Is it Jealousy? Or Are They Really That Annoying? Guest Blogger: Crystal Liechty
Recently I went to a writer’s conference in California and made friends with another YA writer. Through her I met even more YA writers, none published yet, but all up and coming with agents and books soon to be released. How stoked was I to meet all these future Sarah Dessens and Cicely von Ziegesars!? Maybe some of their talent and luck would rub off on me. Maybe we’d all go on Oprah together. (When I dream, I dream big.)
Like the twenty-first century, techno-savy girls we were, we all exchanged blog info as we parted ways at the end of the conference. When I got home, I immediately saved all the addresses in my computer, excited to dip into this endless new fountain of knowledge.
Only it didn’t turn out to be a fountain so much as a mud puddle.
Before thou thinkest me too catty, let me explain. I was willing to put up with their different take on how to approach YA (like when one girl told me all my characters “talked too smart.” Real teenagers, like, don’t talk like that) but the final straw came after a week-long, rambling discussion over who was hotter, Edward or Jacob? Which ended with “who’s the hottest vampire in all of literature?” (Take a wild guess as to how far their minds traveled to come up with the answer. I mean, Dracula didn’t even enter the discussion!)
I tried to tell myself that these chicks write YA so it’s a good thing they remind me so much of those vapid, giggling girls I couldn’t stand in high school. It’s my fault because I’m too “adult” to write in my chosen genre. I’m the one with the problem here, right?
But the doubt gurgled in the pit of my stomach like bad indigestion.
These same authors like to post excerpts of their latest works. Great! I thought. I can see what’s out there, how people are molding their characters and playing out their stories! Except all five or so excerpts from all five or so different authors (plus two actual finished drafts that were emailed to me) could have been from the same book. They were all about the same pretty, sassy teenage Carrie Bradshaw who gets into various forms of hijinks juggling the many boys that are interested in her. And she “like, so better not get grounded for staying out late again. Because there was, like, no way she was going to let Brad go to the party with Cindy unsupervised.”
But it’s me, right? I’m just jealous because they all have agents and I don’t. Obviously, they’re doing something right. So I need to go back and make sure my characters don’t talk in coherent sentences. And I need to make sure my main girl is brainless and boy-crazy, because that’s what the market is calling for, isn’t it? But then I thought of the most insanely, brainless, boy-crazy teen story of them all—Twilight. And that book was still good. And the characters still had depth and spoke like intelligent humans.
And I thought about how kind of presumptuous it was that these new friends of mine all have websites up for books their agents hadn’t even sold to a publisher yet (maybe their agents made them do it? Though one of them has a full photo gallery of her in various model poses and I’m pretty sure no one was asking for that). And how they all seemed to talk like they were big stars already. You know? That kind of “I’m being humble because I’m a good person, but really, you’re lucky I’m even talking to you,” tone?
So I wondered if I was being the opposite of jealous--if I was holding on to these friends to prove that I wasn’t bothered by their success. I began to consider that maybe my dislike of their writing style, their take on the YA market and their general personalities had no deeper meaning. What if I don’t like them … simply because I don’t like them?
And that’s when I realized: I may like watching Sex and the City, but I don’t like living it. I’d rather write books with characters I respect than with characters I think will sell. I’d rather associate with writers who can understand and encourage that than writers who only like work that sounds just like their own. So what if I never get published again? At least I can respect myself in the morning.
Crystal Liechty is the author of The First Year. Visit Crystal's blog here and her website here.