Clouds roll over the hills

There’s a weird sense of added responsibility working through this YA project of mine. I’ve been writing for ages, and much of that writing has been shared. But never before have I had this sense of “what story do I need to tell for the people who need it most?” like this.

I think it’s because I’m so cognizant of how much I was impacted, changed, inspired by the books I read when I started delving into the YA shelves. To be fair, the biggest changes in me probably came in the MG category, especially anything and everything written by Bruce Coville. But YA stories have a way of building out a blueprint for how a person finds their place in the world. It’s an explicit part of the genre for a reason — those who are on the cusp of stepping out from what is known (childhood home, middle/high school) look ahead to a new world (maybe college, a job, living independently).

For me, Middle Grade was formative in the sense of “who” — who will I become? What choices will I make that are true to myself? Who do I want to live with inside my head? And YA was more about “how” — how do I take who and what I am and walk into the world with them? How do I balance all the fears ahead of me against the inevitability of facing them?

So actually sitting with a YA project and trying to bring it to life, I keep thinking about me when I was reading YA and what I needed. I know a good portion of YA is also read by adults, and if anything, that makes it even more important that I get those core themes right. If I have one chance to demonstrate a path, it needs to be one that is full of courage and integrity. If I ever get the chance for my book to land in the hands of a teenager, I want that person to gain something of themself that they can carry forward.

A theme that keeps coming out in this one is that we become the hero we wanted to save us once. And I am, have always been, the writer telling the stories I needed once before, too.

It doesn’t really change the meat of what I’m writing — the characters are the same, the plot continues on — but it makes me quite self-conscious about those meta pieces while I’m figuring out how to structure a scene. It’s an added layer of complexity. And it’s a good challenge, but also a slightly intimidating one.

But, I guess, if I let writing intimidate me, I’d never have gotten this far in the first place.

A friend send this song to me. It’s Bastille’s “Pompeii” but reimagined by composer Hans Zimmer. I liked the original song just fine, but this really changed it for me. Somehow, it brings tears to my eyes. There’s something that hits differently with those lines about the city we love and how it feels that nothing has changed — even though it has. The song was always nostalgic for me, and now it triggers thoughts of different days in different places and the life I lived then in a new way.

Also, it being Hans Zimmer, the whole thing sounds like it belongs at the emotional climax of a movie, so there’s that.

As I work on my YA chapters tonight, I’m going to carry this feeling. This deep memory of the books I read and how they changed me. This cognizance of the guideline my story might be to someone someday. This story told for the me that once was, and the me that hasn’t changed very much after all.

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