Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Little More about YA

I just returned from a great weekend at the SCBWI Eastern PA Fall Philly conference, where Lin Oliver shared her wisdom and the hilarious story of how SCBWI actually came to be.  Matt Phelan gave a fabulous talk on his own journey into the world of illustrating for children's books, in spite of our technical difficulties which left his beautiful illustrations in the laptop instead of on the projector screen for all to see.  (There's more irony here that I'll share later)

And a panel of class of 2K8 authors shared their wisdom and their amazing books with us.  Out of that forum came several brilliant observations, but I'm going to share one.  The question came up about how do we define YA.  (Imagine that!).  Everyone had great comments on this topic, but I really liked what Laurel Snyder had to say.  

In a Middle Grade book, the main character is looking out at the world, trying to figure it out. In a Young Adult book, he is trying to figure himself out, looking inward and trying to find his place or identity.

I think that is brilliant!  If you are struggling to decide if your approach is cutting it as a MG or YA story, take a minute to consider what your MC is going through.  How does he see the world?  Where is his deepest struggle?  Against the world or against himself? (maybe a little of both)

That's not to say that YA novels don't question the world and try to figure out what the hell's going on, but if you look at your hero's journey, ask yourself where did it start?  What was the original purpose of his quest.  And what answers did he find?  Did they all lay outside him or deep within?


  1. Hello! I am a very young writer and illustrator who just Published his first Children's Storybook entitled 'Karate Cat'. I thought with your talent you could swing by my site and check out my book =). It just got listed on Amazon so I am really excited about it. I hope to hear from you.

  2. Excellent quote! I'm going to share that with the YA writers in my writing critique group!

  3. Thanks Cello! I'll check it out.

    Kelly, I was so pumped about this one, too. It was great to hear these gals talk about their experience.

  4. Sounds like it was a great conference, Mary Ann. I like that distinction between MG and YA. I'm still trying to decide whether mine is MG or YA. I'm leaning toward YA or "tween". I'm not going to worry too much about it until I finish my rough draft. Thanks for sharing!


Thanks to spammers, this blog is moderated, so don't be alarmed if your comment doesn't appear right away. Thanks for stopping by!