“What are you writing?” is the one question people ask me when they find out I’m a writer. They usually nod their heads and give a somewhat convincing smile that says they’re mildly impressed by the fact that I can string words together on the page to create a story.
When I reply that I write Young Adult (YA) literature, their smiles twist into a mass ball of confusion, as if I just told them I trade sexual favors for Pop Tarts on the corner of Desperation and You Must Be Joking.
Case in point: I was once at a birthday dinner for one of my best friends and was talking with someone I went to high school with whom I hadn’t seen since I was sixteen (which, in-and-of itself, is a frightening situation not for the faint of heart). He asked what I write. When I told him that my target audience are teenagers, he cocked his head and furrowed his brows, and with one statement, crushed my soul: “So, like, Twilight?”
My response: “I will never write about sparkly vampires.”
Had he said another Stephanie Meyer-tinged word, I probably would have ripped his throat out. Nothing infuriates me more than those who are so completely uneducated about the YA genre that they lump all YA titles into the “Twilight” category…but that’s a story for another time.
We continued on in our conversation and I told him my writing is – for the most part – grounded in realism. I set out to write with a specific agenda: to encapsulate the teenage experience. Not every aspect of being a teenager, mind you, but certain and specific issues; issues that I experienced growing up, in the hopes that I connect with others who share my experience and pain and obstacles and generally awesome, raw teen angst. I’m not writing about my own life per say, so it’s not like you’d see my book in Teen Non-fiction if you were perusing the shelves at Barnes and Noble, but I do draw from the past as inspiration. I often write to change the past. I write to live again, because as a writer, I get to do what nobody else can: live life twice. When I describe what I’m working on, I say that I’m writing about life because, in essence, that’s what I’m doing. What I’m working on right now is, broadly speaking, about the main character coming to terms with his sexuality and finding his place in the world.
It’s a daunting task, living life twice. I act as God and I create characters and settings and stories and it’s the most invigorating process. I get to live life two, three, four times, with an infinite amount of do-overs. I can rewrite the past, erase complete scenes from my life and scribble something new, something wonderful, the way it should have been. I write to be heard.
I will be heard.
So why haven’t I been heard yet? In the past month, I’ve been to two friend’s book launch parties. On top of that, so many of my peers from The New School have either published their books, or have books coming out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly, unbelievably, unselfishly happy for them. If anything, their wonderful successes push me to want to succeed more than ever.
What sets me apart from my peers, you ask? Good question. In order to answer that, I’ve compiled a
completely ludicrous totally valid list of the five reasons why I believe I am not published yet, followed by a realistic list of what I plan to do to rectify this most egregious situation.
1.) I’m only relatively attractive:
I’m not knock-you-down gorgeous. The pretty people always win. Since I’m all sorts of “Middle of the Road,” I’m still mid-race, running in place towards the finish line. That said, I’m also not this:
Therefore, I should get some sort of recognition. A superlative in the Yearbook of Life that says, “Wonderfully Average Looking.” I would rock the hell out of that superlative.
2.) I make a lot of the same facial expressions that Britney Spears does, but I’m not BritBrit. For me, fame and fortune is seeing my book up on shelves and getting a royalty check of $20 every six months. Seeing my name on a dusty shelf in Barnes & Noble is my equivalent to shaving my head and attacking some poor car full of paparazzi with an umbrella: freeing and completely insane! I will never be Britney Spears. And I’m not sure that I’m OK with that. Life is SO unfair.
3.) I don’t know Kevin Bacon.
We all know that it’s all about who you know. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon. People get jobs they shouldn’t have because their mother’s best friend’s sister is dating a man who works in a ………………………….
Maybe if I can get down to brass tax and figure out my “Six Degrees” to Kevin Bacon, I can use that my advantage and finally get published! I just gotta cut loose…
4.) I’m not a cast member on Glee. Or Snooki. Or Perez Hilton. If I were a regular on Glee, which – secret time – is a HUGE dream of mine, I would be cool enough to have my book published. Not going to lie, I have Chris Colfer’s “Struck By Lightning,” a Christmas gift from my boyfriend. I haven’t read it yet, but that’s beside the point. The point is that celebrity status = license to be a “serious” author.
I just wanna be happy, you guys!
5.) I can’t fly.
OK, IN ALL SERIOUSNESS – yes, I can be serious – I know that I need to buckle down and work towards my goals. And like anything worthwhile, it’s going to take a lot more than an awesome set of GIFs to get me where I need to be.
1.) I’m not going to be so hard on myself. Sure, I feel guilty that I haven’t written or tried harder to get an agent. I know what I need to do. Now it’s time to just do it. I’m not going to slap my wrists anymore…all of that slapping just made my skin irritated and solved nothing.
2.) WRITE. I’m going to write. No more excuses. I have so many ideas. I’m literally (yes, I said literally) dying because ideas are oozing out of every orifice of my body. Yesterday, a string of words just fell out of my nostrils. It was weird. Ideas aren’t my issue. My issue is time. Balancing life is tough. Cue the tiny violins that I came with the teaching contracts I sign every semester. That’s a perk they give to adjunct professors: a tiny violin and a wonky schedule that’s ever-changing. I just need to get my phat ass back on that metaphorically clichéd horse and WRITE.
3. Get an agent. I’m going to start submitting my manuscript and query letter to more agents. I haven’t done a round of this since last September, so it’s time. I became discouraged, but no more of that.
4.) Work on developing my next novel. Now that my first book is pretty much ready to be sent out, I need to start plotting out my next novel. I have a solid cast of characters and a general idea, but I need to set a goal for myself to get the major plot points mapped out this summer.
5.) WRITE. Write, write, write.
These are my goals.
I will be famous.
I will be published.
At some point in the future.
Mark my words; the next time someone asks me what I write, I’ll be able to whip out my book, hot off the press!