Friday, October 15, 2010

"I Write Children's Books" OR How I Learned to Stop Fighting and Love the Stigma

In Fall 2009, I started college at a certain Ivy League school that shall not be named. All that I will say is that I didn't have a good time there. And that it's a color.

For the semester I was there, I was enrolled as a "Literary Arts" major. I never really found out what Literary Arts is. I think it's a more pretentious version of an English major, but I'm not sure.

I was in a class called "Literature of Children and Young Adults." On the first day, our teacher had us go around and say why we were interested in children's books, specifically young adult books. When it got to me, I told them--"My first YA book came out in 2009. My next one is 2011."

I pretty naively expected to be congratulated.

What I got was an A on my first paper followed by a paragraph that had nothing to do with my paper and everything to do with the way I introduced myself the first day. Saying I was published was unprompted self-congratulation that set me up as a precocious kid with an attitude problem. And, my professor continued, the A on the paper should not be taken as a sign that my writing didn't need a lot, a LOT of work. I was young and naive and full of myself. I was all bark and no bite.

Later, when I asked the kids in my class what they were working on, one of them mentioned that children's books were just practice for him, and--by the way--he was so glad he wasn't planning on perusing publication for years to come, because good GOD he would be so embarassed to have anything less than his very best life's work out in the world.

I don't think I have to tell you guys how hard it is to have any self-confidence at all in this business. From the outside, it's probably very easy to see published authors as self-satisfied assholes who refuse any more growth. From the inside, I haven't seen anyone who fits this stereotype. Not to say some don't, but I think this is far, far from the norm.

We're still scared. We're still searching. We're still learning and editing and crying into our pillows. I don't have to tell you guys this. You know.

They didn't. I was surrounded by people trying to knock me down a peg, except I had nothing underneath me when they did.

I stopped going out. I couldn't write.

I went home.

That professor and those students were not the reasons I left Brown.

They didn't help.

(Oops, look at that. Said the name.)

I transferred to the University of Maryland, I started out as a Theatre major just to try to get away from the drama (ha ha ha) and the baggage. It worked, but it turned out I was a really shitty Theatre major. I started my sophomore year a month and a half ago, as an English major.

I was fucking terrified.

My plan was not to tell anyone I was published. No one. Lips zipped. It was going to be my complete and absolute secret.

And then the first day of Introduction to Creative Writing, my teacher has us go around and say what we write.

Everyone else in the class writes poetry, short fiction, doesn't write anything but wants to start. A girl is working on a sci-fi novel. Besides that, no longer works.

He gets to me, and I say, "I write children's books."

I don't think I'd ever said this sentence out loud before. I hadn't been intentionally avoiding it, but this was the first time I'd spoken about what I write since Zombie Tag sold in June. Before that, I wrote young adult books. Now I write children's books.

And then my teacher said, "Are you published?"

Well, fuck.

What was I supposed to say to that?

So I said yes and he acted impressed and I said to the class, "I'm normal. I swear. I'm normal."

And my professor said, "Don't worry. I'm sure you're not here to show off."

And that sentence cracked my whole world open and filled it with sunshine.

The moral of this story is that I would have to be beaten heavily with a stick before I'd take another children's book class.

I love being an English major. I am absolutely crazy about 20th century American Lit and literary criticism and a million other aspects of this world. I'm considering doing a second major in English Education so I'll be certified to teach those English classes down there, like, ferrealsies. Surprising no one here, I love books. I love learning about books and learning about writing.

I like that I am branded as a children's book writer.

There is still a ton of stigma around writing children's books as opposed to "real books." This is another thing you guys don't need me to tell you. But it's working for my advantage now, and I love it.

It feels a little like playing a game, because I'm pretending to check the children's books at the door. And it probably looks that way. They probably think I'm holding everything I'm learning in a separate vessel for the day I grow up and decide to write a Real Book. People see my writing as this slightly hacky side career I do while I'm not at school learning about Real Writing.

They have no idea I'm stealing all the Real Writing techniques and bending them and shaping them and hacking them into pieces and smushing them together and simplifying them and extrapolating them and plugging them into my zombie book.

They don't need to know. I'm not cheating. I'm learning. I'm enjoying myself. And I got to do it through being honest. And since I'm in classes for "real" writing, not children's writing, no one sees me as the girl who's there to show off. I'm the girl with the job on the side who's learning something totally new.

I have friends now.

It feels like I'm winning this game.

I can deal with being a hack.

50 comments:

yvonen s. said...

But you loooooveee me. Even if I was in that class with you :P

I know what you mean though (and I think I know who you're referring to :P). Even when people don't mean what they say, the fact that they don't think carefully before they say it still says something.

I'm sorry you didn't like it here but I still love you :) You are talented and fabulous and I liked everything you had to say in that class (whether I agreed with it or not) and I love everything you have to say here. And in your books. And in the world. And in your life. xxxxxxxlove yvonne

hannah said...

I adore you. And you were the best thing about Brown, hands down. But you know that.

Shayda Bakhshi said...

I'm so glad you brought this up. I went through a real writing identity crisis in college. I got my degree in English, mainly because UT doesn't offer creative writing as a major. But I took three creative writing courses, all of which consisted of professors that looked down on anything but "literary fiction". One of these professors was amazing, albeit closed-minded about "genre fiction", and I'm indebted to her for shaping my thought process about writing.

But. The kids were snots. Those that weren't taking it just for the writing component were full of it, were way too opinionated about what constituted "art", and how tons of books I loved were trash. (Don't you talk about Harry Potter like that. I will kill you.) The professors didn't really help much, either. Or at all. There was an unspoken rule of utter snobbery that had to be adhered to in those classrooms, and it was stifling to the point of brainwashing.

I applied to a bunch of equally snobby creative writing MFA programs this time last year. I was totally convinced I needed to write strange, emotionally nebulous, hard-hitting literary fiction to become a Real Writer. I don't know why. I don't know what happened. After I finished my first novel (an attempt at Southern Gothic with an abnormal dose of GONE WITH THE WIND-influenced prose), I wrote nothing but dark, lyrical short stories for the remainder of college, building my portfolio of bullshit and hackery for those MFA programs. My first loves--YA, MG--were completely lost for a time.

But I didn't get in. Thank God--I didn't get in.

And it was about this time that I reintroduced myself to YA and MG fiction. My amazing fiance took the time to point out a few MFA programs in writing MG/YA, which I'd actually no clue existed.

I reapplied.

And I'm going to start in January at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I'm going to get my MFA in writing for children and young adults. And I'm stoked. I'm going to be around people who love the same things I love, who write the same things I write.

This is who I am. I write what I love. And I write for kids.

Again, thanks so much for sharing. I'm totally sorry that this comment is long enough to eat an entire screen's worth of room, but I really connected with your experience. It took three and a half years for me to accept what kind of writer I am; I'm so glad you've been able to embrace it sooner.

Vee said...

Dear god, what fucking assholes at that Ivy League school that is a colour. Seriously, *shakes head*

And woohoo for children's books, and applying all your crazy English lit stuff to them.

Nice post, as usual :)

hannah said...

Shayda--Gorgeous. Absolutely fucking gorgeous comment. Do you have a blog? Because that's a post you need to put up.

Maggie said...

Dude, I'm sure a lot of people in that first class were pissed and jealous that you were a published author, because we all know that getting published in YA is just as difficult as getting published in any other part of the industry or whatever. I have no idea what I'm trying to say right there. I just don't want to say that YA isn't "real literature." I hope you get my point.

ANYWAY, that guy that said he was going to wait until he was older to try to get published? I'm sure he's terrified that he'll never be published. If you're not terrified of never being published, if you don't think, on a daily basis, that your writing sucks, then I don't think you're a real writer. So, yeah. Screw those people who made you feel that way. I've noticed that some of the most snobby literature majors never get around to being published, much less actually *finishing* a book. So, yeah. Again. Rock on.

Shayda Bakhshi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shayda Bakhshi said...

Thanks so much, Hannah!

Ack, Blogger at my comment, or so I thought, and I tried to trim and repost.

But I do indeed have a blog. Thanks for the suggestion--and support! *runs off to post*

ryan.gebhart said...

I got asked by a dude neighbor of mine, "Why did you move out to Los Angeles?"

And then another neighbor goes, "He's a writer."

Dude neighbor says, "I'm a writer too. I write deep, philosophical, meaningful screenplays... stuff that will get people thinking." (I'm paraphrasing here) And then he asks, "What do you write?"

"Kids books."

He laughs, under the impression that I'm joking.

"I'm serious."

And then I explain to him that I'm writing middle grade novels, geared toward readers aged 9-12.

He says, "But what do you REALLY want to write?"

"Kids books."

And he just couldn't accept this. He said, "Don't you want to do something bigger? More important? Something that MATTERS?" (ps, my neighbor is a total wad, in case you haven't figured that out).

"Nope. I want to write kids books. I don't have any adult book ideas. The thought of writing for adults doesn't appeal to me."

Anyway, the point of this anectdote is (I have a point?) it's true that many people are under the impression that kid's books are a lesser form of writing. I'm not really sure how to go about breaking that stigma. Heck, I'm not even sure if it really matters. Does it? There's always going to be haters. We rule and we know it.

*rocks out with his... MG book out*

hannah said...

It doesn't matter.

(Though, for the record, I think picture books--which I do not write--are the most important. Period. Your neighbor can suck it.)

Trish said...

Hi Hannah,
I love this post. You made me laugh. I found this blog thanks to Nathan Bransford.
Writing for children has to be much harder than writing for adults—after all the rules are stricter. The sentences in chapter books have to be short, words have to be suitable for children, no swear words, or too much violence, shorter word count, not to mention that most other writers critiquing children’s stories don’t realise these rules. They sometimes tell us not to use use ‘And’ or ‘But’ at the beginning of sentences and to make the sentences bigger instead. Also, they don’t realise that children’s stories don’t have to have italics for thoughts. Plus, it’s not easy finding writing partners for children’s stories. So my opinion is that adult writers have it much easier.
I left school at the age of fourteen, uneducated and unable to write properly. I couldn’t spell and had no idea where commas went, but I was determined to learn. At the age of fifty three, I finally had enough time on my hands and bought my first computer. I joined two websites, Absolute Write Water Cooler, and Critique Circle. Now, four years later, I’ve completed three MG adventure stories and a couple of chapter books. I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve now edited and formatted my manuscript enough to submit to agents and publishers, and without the help from any Writer’s College. My lessons came from other writers, aspiring and published—on writing forums, competitions, writers and agent’s blogs, plus reading and studying hundreds of children’s books.
I’m proud to be a children’s story writer, and although I’m not yet published, many children have said they love my stories. The buzz I get from that makes up for all the hard work. I’ve even had my stories read by residents of a retirement village, and I love it when they ask for more.
I wonder, do other children’s writers realise they have a potential audience with the elderly? Some elderly people have told me they no longer have the patience or time to read large adult novels. Plus reading children’s stories takes them back to their own childhood.
Love your post, Hanna, I’ll be back for more. :)

Christi Goddard said...

I've been progressively writing younger. I started with an adult MS. Tried YA a couple of times, but now I'm on an MG and enjoying it so much more. The ideas come more quickly and the story is more fun, probably because I've always been a total kid at heart. Kids love a good adventure and silliness, and it fits me like a glove.

Tena Russ said...

I followed you over from Nathan's blog -- your post was terrific. I will remember you.

Jewel Fern said...

I was an English major in college with a minor in creative writing. I always wrote for adults--dark and sometimes disturbing material. Children's literature never crossed my mind.

Then it happened. I was hit by the muses with the idea for a children's book. Not just one, but a series based on a character and his adventures that wasn't dark at all. (Not published yet, but positive outlook for things to come.) My audience consists of 5 to 8 year olds. This has taken more time and commitment to write than anything that has come before. It is a whole new world!

I haven't been in college since 2006. I'm not sure what my old classmates would say if I said, "I'm a children's book writer." Fortunately, I have been met with excitement when I tell people I'm working on children's books. Perhaps this is because I've told teachers and other mothers. It doesn't matter though; I'm just happy to be writing.

Anna said...

You go, Glenn Coco! (I too followed you from Nathan's blog-keep rockin!)

Nicole Lorenz said...

Awesome post, Hannah.

I had a similar experience in undergrad writing YA fantasy. The attitude of my English department was very accepting when it came to genres you could study, but if you wrote something other than literary fiction, they had no idea what to do with you. The attitudes about non-literary fiction varied from dismissive to outright hostile. (One genre writer friend of mine was told by her professor, "This piece seems like it's straying into GENRE territory, and you wouldn't want to do that, would you?" The next piece she submitted in that class was a screenplay about man-eating trees from space, to spite him. She barely passed the class thanks to his lovely bias.)

The attitude in my MFA program has been so much better, though. In my intro to fiction course, I brought a fantasy piece to workshop, and the instructor held up a hand and said, "Hold on. Before we dig into this, I want to make sure everyone's on the same page." He went on to explain how fantasy functions via metaphor and lecture on genre fiction's validity in general. It was the first time I'd heard an instructor stick up for anything but literary fiction, and it filled my little heart with joy. Since then, I've seen all different genres of fiction come through workshops in my classes - MG, YA, and fantasy among them (though sadly no man-eating trees) - and I haven't heard a word against them. Turns out my program is full of other genre hacks! <3

Gumnut said...

It's damn hard to write children's books. There is no stigma here, only admiration.

Nutty
(off the edge, but learning to fly)

All Adither said...

Oh my God, I am OLD compared to you. I love English, too. But chose Journalism because I wanted to leave college with a "marketable skill". Now (many years later), I'm trying to write YA.

I'm glad you're happy at your new school. :)

Megan G.O. said...

My college has two publications of student's creative writing, which go out twice a year. I generally don't bother reading them. Why? Because I know what's going to be inside them. Angsty, first-person, present-tense, stream-of-consciousness, I-want-to-be-Joyce stuff that all blends together after one or two stories. People write what they think college students should write, and most of it isn't genre or children's lit. I have nothing against adult literature or non-genre works (and doesn't that sound odd?), but the stigma of reading or writing it is really irritating.

(And then there's the erotica, which a whole 'nother kettle of fish...)

Anyway, go you! for not putting up with the snobbery of the Ivy League.

Chase Holland said...

Thanks for posting this. Very few know the difference between constructive criticism and insults. You're all the better for putting yourself out there. Those other people can eat it!

http://chaseholland.blogspot.com/

Sarah Goldberg said...

*feeling a lot of UMD pride*

Great post, Hannah. Writing children's books is awesome.

hellis72 said...

Hannah,

For the life of me I have never been able to figure out why would-be writers view MG or YA as “warm-up” literature.

I am a school bus driver, cheer coach, volunteer art teacher and foster parent. I have taken that experience and applied it to my in-progress YA manuscript, and have found that writing for children and teens is BRUTAL.

There are many reasons why adults read what they do. Kids read what interests them. Period.

The key is knowing what interests them, and God help you if you don’t. A child can detect an adult lecture dressed in teen’s clothing a mile away.

I think that’s why I follow your blog, Hannah. As much as I am grateful for all the agents or lit coach’s blogs out there, offering advice and guidance on the craft, yours is the first blog that truly makes me want to just get on with it and write. Genuinely write.

I thank you for that, Hannah. You are who I want to be when I grow up (I’m 38 by the way).

Heidi

Rebecca B said...

I went to grad school and got an MA in Comparative Lit. At one of the first department wine and cheese parties (I know, I know--it wasn't even ironic) someone asked me what I liked to read and I (naively) said some commercial fiction title (I don't remember which), and the classmate looked at me like I was speaking in tongues. Not a person in that department read anything but Derrida and Camus and Voltaire and Goethe. Which is great, but I like to read everything, including a lot of YA and commercial and genre fiction.

Even now, when I report back as an alum that I am writing YA they ignore it. So screw them! The people who look down on children's book writers are narrow-minded and tend to know nothing about the actual publishing industry.

I'm glad your new program is more enlightened. :)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

So glad you've found your place! I've had well-read, well-intentioned friends ask when I'd move on from children's books. Interesting, the perception of kid lit books being practice for "real" ones.

bonniechernoff said...

#1 Rock on, Hannah. I write romance so I know intimately the ultimate eye roll and professional dismissal that follows my answer to the age old question: What do you write? It's ignorant, irritating, and ends up only making me feel disgusted with the a-hole and his/her pretentious views.

#2 Children's books are CRUCIAL to the survival of adult books regardless of genre (and I consider "literary" to be a genre). If we don't get kids interested in reading and stories when they're little, they'll have no use for it at all when they reach the ages of disposable income. I just ordered the Ramona series (Cleary) from my first grader's book club form because she's bringing home chapter books from the school library so it's obviously time to build up her home library. I have a bunch of my favorite middle grade books packed and waiting for her and I Can Not Wait to crack those boxes open with her and rediscover the books that made me want to grow up and tell stories of my very own.

I'm so very happy you found a program that suits you and know better than to try and twist yourself to a rigid, stuffy program that would only end up killing your joy in your chosen field.

Marquita Hockaday said...

I'm glad that you wrote about this and that you are feeling at home now. And I am too familiar with this topic. I am in an MFA program...I think that's all I need to say. Thanks for shedding light that some people find writing for children (especially YA) not only acceptable but commendable.

hannah said...

Thanks so much, everyone. I'm loving reading your stories.

Christina Auret said...

The comment that children's lit is not an area for serious study is preposterous. How can I say that? Well I met a woman, who is doing her doctorate in that field of study, at a wedding. Note: She does not write children's books, she studies them.

A few things stood out from our conversion (above and beyond the fact that she was a very intelligent person):

1. Children's books are harder to write because you have to describe a very large and mystifying world in a limited vocabulary, in a restricted word count, in a way that is riveting and enlightening. You also have to tell a story and make it fun.

2. Children's books are the most important books of all, as they can play a very large role in shaping the child's perspective of the world. Note: Not just teach a lesson, but more importantly, shape perspective.

1 and 2 are not easy things to do.

Phoebe said...

Awesome post, Hannah, and really brave.

I have an MFA in poetry from a really traditional school where the creative writing department is really focused on the literary world, so I hear you. I was thrilled to find, when I got there, that it actually had an excellent children's lit (critical) program, too. We had to take a bunch of seminars, so I loaded up on those during my first few semesters. But I realized that I was in trouble when a poetry professor asked us all what seminars we were taking, and I responded "The Golden Age of Children's Lit," and she promptly scoffed, "Oh! Kiddie literature!"

(As if reading 19th century children's literature is easy. Pshaw.)

Man, I'm filled with hate and rage just thinking about it.

Somehow, through being immersed in a world of snobbery (and, while some of the students were great, a few lectured me on how lame I was for reading LJ Smith or Stephen King or a gazillion other writers who thrilled me), I realized how important it was for me to do something I was passionate about. I started writing YA SF during my first summer there. I stopped reading stuff I thought would impress people and started reading stuff I cared about. And I'm so, so, so much happier now. Don't get me wrong--I loved poetry. But I learned that I'm not a literary poet, that that world is not my world. It sounds like you might have learned a similar lesson at Brown.

Sometimes learning what you're not can help you figure out what you are. I'm glad you can proudly embrace who you are now while still pursuing excellence academically. There's nothing I hate more about the little boxes we have for literary and commercial writing than how they can be used to keep commercial writers from growing artistically, and literary writers from writing their passions. We get the best of both worlds! Go us. :)

Brooke said...

Followed you over from NB's blog, too.

I write women's fiction, romance and YA... yet I feel the same way about writing women's fiction and romance. If anyone asks me what I write, I tell them YA. I'd much rather say that than admit to writing romance or WF. I mean, all the cool kids are doing it ;> But seriously, I guess I've been living in a bubble--I had no idea that writing for kids held such a stigma.

raingentlyfalls said...

First of all, my name is also Hannah, and I have a Russian last name, too. Just thought it was kind of cool that we have such similar names. :)

Second of all, pay no attention to those stuck-up people. There are many, many more people out there (such as myself) who think you're a great writer. I read Break on my recent flight to Florida (I live in Massachusetts and was traveling to Florida to visit my grandma), and I literally could not put it down. As a person who struggles daily with acid reflux that severely limits my diet, I could really identify with the character of Jesse, especially since I, too, have gone through periods of time when I've felt that I'd rather starve myself than put myself through the pain and anxiety of a reflux episode. You're a really talented young woman, and I can't wait to read more of your books in the future.

Karen Smith said...

For crying out loud, I have children and the things they read are OF VITAL IMPORTANCE. To you, to me, to ALL OF SOCIETY!

Honestly, people think Children's fiction doesn't matter? Where do they think grown-ups who read fiction come from? Where do they think children form their ideas of the world from? Where do they think children learn from (because if Mr. M's campout stories were any indication, we're steeped in fiction from very young ages!)

Keep on rocking the children's fiction market, Hannah. I'm working on it too (and I'm old enough to be your mother, yikes! lol)

Renee Miller said...

I'm so glad I found you on Nathan's blog. You had me there and then at "Well fuck." So funny. On those Ivy League shits, pfft. They'll still be studying while you are doing. I'm aware of the stereotypes in fiction writing, there are a lot. It's stupid and ridiculous but I've decided it's jealous pricks who can't write to save their life that start them.

I don't care what you write; children's books, romance, horror, or comic books. Good writing is good writing, period. It's obvious you've already got that down. So congratulate yourself as much as you want. You've earned it. Personally I plan to do a lot of self congratulating. A nauseating amount.

Cathryne said...

On behalf of all those people in that first class at Brown -- what we actually meant to say was "You're published! WOW! That is incredibly awesome! We are blown away by your achievement and inspired by your success. The fact that you're taking a class like this -- you, a published author -- just shows that you're a person with high standards and a humble heart. Can you talk to us about your writing? and your experience with publishing?"
We're sorry it came out all wrong.

Seriously, though, love your writing!(and your guest post at Nathan's blog.)

Didn't we all get our first taste of the big world through Children's Books??? What could possibly be more important than making these the best experience imaginable?
Cathryne

Suzy said...

I went to a big east coast university. As a drama major. I had 2 professors. One hated me, one loved me.

The one who hated me never gave me any significant roles and kept pushing stagecraft on me. The one time I got a standing O from the class on a piece I was working on, he ripped it apart. Afterwards the kids in the class came to me and said he was wrong. Not much I could do about it then.

When I left and went to San Francisco I got a job at the New Shakespeare Company as member of their rep company. The first person I told was the ex douchebag professor.

And as to the prof who loved me? He ended up in LA, ACTING.

vvdenman.com said...

I actually read every word of this blog. And that doesn't happen all that often. Admittedly, I'm a skimmer.

Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

Weaving a Tale or Two said...

Way to go, Hannah, for embracing it! There's such freedom in that. Children don't suddenly launch into "real" literature, they are led there by the delightful writers of "children's literature" and learn to love it.

Personally, I'm a grandmother and I've never given up children's literature. What's not to love?

hannah said...

Hey Cathryne :) Rest assured, I was mostly talking about a specific person, and it was not you. Some of you really were amazing.

raingentlyfalls--name twins ftw, and I'm so glad you liked Break!

Thanks so much, everybody. And I'm glad the people who came here from Nathan's aren't feeling let down :)

toni said...

This is a wonderful post - I was so moved! How terrible for those people to bring you down like that. I think you should be proud of your achievements, not feel marked by them or put into a category by someone else. Keep on doing what you love and don't worry about what other people think :)

Annikka Woods said...

Hi Hannah. After having read BREAK I can honestly say I hope you never change what you're writing. You've got talent and skill in writing vivd prose that teens can relate to. I'm so glad I got the chance to read the book, and I'm grateful for the chance to be able to get to know you.

As for creative writing....yeah, I ran into that problem myself. I was told in high school I had no talent at writing essays. When I told my creative writing teacher I wanted to write fantasy novels he flipped out. He told me that a "real writer" wrote essays, dissertations, etc. and not trashy novels. I explained I wouldn't be writing trashy novels. He dismissed the entirety of sci fi and fantasy as "trashy".

Then I got into Honors English at the university. I wanted to take creative writing but I had to pass an English class to do it. We did a lot of writing in that class, especially essays and reports. I was told again that my aspirations for being a novelist were wrong. I should devote myself to lit fiction or non-fiction and not waste my time.

I listened to them and stopped writing what I loved for a while. I finally got back into writing fantasy when my mum quite literally slapped me upside the head and told me to stop being a wuss & to write what I loved. Glad she did that. I've been writing this ever since.

Long winded post aside, you're not a hack and you're amazing. Keep writing what you love & let the whiners who have no talent keep up with their crap. :)

hannah said...

Anikka--thank you! And I love your story.

Layla Fiske said...

Hi Hannah...

I loved your post on Nathan's blog. Thought I'd come over and check out your website or blog site or whatever it's called.

Anyway...I was very touched and interestingly surprised by your post here. My advice to you regarding the poopy professor from Brown and any other similar ass holes that you may encounter in life, is... "Don't let someone elses opinion of you, affect your opinion of yourself."

Someone told me this once, and it has helped me through many a difficult time. It turned out the person who said mean things to me, although he was my boss, turned out to be an alcoholic with his own set of problems. He still sends me Christmas cards, and I never respond. what a jerk.

Anyway, I love your spirit and I really admire you for what you have accomplished at such a young age. And yes, everyone is young to me. LOL.

I just posted an excerpt for critique on Nathan's forum and if you have the time, I'd love your input/comments.

Take care.
L

MBee said...

I do not understand why people think MG and YA authors aren't as "good" as authors who write for adults. I actually think it's harder for MG and YA authors because we write for such an impressionable group. We're the ones who will most likely turn a child into a life long reader and lover of books. We're the ones who will open their eyes and their imaginations to all the amazing things out there beyond the TV. We are the ones who will write the characters they will remember fondly as they grow and want their own children to read about.

While Gone with the Wind was a great story, my mom was more excited to share Little Women with me when I was young. I loved it so much I can't wait to similarly share it with my kids someday. Along with Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, James and the Giant Peach and 21 Balloons to name a few.

You're good at what you do and you're doing something good for others. Anyone who says otherwise or would put you down over it is merely jealous.

Melissa Dominic said...

this is a fantastic entry - thanks for pouring you heart out slightly. you write what you write and it makes you happy and the good news is people out there like it and it makes them happy too - no matter how old. i understand, in a way. my english ba consisted of mostly medieval english lit. courses and women's roles in literary/latino/medieval fiction only to come out writing cyberpunkian future spec-fiction messes. BUT YOU'RE RIGHT. you're stealing all the good ideas from lit fiction and making your own better - that's how it works and that's how it should work. it's always good to remind ourselves we're just doing what we know and what we love or something.

funny, all my crw classes were full of mystery writers. i incidentally went to a school that specialized in it. all i wanted to write was surrealistic weirdo fiction, it didn't last and i switched to poetry. now i'm writing weirdo mystery novels that i'm out of school. i'm entirely unsure what happens in university, man. hahah.

Anna Scanlon said...

I also find that writing and teaching go well together as well. I hope you enjoy the journey of finding your voice and helping others find theirs.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Hannah, this was a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your experience so openly. (And I like your new picture, too! It's nice to see your smiling face.)

I'm 32, and I tell people I write for kids. Sometimes they take it in stride, and sometimes they give me funny looks. But it's what I do, and I'm proud of it. And it is "real" writing.

Janiel Miller said...

I'm a bit behind the reading curve on this post, but . . . . awwwwww. I LOVED this! Loved your heart in it. And your honesty.

I'm proud to be writing MG/YA for my first book. At age 46. I'm too old to care how anyone looks at me when I say it. I have the best reading memories in the world from those years. And if I manage to get published it will be an honor to spend a bit of time in the imaginations of all those beautiful burgeoning people.

You'll make a terrific teacher.

Julie said...

Oh my God! That sucks about the college-who-must-not-be-named! People don't realize how hard it is for writers to stand up and say, "hey I'm writing a book or I wrote a book and you can actually buy it."

There's a reason why we chose a creative path that allows us to hide our faces most of the time. Not saying all writer's are shy but most of us aren't practiced in talking about writing to a group like an English class.

I am totally feeling you on this as I had a similar experience recently. The one time I'm finally brave enough to bring up the book deal thing with people who knew me before, it completely back-fires.

Snob people suck! Glad you got away from them!!

fuzzymango said...

I'm late to the party and basically just repeating what has already been said, but I really, really loved this post. A few reasons why:

- I'm a transfer student too, so I know what it's like to feel that kind of frustration with your current school and to just want OUT. Congrats on finding a university that works better for you!

- I'm actually an English major at an Ivy League college (though not the color-named school), and although I have yet to encounter a situation like the one you describe, the English department here is pretty traditional, often to the point of being frustrating. (Fortunately, my experience with the creative writing courses has been awesome so far.)

- I love MG/YA too, but I hate how a lot of people react to hearing that this is what I want to spend my life doing. I can almost hear their brains going, "She's going to [nameofschoolhere] and she wants to use that education to write for *kids*?" I wish they'd say it out loud (rather than just letting me read it on their faces) so that I could respond and say, "Yes. Yes, I do, thanks."

At any rate, thank you for writing this post. I think it goes without saying, but it really means a lot to know we're not alone in this sort of thing. :-)

T.L. Bodine said...

Your experience at Brown reminds me sooooo much of my failed grad school experience. I studied English under-grad here in New Mexico and absolutely fucking loved it. Literary theory, hells yes. I got to spout nonsense about sexual deviancy in all the classics, life was AWESOME.

Then I had the dumbass idea that I should get a master's in "Creative Writing" and it was maybe the stupidest thing I ever tried to do. I was a better writer than 90% of my peers (and 99% of my professors) and they all spent the entire time harping about "literary this" and "literary that" and threatened to fail me if I turned in "any more of that genre nonsense."

I didn't get a damn thing written the whole time I was in grad school and it was totally paralyzing.

Studying literary theory and using it in these "lesser books" of ours is so much better.