hearing it like it is
So I had this round table critique for my manuscript with my SEKRIT ARSENAL OF TEENS. As you may know, I write YA lit for boys that girls like to read too, so my panel consisted of two boys and one girl.
DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.
I am no shrinking violet when it comes to kids. I’ve got a handful of my own, which means a plague of them has passed through my house over the years. I was a scout leader for both sexes for approximately a billion years. Believe me, I have seen and dealt with every personality type and situation you can think of. So I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless…
A. You can withstand any sort of comment a person can hurl at you about your writing, personality, choice of wardrobe, and belief system–you’ve got to be a good sport.
B. You do not shock easily–don’t do this if you’re a prude.
C. You genuinely like teens and sympathize with them–if you’re confrontational, you’re not going to find out anything helpful anyway.
D. Teens generally like you–no matter how much you like them, if you don’t connect, they’ll just tell you what they think you want to hear.
E. In the end, you will make sure it’s a positive experience for each and every teen involved–kids are kids, and a book that stirs up their emotions can bring out the dramatics. They can tear each other to bits. You must have the finesse to make sure everyone feels heard, and goes away feeling closer.
You have to do all of this without appearing to be in charge. If you’re very clever, they’ll kind of forget you’re there and spill stuff they’d be MORTIFIED to tell their parents.
Oh yes, I am that good.
The truth is, it’s not that I’m that good, it’s that I like the kids that much, and they know it. My SEKRIT ARSENAL OF TEENS was incredibly astute. I asked a question, and they answered it.
For three hours.
They were brilliant. Honest. They put their free time into reading 52,000 words written by a nefarious woman, and the only payback was lunch at Panera’s. My teens spewed their emotions, shared deep thoughts. And they trusted me to listen to their ideas in the spirit they were given.
It was a real honor.