high school I dreamed of being a serious novelist. I had always wanted
to be a writer, but in high school English we started reading books by
amazing authors like Anne Lamott, Toni Morrison, and Barbara
Kingsolver. Someday, I thought, I’ll
write serious novels like them.
Because I didn’t have any ideas
for “serious” novels, I wrote others instead. I borrowed experiences
from my dramatic teenage existence and wrote lousy, cathartic pieces
about being a modern teenager. But just wait until I graduated. Then
I’d have some real ideas. Then I’d write the Wuthering Heights
of our time.
The trouble was even after I’d
graduated and started work as a receptionist, I still couldn’t think of
any “serious” ideas. My stupid brain seemed to be stuck in high school.
I’d recall something from those four years, then think of a way to
twist and tweak it into a plot line.
For a while I dismissed these
juvenile ideas. Because what would Anne, Toni, and Barbara think if
they knew I wrote books for teenagers? What about my dear English
teacher, Ms. Bromberg? She told our entire class that she believed I’d
do it, believed I’d get published. What would she think if I took her
education on fine literature and squandered it on writing silly high
school love stories?
I put up a good struggle. I
wrote several beginnings for what I hoped would turn into serious
novels, but I never wrote more than a couple chapters. I couldn’t get
excited about the story.
And then a couple years later,
as I flipped through a Delia’s clothing catalog, I came across an
advertisement for several new Young Adult series being released. They
were series that eventually became very familiar to me, but at the time
I’d never heard of them—The A-List, The Clique, and Gossip Girl. I
stared at the page, shocked to find that I was well out of high school,
yet so interested in reading these books. And the
question I’d been asking God for nearly three years—What do you want me
to write?—was suddenly answered. He wanted me to write Young Adult
fiction. (Yep, God’s so big he can even use Gossip Girl to reach
At first this revelation
thrilled me. I had a genre! Okay, sure, I knew nothing about it, but I
could fix that. I’d make lists and plans and got to writing.
Of course, that niggling thought
returned when the initial excitement wore off—the Brontё sisters would
be very disappointed in me if they knew what was going on. And Barbara
Kingsolver probably wouldn’t even want me reading her books anymore.
God’s opinion mattered
infinitely more. I felt as sure of His calling as I did my own name.
And now, five years later, His calling has come to fruition as I
prepare for the release of my first YA series.
read a lot of YA fiction in the last few years, both Christian and
general market. Some I loved. Some I hated. Some I thought, This is
for high schoolers??? I’m in my twenties and I’m
not even sure I’m mature enough to be reading this! That’s
what’s so funky about this genre. Anything goes. No subject is too
dark, too weird, too hopeless. Even in the Christian market, we’re
delving into dark subjects our teenagers deal with, but we’re shining
the light of Christ on them. Yes, drinking is real. But it’s not
glamorous. Yes, sex happens. No, it doesn’t happen without some kind of
consequence, whether it’s internal, like questioning self-worth, or
external, like an STD.
I once heard Robin Jones Gunn,
YA author extraordinaire, speak about why she continues to write for
teenagers. With tears running down her face, she shared about letters
she’s received from girls who have come to Christ, whose lives have
altered course because of the words Robin wrote. Bryan Davis, author of
the Dragons in Our Midst series among others, tells a story about a
girl who wrote to him that she found strength in one of his female
characters and changed her mind about committing suicide.
These are the stories that make
the young adult market so special: teenagers being reached and changed
and told how they’re loved and valued. These are the reasons why if I
someday do come across Toni Morrison and she asks what kind of books I
write, I will smile, look her in the eyes, and proudly say, “I write
young adult fiction.”