Teen Tales: Connecting the YA experience with YA literature

Aug 8, 2011

As you read this, picture me enjoying myself admist the glories of red rock canyons and bright blue skies. I am currently on vacation, but thanks to my handy-dandy new schedule, I wrote my posts ahead of time. So I now speak to you from the past...woooooo....

Ahem. Anyway, today's post is actually all about the past. I've been thinking a lot about the YA genre lately (because, well, I write it), and it's occurred to me that there are a lot of us adults (and teens!) writing for teens. Which I think is great! But there are also a lot of us blogging about writing, and the YA part of us sort of gets lost on our blogs.

So I'm starting a new series today! Every Monday, I'll be doing Teen Tales, where you'll get to hear stories of my lovely teenage years (and hopefully other people's, too). Then, I'll connect that hilarious/moving/ridiculous/amazing/embarrassing story to YA literature today for those who write and read YA.

Today's story comes from my very early YA years. As I dug out my old diaries for inspiration, I found a letter tucked in one. DO NOT OPEN UNTIL MARRIED, it commanded. I barely remember writing such a note, but as I'm married now, I eagerly opened it to find out what teen me had to say to myself. Alas, it was not to myself. It is written to "My Dearest One."

That's right, ya'll. Sweet, naive, 14-year-old me wrote a love letter to my hubby on Sept. 18, 1998. Allow me to share portions of this letter (Hubby has graciously allowed it to be shared).

"Someday I'll meet you, and I'll probably still be naive, but you'll love me anyway. You'll love me if I'm fat or skinny, pretty or ugly...We will love each other forever...Sometimes it comforts me to think of someone who loves me for just being me. I don't know where, when, or how I'll meet you, but I will. Your love now and forever, Shallee."

I died when I read it.

First, I died of laughter because it was so darn innocent and sappy (trust me, I cut out some of the sappiest stuff). Then, I died of romantic swooning. Because come on. Who DOESN'T want that kind of love? Who NEVER wanted a boy who would love them for the person they were inside? Who doesn't want that NOW?

No hands raised? I thought not.

When I took Brandon Sanderson's writing class of ultimate awesome, he said that YA must have romance (MUST. He circled it thirty times on the chalkboard, emphasizing that it must be full of PASSION). And while some of us oh-so-mature adults roll our eyes a little bit at the PASSION in YA, who among us doesn't identify with it? Romance is an dazzling part of life that should naturally come out in our writing. Teenagers feel everything so much more keenly-- I'm sure we all remember that-- and romance is a big part of that. And it's one of the things I love about writing and reading YA.

When it's done right, of course.

So, my friends, what kind of romance did you have (or long for) as a teenager? What romances do you love or hate in the YA books you've read? What's your definition of "right" in romance when you write? And who would like to be a guest poster for Teen Tales in the future (be sure to leave an email addy in the comment)?


Kelley said...

Aw, ohmigoodness. That was adorable. I was similarly sappy. Overly so. I kept thinking, when I fall in love I'll get to go everywhere with him...like, the mall. Sigh. lol. Very cute/funny to look back on all of that. I wish I had written a letter :)

From your newb follower <3

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Oh, I'm so scared to read through my journal as a teenager. I had such stupid sayings! lol I need to go dig them out anyway and see what I was going through during my teenage years. Should be interesting ...
Love that note you wrote yourself. SO cute! He he. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh Bless! Sooo sweet Shallee. That sounds like me at that age always mooning about with romantic ideals and stories in my head.

I am interested about YA having to have romance. I hadn't considered that at all. I enjoyed The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, recently which did have romance in it.
I wondered whether you could recommend some fav YA novels, please as I am new to the genre. Thanks :O)

Meredith said...

That is so cute! I was definitely obsessed with romance and love as a teenager--so funny to remember that. What a great blog series to start!

Missi Morris said...

Too funny! I love that you wrote a note to your future husband. Sounds like something my teenage self would have done.

I'm currently writing a YA fantasy novel, and I agree, romance is important. I'm still a sucker for it! I guess I'm not that different from my teenage self.

To me, the best romances are when the main characters dislike each other in the beginning and grow to love each other. The best example I can think of is Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Good stuff!

David P. King said...

That was ultra cute, Shallee!

I agree with Mr. Sanderson. YA MUST have romance. The trick is finding the right balance so it's not forced or cheesy. A good trick is to pay attention to the relationships of those you know and see how they develop and change. Great post!

Jolene Perry said...

As a teenager we wanted to be swept off our feet like Cinderella by MR. Perfect.

And we'd start to date a guy, and only see the perfect things, and then . . . we realized maybe he wasn't so perfect.

What? how can this be? He's cute and 16 and NOT perfect??

Or, at least that was me . . .

Abby Fowers said...

I loved it! Oh man I tend to get lost in the world of busy marriage with children and forget about all the sappiness! I remember giving CD's or getting CD's with "our song" on them. You know, you get a boyfriend and one of you gives a CD with a song that reminds you of the other, thus becoming "your song." Agh. At a break up point, I actually gave the CD back with a note inside that said, "I'm glad you felt this way once." Oh man - the horror! LOL. I was way too much of a drama queen when it came to LOOOOVE! :D

But you are absolutely right - it is a MUST for YA. They live for it. You've got to have something but it's got to be done right!

Jessie Humphries said...

I did this too in a journal and I cant barely read it through the tears (Laughter tears, not real ones:).

Jenny S. Morris said...

Oh so sweet. Who doesn't want to be loved for who they are, no matter how old you are.

I like reading YA becuase the romance is usually not jaded, or hollywoodified. They're not in bed with each other by page 32.

This sounds fun. I'd be interested in being a guest poster. mjlnmorris@gmail.com

Michelle Merrill said...

That's a great story Shallee! I totally remember writing those types of letters. I didn't even write a journal. But I do have some stories :)

KM Nalle said...

Shallee - this is a brilliant series! What a cute letter! My teenage angst-ridden poetry was dreadfully sticky sweet and full of melancholy for THE ONE, who never knew I existed but yet I was certain would be my perfect match until the NEXT perfect match came along.

Unknown said...

That is so cute! I still am a teenager, technically I'll be an "adult" at the end of September, but I most certainly have had my UBER HIGH expectations for boys. And, of course, I've realized that these expectations will have to lower somewhat (Not every guy will accept the fact that I am a HUGE Winnie the Pooh and Lion King fan without laughing) but they still have yet to be lowered :)

Shallee said...

Madeleine asked what some of my favorite YA books are, so I thought I'd share it here!

A few other YAs that are my favorites include: Divergent by Veronica Roth (dystopian), Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (historical/contemporary), Wither by Lauren DeStefano (dystopian), Anna and the French Kiss (contemporary romance), Hourglass by Myra McEntire (paranormal/sci fi), I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells (contemporary/psychological horror), 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (contemporary), and Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (paranormal).

linda said...

Omg that's SO adorable! I'm tempted to go write letters to future married me and future husband, too, haha. And I've been thinking about romance in YA lately too, particularly pet peeves. I think I'll be writing a blog post on the subject. Can't wait to hear more about others' teenage experiences!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Your letter was adorable, Shallee. I liked the teen that you were (full of dreams) :)

Janet Johnson said...

Too funny! I love it. I wrote a note to myself and then folded a page from a current magazine to make the envelope so I could look back at what was big then. Man, I need to find that stuff. I could use a good laugh. :)

Jenna St. Hilaire said...

You took a writing class from Brandon Sanderson! I am jealous. :)

This post = awesome. I actually wrote a couple of similar letters, but I've never dared to go back and read them. :P But yours is truly sweet.

Favorite YA romances: hands down, Miri Larendaughter and Peder Doterson from Shannon Hale's Princess Academy. I also really liked Tris and Four. Katniss and Peeta--mainly because I loved Peeta. Cassia and Ky, for unique development. Rilla Blythe and Kenneth Ford. Howl and Sophie, for being hilarious.

Writing romance is one of my favorite things (it seems to take me a few rewrites to tone down the overflowing mush of a first draft). I look for a feel that's right for the pair, something a little larger than life (probably because everything in fantasy is). And something tender, no matter how tough the couple may be.

I'm looking forward to more Teen Tales, and I'd be delighted to guest post! We're moving, so the next month won't be good, but eventually... I'm librarylily at gmail dot com. :)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Oh my gosh, I wrote some crazy things as a teenager. Mostly I was convinced I already knew WHO I was going to marry, that person just didn't know it yet. LOL. And I named all my children in advance (note: not one of the names I chose as a teenager made it into my real children's names).

Great post, Shallee. Thanks for making me smile. And I love the picture you chose ... that's GORGEOUS!


Esther said...

I admit, I don't think there MUST be a romance in a YA novel. The story I'm writing right now is more about whether one person is more important than another than any type of romance. And as a teen myself, I have literally never thought about romance or who I want to marry.
I might be a tad weird in that way though.
Great post though, and I DO think the idea of writing a letter to your future husband is sweet.

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