
I've been reading at least once a month.
Let's recap, shall we!

Here's my GoodReads 2016 Reading Goal:

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Angela has read 0 books toward her goal of 50 books.

Books read in January:
(links to reviews on GoodReads)
Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet published by Indie Jane Press
Black Wood by SJI Holliday
Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Book One by L. Frank Baum
Attempting Elizabeth by Jessica Grey

Now, I know y'all are dying to hear what my favorite book was last month.
Truth to be told, I suck at picking favorites.
So you'll have to wait for my 2016 year end wrap up to get a straight answer.
However, I will say that there wasn't a book I read this month that I didn't enjoy.
I'm thinking that's a win-win all around.

Books I'd like to read this month:
The first is a book a great bookish friend sent to me last year.
i. am. ALL. the excited to finally read it.

The second is by a wonderful author friend of mine.
I loved Wind Chime Cafe hard
and look forward to this beautiful sequel!

And the last is the second book in a classic series.
One of my reading goals this year is to read all the Oz books.

link to goodreads

Annnnd on that note!

1. Whatcha been reading?! 
2. Quick: tea or coffee?
3. Heard of any good books you're dying to get your hands on?
4. Have you read Oz? 
5. What does love got to do with it?