Today is National Day on Writing. As I look at the Twitter posts, read the articles and tweet my reason to the hashtag #whyiwrite, I think back reminiscing about my journey. I remember why I wanted to be a writer and why, after all this time, I still rely on it as an old friend I refuse to let go. So, today I'm going to tell you the story of how writing and I came to be.
I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't write. I still recall being a kid in elementary school jotting down rhyming limericks in my pink fuzzy diary because I thought all poems had to rhyme and even though I didn’t know it yet, it was the start of the most important friendship of my life. Then I got my hands on Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy and I was done for. Reading about Harriet and her desire to be a famous author made me realize that my words on paper weren’t just a dumb pipe dream of a 10 year old with big glasses and frizzy hair. This book made me realize that I too wanted to be an author, that I too wanted to write everything I knew and everything I saw and thus was the official start of my writing life.
It always stuck with me. No matter what I did or who I was, writing was a loyal friend with arms stretched open waiting for me to embrace it. I tried different things and experimented with different talents, but in the end writing was what I was meant to do. For a time in high school as I was applying to colleges, I began to think that maybe I could try my hand at acting. I applied to Emerson as a theater major selecting writing as a back-up in case I didn’t get into the program. I guess the universe knew better. Writing was what I went in for and I never looked back.
I found my writing self at Emerson. I fell in love with the first children’s writing course I took and I knew that was going to be my genre. As I progressed through my college years, writing never let me down. It stood by me at 4am as I was cramming the last few words onto my 15 page paper. It handed me tissues as I cried over whatever boy broke my heart and it picked me up when depression hit me hard. For almost two years, I lost myself. I didn’t know who I was anymore and as I struggled to find myself again, writing was my security blanket. I knew who I was when I had a paper and pen in my hand and as long as I had my writing, I would never be lost. It was then that I knew we were soul mates.
I don’t write for the glory of it. Even if I never become that famous author that Harriet wanted to be, I know I am happy with my writing. As I said in my Twitter post, “I write because it's who I am and to do otherwise would feel really strange.”
Yesterday The Wall Street Journal posted an article about YA books being too "dark", stating "Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?" This article (click here to read), has spurned much debate on Twitter as well as the hash tag #YAsaves, where readers off all ages have posted numerous books that have helped them and even, at time, saved their lives. Being a writer myself, I couldn't just let this article be without posting my response to it. I saw it upon waking up this morning at 9am and I am only now able to clear my head to write. It took that long for me to calm down enough to answer their question "Why is this considered a good idea?" Here is my response.
It's books like these that make a difference in the world of teens. Not that I'm saying the other "softer" books don't. To this day, my favorite book is Harriet the Spy which was the book that made me realize I wanted to be a writer and therefore changed my life. However, these other books, these so-called darker books depict a reality that up until now was always kept in the "dark". I'm going to admit something here that only a few people know, I was molested as a child. I won't go into details of what happened, but I will say, had some of these books been around while I was growing up, I may not have felt like that in some part is was my fault. It may not have taken almost all of my 31 years to come to grips with what happened and maybe, even now as I write this, I wouldn't be shaking. I only hope that one day, a book that I write, will have the kind of impact I am seeing on Twitter.
Authors from Judy Blume to Ellen Hopkins to Laurie Halse Anderson have broken the mold and written books that teens need to read. Yes, the topics are serious and yes, the topics are reality. To hide them or band them will cause more harm than good. Do we really want to live in a world where teens are not allowed to express what they feel or what they are going through? Band these books and that's where we're headed. We need these teens to realize they are not alone, that others have been there and that it's ok to go to their parents, teachers, librarians and ask for help without feeling guilty or ashamed about it. In Jackie Morse Kessler's Hunger, when Lisa walks into her parent's bedroom and says "Daddy, I need help." I could almost picture the various teens going to their parents and asking for help just because this one character was strong enough to do so. That is the impact these books make.
So in response to the WSJ question, "Why is this considered a good idea?" My answer "Because it is".
Blogs are whatever we make them. Defining ‘Blog’ is a fool’s errand.