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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writing YA (ConCarolinas Writing Panel Notes)

I'm back after a fantastic weekend on the Island, doing hyperbaric oxygen therapy for my MS. Which probably means very little to most folks reading this, but for me it's done wonders. I'll put it on the list of things to post about once I'm done with this set.

In the meantime, I promised that I would finish my notes from ConCarolinas this week. And starting today, I'm finally on the notes from June 5th, the last day of the convention. Today's topic (a *very* important one for me personally): Writing YA.

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Writing YA

Authors: Jana Oliver, Diana Bastine, Dabra killeen

What teens like:
- Teens like angst.
- Romantic subplot - usually needed for angst
- Teens often read extensively.
- Teens read oder stuff.
- They love scary.
- Difficult words and vocab - Kids soak that up.

All about YA:
- YA has an extensive range: really sweet to really gritty.
- YA has chnaged in the last few decades, in words, language, and themes.
- YA often deals with current issues

Current trends and things to be aware of:
- Dark, negative stuff is more prvealent these days, but teens want to read this sort of thing. They *want* to examine these issues.
- Sexual situations: Have to be careful.
Librarians will classify too much sex and violence as adult.*
- Gay/homosexual characters and subjects are becoming more acceptable.
- Some controversy is usually good.
- It's more effective if you use profanity judiciously.
- What's acceptable in the UK is different from what's acceptable in the US.**
- "New Adult" - a new subgenre: books for college-age students

Further writing tips:
- Teens are more impulsive, can't see that they're getting into trouble. Characters don't/shouldn't have the experience to tell them otherwise; the story should reflect that.
- Be careful about pop culture references: it won't be contemporary years from now. However, it can be entertaining in the now.
- It can be good to engage your inner smartass when writing this.
- Characters change, become less good as they grow.
- If characters die, there should be a good reason.
- Characters must learn consequences.
- Some bad guys can redeem themselves.
- Good guys can't be perfect, and bad guys can't be all bad.

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* I think this varies by library. The public library I used to work at was very liberal about classifying books, but this may not be true at every library, and geographic location may play a part (e.g. this libary was in a liberal suburb of Greater Vancouver, and other suburbs have been known for more conservative views.)

** And if you're in Canada, which as I quipped today gets it culturally from both sides, it can vary quite a bit. ;)

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