Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

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.


At 5/27/2008 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff Savage is going to kill me for writing this.

If you're writing for "the market" then it will likely reflect the market.

The influence pedlers are the ones who push an ideology and once it gains some momentum (think the 60s free love for example) then everyone can't be too quick to feed the market and sell their latest market driven story.

But if you believe that we are children of God, that within each of us is the potential for goodness. And that our hearts can be touched with the spirit, then there is room in every market for an author to write from the heart, and instead of fashioning their stories to fit the demand, they just may create a demand for a deep hunger that has gone unsatiated for far too long.

I say write from your heart and let the spirit catch you story on fire.

Or you could write business as usual.

Its your choice.


At 5/27/2008 5:11 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Good for you, Crystal.

To me it sounds like the same old same old from those other writers. The irony is that YOUR book will stand out because it's different. And real. I think today's teens a bit more savvy than a lot of give them credit for.

Janette Rallison's teenagers don't sound like morons, and she's done very well for herself.

At 5/27/2008 7:12 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Don't dumb down your writing, Crystal (that's one thing that Stephenie Meyer says that she won't do). You are on the right track and those other authors might get a few cheesy books out, but they'll be off the shelve in 6 months.

At 5/28/2008 12:19 AM, Blogger L@pterces said...

Gosh, Steph, I thought it was really you writing this before I read more closely! I had two questions...

1. Who were the vapid, mindless girls you hated in high school?

2. Do you really watch 'Sex and the City?'

I guess they're moot questions now, unless, of course they apply to you anyway.

At 5/28/2008 12:52 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

LOL, l@pterces. Missed the title of the blog, did ya? As for your questions:

1-Hmm. . . can't think of anyone in particular. Too long ago!

2. Nope. Never have.

Crystal, hooray for making your characters intelligent! My teenage daughters would definitely approve.

At 5/28/2008 1:05 AM, Blogger Crystal Liechty said...

To answer your questions, l@pterces!

1. In my blog, I was thinking about girls I knew who just didn't care. They didn't think about who they were, they didn't think about the decisions they made, their impact on the world, they didn't care about how they treated people. It was all just boys, boys, boys! I just never understood it.

2. I used to watch Sex and the City back when it was on HBO, but, ironically, when I try to watch the TBS reruns, I get so offended. Having a kid will do that to you.

I know you were asking Steph, but thought I'd answer anyway. :O)


At 5/28/2008 1:53 AM, Blogger Tamra Norton said...

I agree with Heather--don't dumb down your characters. Well, you can a few, but I love strong-willed, smart talking (and thinking) girls!

At 5/28/2008 3:18 AM, Blogger Anna Maria Junus said...

I agree.

I think it's too hard to write to the market. If you do you can still get rejected and then you end up with something that isn't marketable and you don't even like.

At 5/28/2008 5:08 PM, Blogger Danyelle Ferguson said...

Crystal - Excellent post! I love your honesty and point of view. Thanks for sharing!

At 5/29/2008 12:03 PM, Anonymous Liz H. said...


Teenage girls and guys need to have something to read that is interesting but that also has some meat to it.

Not everyone is an airhead that can't understand or form a coherent sentence and has to grab a dictionary if you don't use the word "like" at least 3 times in a sentence.

Good for you for creating something that anyone could read and feel good about having read instead of caving to the peer pressure to write something that makes the reader feel dumber for having read.

-Liz Hall

At 5/30/2008 12:34 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

You go, Crystal! Let not the airheads influence you!


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