Thursday, February 19, 2015

The A in YA

When I'm writing YA fiction, I sometimes feel very close to my characters. Everyone has experienced love and pain, worry and fear, guilt and shame. It doesn't matter that my characters are in their teens and I am--older. But occasionally, when I realize they are worrying about their homework or driver's test or getting into college, and I realize I am getting a medical checkup for one of those conditions people don't have to worry about until later in life, or reading up on the rules for my retirement accounts, or discussing home-improvement projects with my husband, then I do feel a bit of a gulf between us.

In an essay about Gourmet magazine (reprinted in Scribble Scribble), Nora Ephron wrote, "'Does everyone who gets married talk about furniture?' my friend Bud Trillin once asked. No. Only for a while. After that you talk about pistachio nuts." This sentence sums up the perceived distance between settled adulthood and impetuous youth: the gulf, again. And then I remember some of the rambling conversations I had about trivia--maybe not pistachio nuts, but on that level--when I was younger. Grownups don't have the conversational market cornered on furniture and snack foods. And I remember that I am still vitally interested in politics, education, travel, and other let's-change-the-world-or-at-least-explore-it topics that engaged me when I had my whole life, and many untested choices, still in front of me. And the gulf narrows again. Some things about us change as we move through different phases of life, but others are evergreen, eternal.