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Friday, April 3, 2009

Proof that I'm Not Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, Or Twelfth Grader

I spoke at my old high school yesterday. Technically, it wasn’t my actual high school. They tore down the building I attended and replaced it with a shinier new model a few years ago. This one has a reflecting pond and parking. Nice.

I gave the keynote for the Central League Writing Competition. Essentially, all of the schools in Delaware County (the PA suburbs of Philadelphia), sent their top two writers from each grade. The students were given a writing promp (the first and last sentences of a short story) and asked to create a new piece of fiction in about an hour. I’m professional author and even I think that’s tough. So props to them!

While the teachers were judging their work, I got to talk to the kids. I had an hour-and-a-half to fill. And before I went on, one of the teachers said, “Wow, you’re speaking the whole time. What are you going to do? I hope you have a lot prepared.”

I didn’t.

I thought I could wing it. Who wants to listen to an hour-and-a-half monologue anyway? So I went in with my 20-30 minute shtick about how I became a writer (everything from the “dream,” to the psychic, to the Mardis Gras sale). And then I relied on the 100 teens in the auditorium to ask enough questions to fill the rest of our time. And because these students are incredibly smart, they of course, delivered. Thanks, everyone!

I spoke so much, I actually left with a sore throat. Seriously. But I was really impressed by how many of them knew they wanted to be writers when they grew up. I know I didn’t. And some even had very specific, industry questions like:

“How do I get an agent?”

You’ll hate me, but I only queried for two weeks. Jenoyne Adams is awesome. Period.

“How do I feel about the label ‘YA Author’?”

I am a YA author and proud of it. It’s how my voice naturally comes out. And I think those who snub their noses at the genre obviously haven’t read it. The work that’s out now is on par (if not better) than many of the “adult” novels I’ve read recently.

“What do I think will happen to the Chick Lit genre?”

Everything’s cyclical. Cheeky Shopaholic-type novels still have an audience; it’s just now harder to get a novel of that type published if you aren’t an already established author. So, yes, I do think you’ll see fewer stories published about a college grad in her first job searching for love. However, women will continue writing for women. I just think that in a few years, we’ll see a new crop of female authors writing about fresh themes that will cause the publishing industry to come up with another catchy genre name to label them. Like “future lit,” or “alien lit,” or “recession lit,” or “empty-nester lit.” There’s always something.

So thanks Ridley High School for inviting me out! And everyone keep an eye out for this year’s edition of Windscript—the school’s nationally acclaimed student-run literary magazine. I’m going to be featured in this year’s issue.

POP CULTURE RANT: E.R. Finale

I haven’t watched this show in forever—not since the Clooney days (ahhh, pitter pat). In fact, every time I saw a commercial for it in recent years I said, “Wow, that show’s still on?” But I DVR’d the finale, because, hey, I like pop culture. And I have to say that, unfortunately, the 120 minutes were a bit of a bore. I liked the ending scene with the doctors gathered outside to rush the ambulances from the latest explosion. But other than that, it didn’t evoke much emotion. They had all those veterans together, even Doctor Green’s daughter, and somehow they managed not to tug on the heartstrings. I’m not saying it was bad. I’m just saying it was “okay.” And for a show that had a 15-year run, they deserved better than an “okay” finale. At least make us cry a little.

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