I've posted before about how I don't think I would do well as a YA writer, for various reasons. Two reasons that stand out are these. One, I was homeschooled from kindergarten through highschool graduation, so I lack that very common school experience that informs a lot of contemporary-based YA, and even some non-contemporary "magic school" YA. Two, YA was much more scarce when I was that age. There weren't many books in the genre to read. As a reader, I skipped past much of it and went straight to "adult" books.
Reading recent posts about YA, it's occurred to me that these two reasons are connected. People have cited how much they struggled to find books where could see themselves in the protagonists. This is, they claim, one of the best things about the current surge of YA for young readers.
I don't ever really recall having trouble finding characters to identify with, though I do remember being irked at the paucity of female characters at times. (That's a whole different post, and one I believe I've written, but I was always of, "Fiiiine, you writers are poopooheads and I'll write the girl heroes" mindset.) Those tropes of growing up and finding your identity aren't limited to YA characters. The characters tend to be younger, true, but what else is a midlife crisis? In my own writing, Anaea in Scylla and Charybdis is very much on a journey of finding herself, but at 19, she's a bit past the usual age of a YA character. Kit from Flow is only fifteen, but outside the supernatural aspects of her life, she's pretty grounded in who she is.
One of the aspects of being homeschooled is your social circle, while it may be smaller, larger or equivalent to that of someone in conventional school, is almost never composed primarily of your age peers. I had some friends my age, but I also had younger friends - I had a lovely friendship with my neighbor's daughter, who I tutored in math later on - and I had a number of adult friends. One of the best things about volunteering at the Cincinnati Museum Center was even during the school year, I had weekday hours, so I got to hang out with the adult volunteers.
Which leads me to the theory that part of the reason I didn't desperately want/need more YA is the fact that I didn't necessarily need a character to be my age to identify with them. I just wasn't trained into that sense of peer grouping.
Interestingly, this even continued in college: when I attended culinary school, there was a range of ages. I was right in the middle, between teenagers who had just graduated highschool, mid-career culinarians going back to school to build their resume, and second career or retiree students. And again ... I hung out a lot with the latter. One memory that sticks out is when a fellow student, retired from the flavor industry (the industry that creates artificial flavorings), put on his music and Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby" came on.
Me: "Oh, I love this song."
Other student: "What *is* this song?"
And the pair of us (retiree and I) proceeded to riff about the plotline.
Now I'm working in a job where I'm the oldest person by several years ... no big deal.
January 25, 2022
Creativity and Inspiration
January 4, 2022