I had the chance to present at the Space Coast Writers Guild conference a few weeks ago on writing for young adults. Good times! And then I had the chance to get over a nasty, nasty airplane-caught flu for three weeks. BUT I’m back and glad to be here.
My many thanks for the generous people of SCWG who let me come and didn’t walk out of my presentation even when I kept running out of air and almost passing out. I blame the pregnancy, not the nervousness. 😉
Of the feedback I got on the presentation, a lot of people said they had never heard Sandra Cisneros’s vignette “Eleven” and liked it. Here’s a snippet in case you don’t remember from your ninth-grade English class:
What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven.
Like some days you might say something stupid, and that’s the part of you that’s still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama’s lap because you’re scared, and that’s the part of you that’s five. And maybe one day when you’re all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you’re three, and that’s okay. That’s what I tell Mama when she’s sad and needs to cry. Maybe she’s feeling three.
Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one.
I like this because, for me, it illustrates writing from the young adult or middle-grade voice. You don’t have to invent a voice out of nothing. You’re already thirteen inside. You only have to decide if you have the courage to peel back the layers and let that awkward, tormented, idealistic person from your past speak.
Next week I’ll touch on how to peel back the layers and write with a younger voice without necessarily making your characters too autobiographical.