Big ideas, simpler packages
Young Adult literature is often written in a simpler, less florid style than Adult literature, and I prefer my books that way. I think when people write for adults, they feel a heavier burden to be loquacious and to sound intellectual and highbrow (it doesn’t actually mean they are). In YA lit, writers are freed from that burden because they are expected to speak the language of the audience to whom they are writing. But simplicity does not equate to simplemindedness. Neither does floridity equate to depth, and I think it’s often the people who don’t want to have to sit and think deeply about what they have just read who want to assume that it does. Big words and flowery style often mask stories that are only ankle-deep when it comes to actual content and theme, and it sometimes takes much greater skill to insert great depth of meaning into simpler words and style. I’m not, of course, saying this is a rule, or that all YA literature is deep and meaningful (because good gracious – NO!), but much of it contains greater meaning than it is ever given credit for simply because it’s labeled as books for “teens.” YA literature can (and should) stand up to as stiff literary criticism as adult literature. Why not? Can’t it address the same themes? Don’t teenagers wrestle with the same demons as adults? In different ways, certainly, but their journeys are important, and the conclusions they draw from them while young help shape the course of their lives as adults. It has been suggested to me several times throughout my career that it is somehow a higher calling to write for adults, as though adults are worthier of being taken more seriously as a reading audience. The insinuation drawn, then, about my writing is that it is lowbrow, easier to produce, commercial garbage, not serious or to be taken seriously, and etc. etc. My first reaction to these sorts of comments tends to be anger (and hurt, as my hard work is devalued), but those feelings are quickly chased by pity. Because people who cannot see depth in simplicity or value in the childlike must live pretty bleak, joyless lives, mustn’t they? They will certainly, at the very least, never get to experience the cathartic joy of watching a teenager fall to absolute pieces over a good book. And I would not trade that for the world.
Anybody who knows me personally will tell you I'm a chronically late person. It's usually my fault, and I own my failings, but sometimes I joke that the universe conspires against me. Last Saturday was a combination.
I think everybody would agree that the first award ceremony for one of my books is a pretty important event to be on time for. I had spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week getting used to the rhythm of downtown Los Angeles, and I thought I pretty much had everything figured out: traffic, how long it took to get from my hotel to the convention center, walking times, crowds, taxi services, courtesy car services, even the metro! But what I didn't know, is that on Saturdays in LA, all predictability goes out the window.
My day started late, as my aunt and I had done some sightseeing on Hollywood Blvd the night before and decided to sleep in, so around noon, I decided to try and catch the hotel courtesy car to the LA convention center to visit the authors in the Literary Classics booth before I had to come back to the hotel and change for the 3 PM award ceremony (which would take place at the convention center, as well). It was only a 5 minute drive, and they told me it would only be a ten-fifteen minute wait for the courtesy car, so I figured I had plenty of time for my little jaunt. Well, ten-fifteen turned into thirty before the car turned up for me, but by that time I figured I had already waited that long, so I might as well still go. I hopped in the car, and we were off.
Gridlock. Oh. What's going on downtown today, I asked? Apparently everything imaginable. They were systematically (and unpredictably) shutting down sections of downtown roads for construction and maintenance, there was a marathon going on somewhere, an LA King's game at the Staples Center, and goodness knows what else. It took thirty minutes for the courtesy car to take me to the drop-off point near the convention center (the closest they would go was still a three-block walk in). Optimistic idiot that I am, I still proceeded to the conference and didn't even make it to the booth until 1:20.
I will say, though, that at about this time, I started to realize my plan was really stupid, and I was in serious trouble. I introduced myself around to the authors who were there, socialized a little bit, looked longingly at the long food lines (I hadn't managed to get anything to eat yet the whole day), and turned and hurried back out of the convention center to the road. There was absolutely no time to call for the courtesy car to return, nor any time to walk back to the drop-off point, so I hailed a cab. Bless that cab driver, he knew right how to get around all the mess and got me right back to my hotel in about ten minutes flat. I ran up to the room my aunt I shared, got her to rush order some room service, and started changing for the award ceremony. It was 2:15.
By 2:35, I was ready to go and inhaling a quesadilla. My aunt and I hurried down to the lobby and got in a cab. 2:45. "Please, sir," I said, "I'm in a terrible hurry. I have to get to the convention center for an award ceremony by three." The sweetest middle-aged driver turns and looks at me and says in semi-broken English, "Oh, no ma'am, you no going to make it. All downtown streets - they closed. All closed. Very bad. You no going to make it."
Now, I'm a very mild-mannered, kind person, but it took all my self-control not to lose it then and there. I just took a deep breath and said, "Sir, that's not an option. Another driver just got me back from the convention center in about ten minutes a half hour ago. I know you can get me there!"
"Oh!" he said. "You know which way he took?"
"Sir. I'm not from Los Angeles. I have no idea. Can we please just go?"
"Okay." He started to drive. "But it's very bad. I don't think you going to make it."
This sweet man somehow, despite being the least aggressive cab driver I have ever ridden with (he even used his turn signals!), got us to the sidewalk out in front of the convention center at 3 PM on the nose. Now, this was out in front of the center - the entire parking lot had been closed down. He's looking around for a way to get me closer, and finally I just say, "Please, sir, will you just let me out of the car?" And my aunt says, "Just go!"
When he unlocked the door, I took off running across the sidewalk. The distance from where he dropped me off (by the Staples Center), into the convention center, up the stairs, and to the far back of the great hall to the stage where the ceremony was taking place is probably a good quarter mile. I ran it in stilettos.
But . . . I MADE IT! They were running behind on transitioning events and were still setting up for the Literary Classics Award Ceremony when I arrived. I even had a chance to smooth my hair and sit and gather my wits a bit before it all began. It certainly made for a memorable first award ceremony, though.
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