writers! call ’em like ya see ’em

Ever have somebody read your manuscript and sniff,  “Oh, no parent would do that to their child.”


Well, sister, have you got room for one more in West  Saccharin Valley?  Because out here on planet Earth, parents DO THAT,  and much, much worse.  And here’s the filthy little secret:

They’re doing it right next door.

That’s right.  It’s not down in a pit, where they jabber incantations, shoot psychotropic substances into their dusky-blooded veins and gobble organ meats and vermin they brought from deepest darkest pagan country.

Oh, no.

These people wave to you as they drive away in the morning.

See that clean-cut insurance adjuster?  He’s leaving behind the 6-year-old, who stayed up all night watching her 4 and 2-year-old sisters so they didn’t wet the bed.  Because if they did, she would get the thrashing of a life time.   Mom’s afraid of him too, so she goes along.

And that woman in the van, the nurse?  The one that  has the daughter, who’s so sweet?  Well, she’s sweet because she’s not allowed to get angry.  If she does, her mom bursts into tears, rants and raves.  Threatens to commit suicide.  Lays it on thick.  So the teenage girl carries the guilt for all the failures in the mom’s life.  How do you think that’s going to turn out?

Down the street.  The cute little family that is the pillar of the community.  Scouts, church, PTA, sports.  Involved in everything, running all the time.  You don’t know how they do it.  And still such a close-knit family.  Those parents live for those kids.


Take a good look, baby.  Sometimes, they are the worst parents of all.

If you can’t see a flaw, if you never see a chink in the armor, then what you’re seeing isn’t real.  All parents make mistakes, get frustrated, lose their temper.  All kids act up, make a poor choice, do something naughty.  It’s matters of degree.  So if a family looks perfect…


Someone is being used.

Someone is being manipulated.

Someone is an extension of someone else’s ego.

Someone is being considered less than human.

And it’s almost always the kid.

I know.  As a parent, I don’t get it either.

I’m far from perfect, as Boywonder, Bottled Lightning and Freckles McYoungest will rush to tell you, but I think they’re pretty sure I love the hell out of ’em.  And I am willing to have my heart crushed and my ego beaten to bits if that is what they need.  Unfortunately, sometimes, it is.  (Oh, Parenting, I shake my Impotent Fist of Rage at You.)

Don’t be intimidated by critiquers who either A.) Were raised on velvet pillows and fed bon-bons and hummingbird tongues or B.) Have memories somewhat akin to goldfish or C.)  Think that babies come from cabbage patches or D.) Have the last name, “Stepford”.

Please, YA writers.  Keep giving us the truth. Don’t water it down.  Because the kids living through this stuff need to know that someone, somewhere sees it.

And by the way.  The scenarios above?  All true.

I saw it.


About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on April 23, 2009, in childrens' literature, writing, YA literature and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. OMG, what a great post! As a school teacher, I see these things and tell my family about them. They often times think I am making stuff up, but I am not. I do love the stories that YA writers are giving us now…they are so true, so real!

  2. Tricia Waguespack

    Am finishing up Rules of Survival today. Can’t wait to chat about it.

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