Sunday, June 27, 2010

Humor Me Here

I know, I'm posting a lot lately. I have some things to say.

This is one I've been meaning to say for a while. And I apologize if this comes up as somewhat of a rant. And, actually, for probably the only time in the history of ever, I'm going to apologize if this offends anyone. Because, this time, it's actually not my intention.

Because ME ME ME this is about me. Yesterday I told you not to blog about yourself, today I'm blogging about myself. Welcome to Invincible Summer.


Do you remember when Mary-Kate and Ashley made that big announcement about how they didn't want to be called The Olsen Twins anymore? I guess this is kind of like that.

I've thought a lot about this, and I've decided I don't want to be called a teenage writer anymore.

This is a weird declaration to make, because it implies some sort of deceit or, at the very least, shame, that isn't at all what I'm intending. I'm fine with being referred to as a writer who was first published as a teenager, or a nineteen-year-old writer, or a writer who is a teenager, or, hell, a teenager who is a writer. So it's not the actual meaning of the term "teenage writer" that I'm trying to break away from. It's the three connotations this term has come to have.

The first one is the predictable one, and the one that is less of a problem for me. "She's good for a teenager." Yeah, awesome. That was cool when I was turning in papers in high school. It's not going to cut it now.

I'm obviously not the first person to experience it, and I think even people who haven't had this firsthand can see and understand that this is frustrating. And it is, but it is not my biggest problem with being called a teenage writer. Not at all.

The second is bigger. Let's use a story to illustrate this one.

So let's say you have this woman. When she was 27, she decided she wanted to be a writer. She was horrible at first--who isn't?--and she was fine with that, and had fun dabbling around and playing with different things. She started researching the possibility of publication when she was 30, long before she had anything of publishable quality.

She finished her first piece of long fiction when she was 31. That was the same year she got her "great idea," which took her until just after her 34th birthday to finish. This was her first novel. It sucked, but it was hers. But she knew she had a long way to go, and she continued working and working without trying for publication until she turned 36. And then she sent her first query letter.

She kept writing, and she kept querying. She finished projects and queried them and got requests and rejections and no offers. She kept writing. After completing six previous novels, she finally wrote the one that got her an offer of representation right before her 37th birthday. The book sold that summer and came out when she was 38, the same month she got a contract for two more books. She is now 39 and waiting for the release of her 2nd book shortly after her 40th birthday.

Yeah, did you figure out the punchline? Subtract 20 years from all of those ages, and you have my journey.

There's this idea that, because I'm young, this all must have happened very quickly for me. I must have skipped steps, or gotten really lucky, or come out of the womb a perfect writer. I must have slept with someone, or done the twelve-year-old equivalent of sleeping with someone, to get to where I am.

It's bullshit, and it didn't feel fast to me, and I'm not a prodigy. The only reason I got published a lot younger than other people is I'm a stubborn little shit who decided that she had a career when she was eleven years old. The fact that my journey became public when I was a teenager shouldn't lock me into that age. Fuck, call me a child writer, if anything; it's more accurate, in the end. That's when I started.

And here's the third problem with the term. My third problem.

I have slightly less than eight months until I turn twenty.

I'm not planning to be come irrelevant overnight.

I don't want my twentieth birthday, exactly a week before the INVINCIBLE SUMMER release, to be the day in which I'm stripped of something that makes me 'edgy' or 'interesting' or 'catchy.' 'Cause guess the fuck what, bitches. Eight months from now, I'm still going to be edgy and interesting and catchy, and I don't want there to be any doubt about that.

I'm not a child actress. I'm a career bitch, and I have my feet firmly planted in the ground and no no no I'm not going anywhere. And hannah in 8 months is still hannah. She's not any less relevant than this chick right now, just because she doesn't have that edgy little 1 in front of her age.

So I would like to lose it now, because I would like to prove--to you, to the world, and most of all to me--that I don't need it.

When I was a kid, I said I had to be published before I was eighteen, because if I wasn't, no one would care about me. I wasn't good enough, interesting enough, brave enough to run with the big dogs.

I'm calling bullshit on old hannah tonight. In favor of new hannah.

I'm a teenager. I'm a writer. I'm not ashamed of either one. And yeah, I'm fucking proud of what I've accomplished at my age. And my age is staying in my blogger profile. But it'll be there when I'm twenty and when I'm thirty-two and when I'm forty-six, too. Because I'm not here to fucking play games.

The bottom line is, yeah, I'm young, but I'm planning to be around kicking ass for until I'm really, really wrinkly.

And I want you there with me. And I don't give a fuck how old you are.


Monotreme said...

People should be called by whatever name they wish. (Within reason: calling myself "Barack Obama" is meant to deceive.)

Bookewyrme said...

You go girl!! Age is just a number anyway, and not always a particularly relevant one. So, hiya new Hannah. Nice to meet ya. ^_^


Vee said...

Oh, dude, this is another brilliant post. WHY ARE ALL YOUR POSTS SO GOOD?

I kind of get what you're saying (only a little, though), because ever since I signed with my agent, some people seem to believe I must have been blessed with some god given talent when it comes to words. Which is odd, because I still can't write essays, haha. I just happened to start practicing with novels at around ten.

So, I'm happy to see you declare that you're a career bitch (Woot for career bitches!). And I think everyone knew you were still going to be your edgy self when you turned twenty, lol. Awesome personalities don't just disappear when people hit adulthood <3

Izzy G. said...

I know what you mean when you say people assume that you didn't have to work hard and just had a natural ability to churn out awesomeness. I mean, I've been writing consistently since I was six (okay, fine, I didn't start getting really serious until I was ten), and while I enjoy flattery like anyone else, it ticks me off when people assume that it was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy for me.

When I was nine, I had my first piece (a poem) published in a poetry anthology. And next to my name, they wrote "age 9". If I was actually 39, there was no chance they would publish it. And honestly, sometimes, I just want to know if I'm pretty good, or if I'm pretty good for my age.

February Grace said...

I promise I won't hold your youth against you since you won't hold my lack of it against me. *grin*

Hell, I think people who keep commenting on your age are honestly just jealous- please don't let labels get to you.

You're a talented writer. That's the end of the sentence- or should be.

At just months shy of being twice your age (god it hurts to think that let alone say that) I can tell you that people will never stop trying to categorize you. They do at nineteen and I can tell you for damn sure they still do at thirty-nine.

In my case now that I am trying to get published (just started trying) people must wonder what I've been doing with my life all this time. The answer is, living it. We're all bigger than our labels.

Just keep being who you are- numbers are just numbers. Style counts, and you've got that to spare.

maine character said...

Listen, you little whippersnapper, the reason most people think you started writing a couple years ago is ‘cause you were so damn focused on your writing when the rest of us were still playing with Barbies. (Well, actually I was waging wars with my Star Wars figures.)

If people don’t get that, that’s nothing to do with you except that you, and the commenters above, are exceptional.

But yeah, without knowing you at all, it’s easy for most people to have knee-jerk reactions and stay stuck in popular misconceptions. Which blows.

You should get a t-shirt: I WROTE MY FIRST NOVEL WHEN I WAS 11. And then, on the back, WHERE THE FUCK WERE YOU?

Or: Don’t look down on me – I started climbing this mountain twelve years ago. Oops, I just dropped another manuscript – look out below!

Robby said...

You are continuously inspiring, and it is great.

Kristan said...

Part of me totally gets this, and part of me still totally hates you (well, not really, but you know what I mean) because i wanted to be you.

But of course, wanting it wasn't enough. I worked hard, but obviously not as hard as you did.

So yeah, you can do whatever the eff you want. You earned it. :)

hannah said...

Kristan--don't get me wrong, a HUGE part of this was luck. But a huge part of it is luck at any age.

Tura Lura said...

Hannah, you rock! I admire you. You may be a heck of a lot younger than me, but I look up to you. I want to be like you, except with less cussing. ^_-

Claudie said...

You know, in a way I think you -were- lucky. But not in the way many will mean it. I'd never doubt you had to work very hard for to be published so young. I think your 'luck' is that you realised very early on what you wanted. I turned 21 yesterday, started writing seriously two years ago, and -boy-, I wish I'd realised this was what I wanted to be a loooot earlier. So much wasted time, you know?

But you saw it, and you jumped right into writing, and must have put all your free time into it, and that is why you rock. So yes, I'm TOTALLY jealous of you: you're right where I wish I was.

That's what is inspiring, though, and why I keep coming back. I love your drive. Keep at it. :)

Katie said...

I'm with Vee. I have become rather addicted to your blog. Keep it up! This post was inspiring in the opposite direction as well. That it doesn't matter how old you START (33 for me), you can still rock some words out, right?

From one ageless writer to another.

Phoebe said...

I think this is a totally reasonable decision--you're a woman, an adult, and want your career to be judged on the same level that an adult's career would.

Though, I must say, as a 26yo who still hasn't made my breakthrough, there are a lot of us out there who were writing novels at 9 or 11 or 13, too, and took it seriously--but didn't break through as quickly, for whatever reason (maybe we were serious about other things in between, or had mentors pushing us in different ways, or maybe life created diversions, or whatever). I think this just emphasizes that there a lot of different routes to success, and some roads are longer than others, and some are shorter--and that neither is any more valid than the other.

(I hope that doesn't come across as grousy--but I can't help but blink at comment's like maine character'd and think, well, I was sitting at my word processor at twelve, writing novels, too.)

maine character said...

Phoebe, didn't mean to diss you or other young writers at all - you were THERE - you were doing it, too. Just like Izzy above. As you say, one can't control everything about publishing - only the fact that one does their work, and in that you're many years up on folks like me.

My comment above was simply speaking back to those who put Hannah down as a "teenage writer" without knowing all the time she'd put in.

By the way, today I was reading Jill Krementz’s The Writer's Desk, and here’s what Dorothy West had to say about her own start in writing:

When I was seven, I said to my mother, may I close my door? And she said, yes, but why do you want to close your door? And I said because I want to think. And when I was eleven, I said to my mother, may I lock my door? And she said yes, but why do you want to lock your door? And I said because I want to write.

She won an award at 14, wrote many stories and got some acclaim, but she didn't write her first novel until she was 41. It didn't do well, and she didn't write her second novel till she was 85. It was a bestseller and Oprah made it into a movie.

So just as you said, there's no time table for anyone. All we can do is what we can do, and in that I definitely respect everyone who has the focus and discipline to seriously begin writing early on.

Phoebe said...

Yeah, I see what you're saying, MC! I guess I'd just hate for the argument to swing in the favor of any one life narrative as being the ultimate/superior one for a writer. That's not to put down Hannah's--I think hers is amazing, and deserves to be celebrated! But diversity in how we get here is a good thing; it leads to diversity in our books, which are, of course, the narratives that really matter.

hannah said...

I love the discussion here. I just want to thank all of you for contributing and sharing your thoughts.

Claude and Phoebe--absolutely, I have been TREMENDOUSLY lucky, and I'm sorry if my post gave the impression (and I can totally see why it would) that I don't recognize that. I am seriously incredibly thankful every day, and I have no problem with people recognizing that luck had a lot to do with my success.

It absolutely did. It does for everybody. You have to write the right book at the right time and send it to the right person and be in the right place, and it's so incredibly frustrating for people who haven't had their break yet, and I totally get why it can be irritating to see someone younger than you bitching about how much time they had to put in to get where they are. I absolutely understand that.

I just think my luck is more similar to that of older writers than the public seems to think.

I guess what I'm trying to say is--the miracle isn't that I got published young. The miracle is that I got published AT ALL.

Claudie said...

Haha, yes, anyone getting published is a miracle in and of itself. It does involve luck, but it's the kind of luck you have to create for yourself first. :)

Liz Czukas said...

From this point forward, I will never refer to you as a teenage writer. I will always, however, be impressed that you were published at the age you were. Not because I think you got off easy, but because I know you did the work. You wrote, you revised, you queried and you earned it. And THAT is what's so impressive about doing it all before you're 18. Don't ever stop being proud as hell of that.

Also, prepare yourself for a lifetime of comments about being a veteran, a pro, and your longevity. You've earned that, too.

Write on, Hannah.

- Liz

hannah said...

I love you, Liz.

Dannie said...

That's kind of like the place I work at, and everyone refers to me as "here's our teenage waitress, be nice to her!". But then I'm like, oh man, what happens when I'm twenty? What am I then (though if I'm still a waitress at the same place at that time I'll be something different entirely...)

Anyway. Great post.

suzie townsend said...

So I debated a lot about it, but these are my two favorite lines:

"Eight months from now, I'm still going to be edgy and interesting and catchy, and I don't want there to be any doubt about that." It's pretty hard to imagine you ever won't be edgy, interesting, and catchy. :)


"I'm calling bullshit on old hannah tonight. In favor of new hannah." More people need to be able to do this!

Great post. I love it!

hannah said...

Thank you, Dannie and Suzie :)

Jenn said...

Miss Hannah...age aside, you're still a prodigy. Sorry. No one writes with grit like yours, unless it's Sir Chucky P himself. And he's "old," like me. Yeah, some of these sucks will say you're young and say it to be mean, i.e., she got lucky, her age was her hook, whatev. But I've read a LOT of books, written a LOT of shit, taken a LOT of workshops/classes/seminars/___________, edited a LOT of stinky, stinky shit written by wannabes who probably should've been accountants...and you're good. Regardless of your age. If anything, I admire the fact that you have your shit together so well at this point in your chronology. I didn't know my ass from a hole in the ground, and I made stupid choices when I was 18. Had I possessed a brain like yours, with that spitfire, clear-thinking, take-no-prisoners I'd have been unstoppable. Like you.

Just keep writing and entertaining us. Your fandom is growing, day by day. And don't worry if I called you a prodigy in my review/plug for your book--I did it with humility and affection. You inspire me. You inspire a lot of us. You, on that side of the chasm, make us, on this side, believe that the dream is possible, especially on days like today where another agent said "thanks but no thanks" and I have my shrink on speed-dial. (My ego is fragile. I'm a Virgo. Raging perfectionist. Don't like hearing I'm not perfect when I obsess about _______________ .)

So, thanks. Keep writing shit. I need to keep breathing. :o) ~Jenn SY

hannah said...

Jenn, you know I love you. You're a seriously fantastic chica, and thanks so much for stopping by and boosting my ego :) Your review of BREAK was by far my favorite I've ever read (yeah, yeah, I read the reviews, stop acting surprised).

I just have to say what I'm thinking all the time. I'm an Aries. :)

Tim Riley said...

Just came across your blog the other day-very cool, love the writing, the style. Congrats on your success, very impressive for someone so young, inspiring really.

hannah said...

Thanks for stopping by, Tim!

Anonymous said...

I think the first thing I ever said to you was how inspiring you are (over AW pm -blushes-) and you totally are.

Thanks to you I've basically adapted this 'shut the fuck up and write' attitude.

It's brilliant. Your age (at the time) made it easier for me to approach you and just ask for advice and you make me feel like I can ask you anything.

And that feeling is not going to go away as you get older. I'll just continue to admire you even if you are 80.

Brittany Landgrebe said...


The only thing about your age and success I'm jealous of (other than your success (duh) and that I prepared myself only up to 23 and 24 looks kind of scary and responsible-ey from here), is that you knew what you wanted way back when. It's a lucky person that knows what they want from life so close to the beginning of it. Hell, there are days I wonder if writing is what I really want, or what I *think* I want. But then, the story knocks on my head and waits to be let back in from the cold, and I know it's true.

A small part of me admittedly wondered if I was losing what little relevance I thought I had. You've reinforced the idea that age NEVER equals relevance. As long as I'm true to me - the hamburger loving, disorganized, fun-loving and super-imaginative child-in-a-grown-ups-body, then I'm okay. You sort of remind me of the girl I thought I was and/or wanted to be a few short years ago, kind of.

I like you. It's REFRESHING.

Do you know, you're kind of my personal buddha? You are a very wise person. *adds this to List of Things to be Jealous of Hannah*


hannah said...

I love you guys. All of you. Group hug.

Brittany, you're absolutely right--age has NOTHING to do with relevance. So many people out there writing the best, most realistic books about high school are writers who have been out of high school for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. And they still get it exactly right.

Hilary said...

Thank God you're young. That means I'll probably die first, and never have to live without your voice.