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Mar. 10th, 2010 | 08:41 pm

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-young-adult8-2010mar08,0,1082099.story

To re-quote two pieces from the article:

"I think part of the reason we're seeing adults reading YA is that often there's no bones made about the fact that a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain," said Lizzie Skurnick, 36, author of "Shelf Discovery," a collection of essays about young adult literature from the 1960s and 1970s.

"YA authors are able to take themselves less seriously. They're able to have a little more fun, and they're less confined by this idea of themselves as Very Important Artists. That paradoxically leads them to create far better work than people who are trying to win awards."

(sigh) What sort of odds does anyone want to give that instead of looking at the success in YA and children's books - often being read by adults and saying 'gee... maybe that's what we need to do in the adult market'... there will be a steady drip 'Oh we have to have more graphic sex in teen novels. We need to explore issues more. There really needs to be more political message in these stories. What about bondage?... that'll make it interesting!SM for teens. Maybe even pre-teens. And really if these kids can understand it at first try and not be bored how can it be real literature? Let's find something turgid, tragic and very PC and almost universally hated by kids and give it a major literary prize. We'll SHOW them what they must love.' And YA will follow Adult publishing into the tubes...

To prove my precience, to quote later in the article - 'Many of today's young adult authors were born and raised in the 1960s and 1970s, when YA began to move beyond the staid, emotionless tales of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in favor of more adventurous work from Judy Blume, Madeleine L'Engle and Robert Cormier. Now, they're turning out their own modern masterpieces.' (run away, screaming, holding hands in a cross) Has no-one pointed out to this writer that Harry Potter - the start point in this success -- is an Enid Blyton style boarding-school hijinks book with a bit of magic? That was so unpopular that it flopped with the reading public didn't it?

Oh well. Back to writing something which is explicitly to entertain (for adults but accessible to most YA readers) and which will never win a literary award, and um, have quite a lot fun or at least wry humor in them. I'm a small midlister. Publicity is minor and my publisher seems to face huge distribution hurdles - still my paperbacks have consistantly sold 80% - 90% of what is available (which is a LONG LONG way above industry standard - especially if you compared apples with apples. Simply looking at the gross sales numbers is comparing porcupines with the volume of methane on Saturn. Really revealing.) But from my sell-through alone this little set of home truths is obvious. A large number of readers (the ones bouying those YA numbers) - especially in rough times - like to be entertained. They actually WANT something familiar with a little twist or addition - a boarding school story with magic. They don't want new for the sake of new - what they often want is 'new' old... They want escapism. They want books that re-affirm their own values and leave them uplifted and feeling the world could be better place tomorrow. Yeah, there are the few who will want grunge, a pot of message, and a hopeless crawl into a corner and die of misery literary masterpiece. Yes, you will get an award for it. But you won't grow your readership. If you want a message or artistry in writing (and Terry Pratchett for eg manages both AND fulfils the criteria above) you need authors who can stealth them in, so they do not detract from entertainment but enhance it.
here endeth the rant.

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Comments {20}

Eneit

(no subject)

from: eneit
date: Mar. 10th, 2010 11:13 am (UTC)
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Well said. I was talking to a librarian a few years back on the subject of books that win awards, her remark stayed with me:

"The quickest way to get kids to ignore a book is to put an awards sticker on it. The very best way to get kids to read books is tell them they can't."

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davefreer

(no subject)

from: davefreer
date: Mar. 10th, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC)
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Which if you apply logic makes a comment on the awards - which then begs the question -what is the purpose of the award?
The trouble with reverse psycology of 'you can't' is that it's occassionally true(I read -age 10 - the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich for that reason) and it bored me very much.

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Eneit

(no subject)

from: eneit
date: Mar. 10th, 2010 09:55 pm (UTC)
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lol, yes. I read Kafka at 9 simply because an aunt told me I couldn't. Bored me pretty much all the way through, but it sure gave me a really weird take on adults for awhile. But the particular instance the librarian was talking about were the schools that banned Harry Potter because witchcraft is evil.

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Ian Borchardt

(no subject)

from: reverancepavane
date: Mar. 10th, 2010 11:31 am (UTC)
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It was interesting to hear some of the the comments made by Dianna Wynne Jones when she started writing "adult" fiction, after her "adult" editor looked askance at some of the things she wrote for A Sudden Wild Magic.

She explained, that when writing a young adult/children book, you can't leave anything out. They don't have the life experience to fill in the gaps and thus their absence will be noticed and questioned by the young reader. So you just have to handle "adult" situations as if they were perfectly ordinary and natural things and not make a fuss.

Adults, on the other hand, will tend to read their own life experiences into the story, and thus tend to react strongly to what they have read. So you have to handle certain information with kid gloves, and leave stuff to their imagination.

I thought it particularly amusing that the best solution in writing was essentially to treat kids as adults and adults as children.

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davefreer

(no subject)

from: davefreer
date: Mar. 11th, 2010 05:17 am (UTC)
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As DWJ is one of may favourites and I have almost all of her books I think, her earlier novels DID leave constructively quite a lot out. They were very powerful for that reason IMO

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Ian Borchardt

(no subject)

from: reverancepavane
date: Mar. 11th, 2010 10:21 am (UTC)
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Just relaying her own comments about the surreal nature of the whole shift from being a YA author to being a "mainstream" author. [Although I couldn't tell you the source at the moment.]

It made me think about the idea anyway. And it's probably less involved in actually leaving stuff out than in being plain-speaking.

PS: My favourite's Dogsbody. What's yours?

Although I do love the cover copy of A Sudden Wild Magic, which described her as a new and exciting author with this being her first book.

Well, it made me (and someone else I showed the cover to in the store) laugh.

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davefreer

(no subject)

from: davefreer
date: Mar. 12th, 2010 05:39 am (UTC)
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That's a difficult question, because it varies with mode (I'm several people in one head - which is awkward, but does make for a lot of internal dialogue). I have a soft spot for Homeward bounders in certain mindstate. Castle in the Air when feeling miserable, and Crown of Dalemark in another frame of mind. And Probably archer's goon in most of them.

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(no subject)

from: qbzzt
date: Mar. 10th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC)
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Call me a philistine, but money from actual readers is what counts. Awards don't.

Although I'd be happy to award you "The Ori Pomerantz irrelevant award" if it will make you feel better ;-).

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rosencrantz23

(no subject)

from: rosencrantz23
date: Mar. 10th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
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can I put that award on my LJ? maybe list it on my CV, too, Ori?

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davefreer

(no subject)

from: davefreer
date: Mar. 10th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
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No! You have to be REALLY irrelevant, like me!

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(no subject)

from: qbzzt
date: Mar. 10th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
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Sure you can put it on your CV. Unless, that is, you want to actually get the job. Then, it is probably counter-indicated.

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davefreer

(no subject)

from: davefreer
date: Mar. 10th, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
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(chuckle) Can I have the money instead? Seriously, the one I'd like is NYT bestseller, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller list (based on numbers from Bookscan, unlike NYT which is based on supposedly unknown stores in NY.) would make me very happy.

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(no subject)

from: qbzzt
date: Mar. 11th, 2010 01:50 am (UTC)
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Sorry, but money actually means something. I can only give things that meaningless ;-(. It seems that a lot of literary awards are mutual admiration societies, and meaningless in any real sense of the word.

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denelian

(no subject)

from: denelian
date: Mar. 11th, 2010 04:55 am (UTC)
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QFT, sir


i've read mostly sci-fi my entire life. while i can appreciate esoteric novels, what i WANT are GOOD FUN BOOKS.

i mean, i STARTED with "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" by Robert Heinlein.

lately, i've been reading a lot of Urban Fantasy. which gets tricky - i don't like "formulaic romance" and a large amount of UF is really "Paranormal Romance" [i.e. Bodice-Rippers With Vampires]


oh, but WORLDS! worlds, i like.
speaking of - our heros are still trapped in Aesgard... when is the next Pyramid book coming? [it *IS* coming, right?]
also: on pins and needles, waiting for "Much Fall of Blood!"

i adore your work :)

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davefreer

(no subject)

from: davefreer
date: Mar. 11th, 2010 05:15 am (UTC)
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It will be coming... life (like changing countries) has just interfered a bit. MUCH FALL OF BLOOD I tell you unapologetically has a romance in it. Probably not formulaic unless I hit on the formula by accident :-). I've just re-read it and I am rather pleased with it. I think I took a stereotype and changed it. Bullied it so much that it's mother wants to go and see the head teacher about me.

I have a UF I want to write. Um. Two now that I think about it.

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denelian

(no subject)

from: denelian
date: Mar. 11th, 2010 11:55 pm (UTC)
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i like romance HAPPENING in a book - that's different than a book that follows "Romance Boilerplate"
it's the boilerplate of romance novels that i dislike


but a romance happening within the plot is generally good :)

and i will look forward to UF from you! that would be awesome!!

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seaboe

House warming

from: seaboe
date: Mar. 16th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
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So, this is totally off topic, but I'd like to send you your housewarming present now that you're settled. Do you want me to go through Mike, or will you trust me with your mailing address? If the latter, please send me an e-mail (I believe you have my address).

Thanks, Dave.

Lisa S. in Seattle

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davefreer

Re: House warming

from: davefreer
date: Mar. 17th, 2010 12:05 am (UTC)
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Box 153, Whitemark, 7255, Flinders Island :-)

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seaboe

Re: House warming

from: seaboe
date: Mar. 18th, 2010 03:08 pm (UTC)
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No "Tasmania, Australia"? No postal code? Wow, that's simple. I'll try to get it into the mail next week.

Lisa S. in Seattle

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davefreer

Re: House warming

from: davefreer
date: Mar. 18th, 2010 10:39 pm (UTC)
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:-) We monkeys are FAMOUS - of course everyone who is anyone knows where Flinders Island is. Heh. 7255 is the post code (and the 7 means Tasmania). Australia might be a good idea though.

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