Thursday, May 30, 2013

Evolving as a Writer

No question about it: Young adult fantasy fiction made me a writer. It drew me in, kept me hooked, and provided a much-needed escape from the angsty woes of middle and high school. Adding my voice to that particular genre seemed like the natural next step, and for about the last eight years, I assumed that I would be a YA writer forever. 

And then I grew up.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t or won’t write YA or that I have stopped reading it. That’s definitely not the case. But lately I find myself wandering this strange borderland in my writing, wherein I want to use YA style choices and young characters, but I also want to talk about complex issues, adult situations, sex and sexuality, etc., and I want adults to read it, too. I’m certainly not underestimating teens’ ability to deal with that kind of subject matter, but when does a novel cross the line from being for teens to being for adults? That line seems blurry at best, and I’m constantly flirting with it.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the emerging “New Adult” genre, and since no one seems completely sure what that is, maybe that’s where I am. However, much of the work dubbed NA seems to focus largely on college party culture and sexy times (with covers resembling Harlequin romances), which isn’t really what I’m trying to do. This conundrum is starting to worry me because I’m approaching the end of my current project’s first draft and have begun to wonder how I’ll label it when I query agents. 

“This light sci-fi novel is targeted toward-- um-- people, I guess.”

And all the agents go...

I’m coming to terms with the fact that my writing is constantly evolving and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. We all have to be open to whatever new creative ideas pop into our heads, even if they mark a departure from what we’ve produced in the past. All I know for certain is that I’m an SFF writer, and I doubt that will ever change-- but then again, who knows?

Has your writing evolved and changed over the years?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stand Up to Live

What do you love, aside from writing? What else are you passionate about? What makes you geek out? For me, there are several things-- as I may have mentioned before, I have so many interests that I just about drive myself crazy keeping up with them all. But numero dos on my list is definitely fitness. 

One of these things is not like the other.

“Wait, wait, wait,” you’re saying. “I thought you were a nerd! Nerds don’t eat right or go to the gym! They snarf Doritos and Mountain Dew and sit in front of the computer for hours on end!”

Well, some nerds do, and that’s cool. I used to be one of those. But I decided that if I’m going to stay on this earth being awesome for as long as possible, I’ll need a healthy vehicle for my genius *wink*. The more active I became, the more I grew to love it, and the more I wished I had been fit all my life instead of just the past few years. I could talk about working out and eating clean for a REALLY long time, but that’s not what you came for.

My writing will always, always, always come first. If I’ve planned a workout and I happen to find myself in that burning, blissful, I-must-get-these-words-out-of-my-head mood, then the workout gets postponed. That said, I think it’s important for all of us to have other things going on in our lives. Walk away from the keyboard once in awhile and do something else you love. Plant some flowers. Play catch with your kid. Ride a horse. Go see a movie. Paint. Dance. Knit. Run. Call your mom.

As Thoreau said, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” Our experiences out in the world add color, depth, and wisdom to our work. While dedication is crucial for a writer, that doesn’t mean we should spend every waking moment typing furiously or feel guilty for spending a night out with friends. If you love making papier-mâché kittens, do it, then watch it inevitably wind itself back into your writing. All the things that fitness has inspired in me-- willpower, determination, confidence, pride, courage, inner and outer strength, and yes, joy-- make me a better writer in one way or another. Plus, we all know that walking away from a piece and coming back with fresh eyes and a rejuvenated mind is always a great idea.

What do you do when you’re not wordsmithing? How has it affected you as a writer?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Graduating is Cool, I Guess

See my magna cum laude medal? It's shiny.
I like shiny.
So, I graduated from Ball State on Saturday. Whoa, right? Go me! I was a first-generation college student and I made it out in four years with a 3.86 GPA. I should be proud. I am proud. My mom is prouder.

But the day before I graduated, my manager at work took me aside to warn me that corporate had decided to cap all part-timers’ hours at 28. She knew I had planned to work as close to full time as they would let me after graduation, and she didn’t want me to count on that happening. I nodded, said “Ok, thanks for telling me,” then locked myself in the back room and bawled. When I got off work, I went straight to bed and bawled some more.

I love my job. LOVE it. I was looking forward to living off of it while I continued to write, at least for awhile. Thanks to the 21st Century Scholars program, I’m one of those rare college grads entering the world debt-free-- and because I came from a low-income household, I know what it’s like to be crushed under your bills. That’s a thing I’m terrified of, and a thing I swore would never happen to me.

So here I am, with an English degree and a part-time job in Muncie, Indiana, and I’m scared. I took a huge risk when I chose to get an education in Creative Writing; I know that. But life has always sort of worked itself out for me and I assumed that my luck would continue. Now I don’t know what’s ahead. Will I have to leave to find a decent job? Do I even want to stay? What will I have to give up in order to support myself? Where will I be in five years? Ten? Will I still be happy?

Today I bumped into one of my old teachers, who still tells the story of how I corrected her spelling of Lamborghini in first grade. She’s one of dozens, if not hundreds, of people in my life who always assumed that I would go far. Until now, it never occurred to me that I might let them down.

Okay, pity party over! I try to remind myself that I’m a lot better off than many people my age, but I think I’m still allowed a little worry now and then. Seriously though, is adulthood the scariest thing ever or what?