Thursday, April 19, 2012

Talking about books

Today I was privileged to visit with a class at a New Jersey college: a children's-literature class that had read The Secret Year. This is absolutely my favorite kind of author event: visiting with classes or book clubs who have read one of my books, and it's why I typically don't charge for such visits.

I've been so focused on Try Not to Breathe, which just came out in January, and the new manuscript I'm currently working on, that I haven't spent as much time lately hanging around in the mental world of The Secret Year. It was fun to go back. As I remarked to Toni DePalma, I have more detachment from this book--in a good way--because of the time that has passed. I still care about the book and its characters, but I'm less possessive and defensive, more accepting of different interpretations. I've realized that every reader brings his or her own experiences and expectations to a text, and what happens in a reader's mind is only partly directed by the author. And I'm okay with that.

The class made such intelligent, thoughtful comments about the book--and about secrecy, grief, and obsession (its major themes). They didn't always agree, and had some lively debates about whether Colt really matured by the end of the book, and what Julia would have done had she lived, and Michael's motivations for a certain act toward the end of the book. A few of the comments surprised me and made me look at my book in a new way. We also talked about how YA literature has evolved, and how cover designs and marketing have changed, and about censorship and edginess. In short, it was a delight: such experiences are among the best parts of being an author.

This is a nice note to go out on. I'll be temporarily "unplugging" from the internet for about a week, as I do a couple of times a year. When I return, I'll resume reading blogs but won't be able to catch up on all I'll miss in the interim, so if anything big happens to you this week (book sale, babies born, moving your blog to another address), please leave a comment below so I'll be sure to see it!

See ya soon.

8 comments:

  1. I think it's great schools are letting students read something that wasnt' written two hundred years ago. Don't get me wrong, classics are well...classic, but they also bore most kids to tears.

    Contemporary deals with what teens are struggling with daily, and may help give them insight to their own lives.

    Great post, Jennifer.

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  2. I still need to get you my guest blog post! I'm really happy you had a great experience at the school. It's wonderful to see how your book can affect people. :)

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    1. There are plenty of frustrations in the writing life, but talking with readers is one of the great rewards.

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  3. That sounds like such fun! I can't wait to do something like that. Happy unplugging :)

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  4. Sounds like an amazing experience and your insights are brilliant. Isn't it wonderful and fascinating how we grow the longer our books are out? I didn't expect this.
    Enjoy your unplugged time!

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    1. Yes, that's a good point--the book may stay the same, but we change as we move away from it in time, and we may view it differently as we continue to grow and change.

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