Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Don't talk about it

Sex.
Language.
Depression.
Suicide.
Drugs.
Alcohol.

Are any of these things in your novels? If you read or write YA, you know what this is about. Or, if you were ever a teenager (not that I did anything...I was a beautiful princess), you know firsthand. Personally, I love authors who aren't afraid to push the envelope. Honesty in writing takes guts, especially when it's about topics like these.

I say this because, in revising my ms, 9:59 Rewind, one of the notes in the first round of edits was whether or not the self-injury (read: cutting) my character inflicts HAS to be there. Because if it does, the book would be classified a "social issue" book. While I went through the edits, I realized YES. It HAS to be there. It's crucial in showing how my MC deals with all the crap in her life. She doesn't usually cry, she doesn't vent, she bottles it up and takes it out on herself. I knew, deep down, this is how she would handle it.

So I kept it.

And I was right to do so. The agent loved the way I expanded on the subject. It made my character more 3D, and one more thing to overcome in a pile of shizz. Now, as I'm revising, again,  I re-read the scenes where all of that was written and to this day, I'm confident in my decision to keep it. Without it, I don't think even I could fully know or understand the pain she goes through. And knowing your MC is key.

I recently finished a book that speaks of suicide, and I admire the author's tenacity to say it so bluntly. You know I'm a big advocate for TWLOHA, suicide prevention and anything that sheds light on "difficult" subjects, because even if you aren't talking about it, IT'S STILL HAPPENING.

To all you budding Ellen Hopkins, Patricia McCormicks, Laurie Halse Andersons, Jay Ashers, Julia Hobans, Charles Benoits, or even Judy Blumes (yes, you read that right), I salute you. Thank you for being brave enough to give ME a voice. Today, I'll rip the tape off my mouth and write will the whole truth, and nothing but.

Tell me friends, do you tackle any of these issues in writing or have you read anything recently that does?
Candyland. OUT.


P.S. check out my music picks over on Chris's page. And don't worry~it's not the band you think!

30 comments:

Jen Daiker said...

I'm glad to know you kept it. I, for one am all about the social issues that teenagers and adults face. I think it's important to keep your character just as you see her because it may change someone's life when they read it.

We can hide our novels from the world because people think the social issue that shared is uncomfortable to them. It's a real life situation. People deal with it regardless if it's written. Maybe your character will be the one to have a student or a teenager relate and resort to books rather than cutting.

Harriett is off her soap box ;)

Summer Ross said...

I know a singer who tackles these issues: Pink.

I've dabbled in them with poetry- I have written about molestation, rape, and some others. These things are not easy to touch base on, but like you said- still happening even if no one is talking about them.

Matthew Rush said...

I completely agree and as a dad this is important to me. I would never forbid my child to read any book. If they select a book that has a particular issue in it, like rape, self mutilation, or experimentation with drugs, there is probably a reason they heard of that book, and are curious about it. Denying that curiosity will not make it go away. In fact it will probably make things worse.

Good for you CGGB!

Matthew Rush said...

Oops, CBGB that's supposed to say. As in Candace Bethany Ganger Brady.

aspiring_x said...

i totally agree with this post and comments! some of the stories i'm working on have "issues" some don't. like jen said, it's all about life, and like you said what makes our characters round and real.

Tracy said...

Truthfully, if you write a YA today that doesn't involve at least ONE of the things you listed here...you probably don't have a story that will grip a tremendous amount of the teenage population.

Not saying they don't ever like the light stuff. But I read Sweet Valley High when I was in middle school. When I got to high school I started reading books for adults, because they often touched on the above topics.

Jessica Bell said...

Good for you!!! And I wouldn't expect anything less from you. No. I do NOT censor. Honesty is the way to everyone's heart! :o)

Lisa said...

I'm working on something right now about teen pregnancy because I find it endlessly interesting. I guess it will end up being an "issue" book, but I'm cool with that. There are lots of important issues that need to be written/read about.

Good for you for keeping yours. These things really happen and there's nothing wrong with talking about it.

Kelly said...

I haven't written YA so no, I haven't touched upon these subjects. But I do appreciate those that do. Teens need honesty and situations that are real.

Melissa Gill said...

I've never understood the theory that you should hide information from teenagers, keep them in the dark, don't talk about it, (and definately don't write it down in black and white where it will be accessible forever.) Teenagers are savy about getting their hands on the information they need to develop, especially in this technological age. Heck, I even stole my mothers bodice rippers and passed them around to my 8th grade classmates. (We got a very interesting version of sex ed from those!)

Suicide, cutting, drugs, sex, rape, mollestation, these things happen to teenagers everyday whether we like it or not. Many of these are weighty decisions for teenagers. I don't think kids read a book and decide to take an action like cutting because of it. But they might understand someone better who did. And that's what we all need, a little more understanding.

Colene Murphy said...

Awesome that you kept it. It happens, it's real, and it's the way some teenagers really handle stress. Good for you, being authentic. You will probably be more accepted because of it in the YA world.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I'm so glad you kept it. It's important for teenagers to not feel like they are alone.

Anne said...

I would expect nothing less from you! Way to go.

Heather said...

I truly admire authors who tackle these issues. They are a part of every teens life in some way or another and we can't (shouldn't) ignore that. Reading about them can help teens. Bravo to you girl!

Hannah Kincade said...

I adore authors who push the envelope as well. There was a teen series that was great at this a few years ago, I think it was called Seven??? I'm not positive on the name but each book featured a different teen going through something difficult. I enjoyed it immensely, it was a very truthful and touching series.

Julie said...

YES! YES! YES! My current WIP deals a lot with alcoholism. It's so important to get this stuff out there for kids to read. The world isn't getting any easier to maneuver and I think it helps for them to have somewhere to turn when they truly believe they are alone. You're right, ignoring these topics don't make them go away.
I can't imagine telling this story without diving into the 'hard' issues.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Thank you!
OMG, i had a crit recently which said, because my book is YA, i shouldn't have the MC saying Damn or hell, because parents wouldn't approve. I mean, really? We're not even talking the F-bomb here!

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss candace! you know me and my family all of us live in that for real world where lots of shizz gets happening. you gotta talk on it and you cant hide it away or say its not just right there. so for your writing im just happy youre saying it right out. my brother that works with mental ill sees that cutting and lots of other stuff you been talking bout all the time.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Many teens deal with those issues every day, so why shouldn't they be in books? Way to keep it in. ;)

Chris Phillips said...

Thanks for coming by today!

Susan Fields said...

It makes me so angry when I hear people say we shouldn't let our children read books like Speak. I gave it to my teenage daughter to read because just like you said, just because we don't talk about it doesn't mean it's not happening. I'd much rather she be prepared for what's out there, because it's still there, whether I want it to be or not.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I write fantasy so don't tend to tackle such topics. But you're right. And I'm glad you and others are writing about it as kids, including my daughter, need to read about them and be aware. Good luck with the revisions.

Abby Minard said...

I'm glad you kept it in- you need to follow your heart and only you know your MC so well. While I don't really read that genre ( I stick to YA fantasy) I still think it needs to be there. So many teens need to know what it's really like, and if they are experiencing the same thing, they can have this book and know that they aren't alone.

Arlee Bird said...

Kids today know a whole lot more than I did when I was 30. I believe it's important to intelligently present and discuss the issues that they face on a regular basis. The only thing I don't really like and think is totally unnecessary is crude and foul language--that's not tackling any issues or promoting intellect.

I haven't written any YA stuff, but in what I've written I sometimes deal a lot about drugs since I often write about people who are part of that culture.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Erica said...

Thank you for writing about SI, I used to cut and it's so important to have outlets like reading and feeling like someone else gets it. You're book will provide both. : ) Thank you.

Aleeza said...

awesome post, candace! im so with you on this topic--books need to reflect reality, not shrink back in fear or censorship. :)

Joanna St. James said...

it speaks a lot to your character that you stand your ground on things like this. Im glad u have a sound character - a lot of teens and their parents would thank u for it

Cold As Heaven said...

Break the rules ... that's my rule >:)

Cold As Heaven

Elana Johnson said...

I think these things are in just about every book I read. And if you like that kind of dark stuff (which I do), then you'd like BY THE TIME YOUR READ THIS, I'LL BE DEAD. It's great.

Jo Schaffer said...

I like it when risks are taken too. But I think we can stay true to reality and still be responsible-- and accurate without glamorizing stuff that hurts kids. Crap happens and it should be written about.