About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Delving into Adolescent Literature

In the past few months I've been very much at loose ends. Not just in my writing, but also in what to submit for publication, what to do next in terms of career choices, everything. Don't get me wrong. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. All of us have days, even moments, when we wonder if we're going in the right direction. It can be unsettling, though, to feel unfocused or directionless.

A friend of mine recommended a class to me that I could take with him at the same university where my husband teaches. Since I still work from home and have a pretty flexible schedule, and could take the class for free as the spouse of a faculty member, I thought, why not. I'd considered doing this before, but hesitated, uncertain how I'd feel about taking a class where the other students were only a few years older than my daughter. Taking a class with my book club friend, however, didn't seem so scary. Then the class I wanted to sign up for with my friend was cancelled. Fortunately, while I was perusing the class catalog I came upon another class that sounded intriguing. It was a course geared toward both English and education majors, a study of adolescent literature. Curiosity won out over my trepidation at not having someone I knew in the class with me, and I signed up for it. I figured I could learn about some of the adolescent literature that might be taught in schools, and hopefully read some literature I might not have read before and talk about it. I love reading and analyzing and talking about what I read.

A small selection of my adolescent reads

Within the first week of class we were asked to write an essay about what we read as an adolescent ourselves. This was a bit daunting for me. I haven't been an actual adolescent myself for, well, never mind. The point is, I was a voracious reader then, just as I am now. Talking about what I read back then, and why, was going to be hard to narrow down. However, our professor was helpful in the specifications she gave us for our assignment. She gave us a list of questions to consider as we wrote our essay. I think the reason she wanted us to think about what we read or didn't read as an adolescent was so we could remember our mindset at that period. For this course, adolescence spans not just the young adult spectrum, but ranges from 10 to 18 or even 21 years of age. As we read the books and short stories she's assigned us for this class we are being asked to read it as if we were still adolescents ourselves. It turns out taking this class might have been one of the best almost spontaneous things I could have done.

In the past, I've always been asked to think about books I read as a young person. But from the perspective of a writer, and how those books shaped and influenced me and my art. With this essay I was asked to delve into memories of what I read and why. There is, I think, an important distinction there. I've always known one of the reasons I loved reading certain things was because it appealed to my imagination. As I wrote my essay, though, I remembered that another reason I loved reading was because it gave me a safe and sometimes better world to live in for a while. I read to escape.

Part of my assignment also asked me to consider what my adolescent contemporaries read, or if any of them even liked reading at all, and what I remembered feeling about their choices in terms of reading. This again, was not something I'd been asked to consider before. It gave me another perspective on what shaped me as a reader and how I perceived others for their choices in what they read or didn't read.

You might be wondering why any of this is important or why it's so great that I decided to take this class. Taking this class has given me a whole new set of things to consider. As writers we have to consider our audience at some point, which for me falls in the adolescent spectrum. But how can I truly do this if I don't consider why the stories I write appeal to me in the first place? I guess I've just never thought about this from my own adolescent perspective before. But since I write for an adolescent audience I need to remember who I was at that age and what I liked to read and why I liked it, if I hope to engage readers in my own stories. Plus it is also helpful to consider what my friends and cohorts considered cool to read back then and why. Or why some of my friends never liked reading, and as far as I know, still don't. If I can remember these things on a personal level it might help me deepen the perspectives of my imaginary characters, make the worlds I create more appealing. Maybe it can even help me create a story for someone who might have never enjoyed reading before because they couldn't find anything or anyone to identify with in a book.

In order to better understand my craft as a writer, I need to first understand myself as a reader. Going back in time was kind of fun, and it's given me a new focus as I continue my reading and writing journey in 2018.

My assigned reading for this semester

Now, I have to get back to it. All those dystopian novels we're focusing on for this class aren't going to read themselves.