Posts tagged ‘teens’

April 26th, 2011

I was born in 1995

by Madeleine Rex

I am not under the impression that any of you are creating a timeline of my life or writing a paper on me. My purpose in stating the year I was born is to remind you that I am the teenager of today. Going to high school five days of the week, talking with and texting teenagers, and drowning in the glory of overactive hormones and a swarm of young people with the worries/sense of invincibility/insecurities we read about makes me an insider.

I know that adults are constantly saying things along the lines of, “I remember when I was your age…” but that’s not all that’s required to write a young adult novel. You might remember an event or experience, but you, admittedly, did not experience it in 2010 or 2009. Prom in 1988 is different than prom now, despite the fact that the major characteristics are the same.

Miranda Kenneally, who is still young, once asked me what kids my age call a record store. And I said, “Um… a record store?” When I read a draft of one of her books, though, I came across an instant in which the main character mentions seeing someone’s underwear. My eyes bugged out of my head for a moment before I realized she meant undershirt.

I can promise anyone my age would have spit their Sprite all over that page if they’d read that the main character could see the guy’s underwear while he was leaning against his locker. And the reader probably would have blushed, too.

There are little differences between generations. Even those minor differences can help loads when it comes to making stories and characters easily relatable to the audience (people my age). Sarah Enni posted about this last week, and made many great points. I commented and left a short list of things that have struck me as slightly off or outdated and a few things that I think many people would assume were before my generation but are actually talked about. Here’s the comment:

You’re pretty much spot-on, although I think a lot of people my age have a hazy remembrance of 9/11. I remember walking into the living room on the morning before my second day of kindergarten and finding my mother standing in front of the TV, eyes glued to a building going down. I think lots of people my age feel some sort of connection to it (though I could be wrong). Also: We watched the version of Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio in it, and girls *were* drooling. One person people bring up all the time is Justin Timberlake, but I hear practically nothing about him. 😀

There are a few things I see in books that don’t strike true (and sometimes my adult friends will come to me with questions as they write, trying to verify). For example:

1. We (meaning the people I talk to at MY high school) don’t say “cell”. Often, we don’t even say “cell phone”, unless we’re asking if someone has one or what we’re saying could truly mistakenly be applied to a home phone. Most of the time we just call it “phone”.

2. There are names that creep up in a lot of YA books these days that I hardly ever hear. It’d be hard to list all of them, but there are many.

3. People do talk about politics. And the economy. They tend to sound like they’re regurgitating their parents views (and they are often pretty liberal, at least here). However, people get really worked up over it. Even in middle school during the last election, Obama’s face and name were *everywhere*.

4. OJ is still brought up occasionally. Michael Jackson is still brought up all the time. And almost everyone’s seen Titanic at least once.

5. We sometimes mention Blue’s Clues. And Elmo. And The Cookie Monster.

6. We don’t wear skirts over jeans. Ever.

7. Don’t forget Jamba Juice! It’s not all Starbucks.

I realize that these details might seem insignificant, but they’re the ones that stand out to me as I read. Particularly the overuse of “cells” and the occasional character who wears skirts over jeans. I never see that.

Although I understand that particular characters are unique and might break a generalized rule, I wanted to make the point that the details do not go unnoticed by the target audience. It’s like being ripped out of a dreamworld when the reader comes across something that feels off. Suddenly, we’re distanced from the situation or character, simply because we’ve remembered that what we’re reading is fiction. It’s our job as writers to sustain the illusion.

January 1st, 2011

Choose You

by Madeleine Rex

I read this post of Libba Bray’s tonight, recommended by my friend, Audrey. It’s past midnight, and my parents are telling me to go to sleep. I replied with a sincere, “I will when my brain stops clinking around.”

While reading, I tweeted this:

MadeleineRex I am so grateful for parents & counselors & church leaders that believe I can do anything, that hand me the tools to paint whatever I want.

And I am so very grateful. You see, despite the fact that I’m throwing “I love you”s left and right and do try to smile a majority of the time, I’m a tough person to live with. I know this. It’s one of those things that is strictly undeniable. I cry – a lot. I cry when I’m happy, I cry when I’m sad. I cry at least once a day. Quite honestly, it’s a crucial part of my healing process.

I’m easily afraid that someone’s disappointed in me. I’m defensive and indignant. I always, and I mean always, have something to say. I’m overly anxious, and some little bird told me that I tend to push myself too hard.

And, yet, miraculously, there are all these people who stick around. These people who support me, believe in me, flatter me just enough but aren’t afraid to give advice. They know that I have potential for a lot of things – mistakes included. These people – my family, school counselors, church leaders, and other friends – happen to be my nourishment. They supply me with my Daily Values (based on a 2,000 calorie diet) of cheer, love, advice, support, and painful-but-necessary-growth. The arguments I get in – particularly those I am the cause of – are crucial. Every time I say sorry and every time I don’t serves as a life lesson.

I’m grateful for the people who shove me into a pool of ice water (even if I might yell at them). I’m grateful for the people that pull me out. I am grateful for the people who hand me a towel and say, “Next time, maybe the water will be a little bit warmer.”

I’m sorry for those teens around the world who aren’t as fortunate as I, that are seriously lacking in their Daily Values. Those kids who have people shoving them into ice water for all the wrong reasons. Whose water never gets warmer, and who are forced to claw their own way out and wipe themselves down with a washcloth. I hope for their sakes that someone will come into their life who will drastically alter it for the better. I hope for their sake that even if no one comes for a really long time, they’ll have the inner strength and resilience to keep moving on anyway – that their love for themselves will be sufficient.

I have so many dreams. I have ambitions. I want to be a stay-at-home-mom-editor-of-books-who-writes-on-the-side, even if that might be as impossible as a singer-rock-star-guitar player-who-also-juggles-and-flies-airplanes. I want to get an MFA. I want to exceed my own expectations and push myself harder. I know for a fact that I can only get so far – that I am, in fact, not invincible and am not talented in all areas (Goodness, no). But while I am wholeheartedly in love with literature, writing, writers – this fantastic world that is most certainly the one I belong in, I don’t want to confine myself. I don’t want to limit my potential or my knowledge-base. It’s not right to underestimate ourselves, our value to the world, or the effect we can have. It’s so very wrong to say “when” even though the glass is only two-thirds full simply because you’re afraid that someone will knock it over.

I hope that teens will aspire, dream, work hard, find their niche, and encounter people along the way who will prove to be invaluable and incredible. I want no one to live life contently in a 4×4 box. There are so many possibilities, so many holes in this world that need to be filled – holes shaped just like you. Somewhere in the future there is a happy, smarter, vivacious you – a you who will face troubles and loads of crap, but will always bounce back, whether because you’ve clawed yourself out or someone gave you a hand. There’s also a you who has limited his or herself, who has accepted a less satisfactory condition, and that you is the one you want to avoid.

So, while I’m out-of-this-world lucky to have people who love me and want to see me succeed – who say “when” and not “if,” but also manage to keep my head from entirely losing itself in the clouds, who are always there to say what needs to be said or not (both teach equally important lessons) – and I might seem like the most ridiculous person to try to give advice, I have to sum this up and say one thing:

Choose the truest version of you. Always choose the path that leads to a better you, the you that is kinder, wiser, remarkable, beyond all comparison. This you will influence the world for good and stretch the boundaries of This Cannot Be Done. This you will inspire, and this you will be happier. This, despite the corny, sappy-movie-ness of it, is the you that you are meant to be. You were born with a potential to wreak havoc on people’s expectations, to wow and to uplift, and you were given the means (though it might be deep inside) to meet that potential.