Monday, January 26, 2009

A Rant

Now, I'm in a remarkably good mood for a rant, but this particular issue has been bothering me for a while. This probably doesn't fall under the category of young adult fiction, and it's probably not about fiction at all... it's more about young adults writing fiction.

As some of us know, I was recently accepted into the college of my choice. It's very exciting, yay, etc. Everything was peachy until I saw one sentence on the university blog. It said something to the effect of, "In every other way, this candidate was perfect: he had an excellent GPA, strong extracurriculars, and a published novel."

My reaction ran along the lines of: "uh-huh... huh... WHAT?!!?!?!"

Maybe it's just me, but I dislike the idea of people writing novels as some kind of prerequisite for college admissions or any other application process unless it has something to do with writing. So if you're applying for an MFA program at Iowa, then yes, please mention that you've published eight quintillion novels and they're all on the New York Times Bestseller List. In fact, feel free to bribe the admissions officers and buy the west side of campus. But I feel like people who toss around a published novel as if it were a prerequisite instead of an accomplishment are missing the picture.

I'm not quite sure what the picture is. Novel writing is art. I enjoy novel writing. You people are sucking the joy out of my novel writing by using it to weasel your way into an Ivy League school.

Wait. Do you think my prejudices are coloring my words here? (I have an unbridled dislike for Ivy League prestige...)

Young authors get such a bad rap in the writing world as it is. Adult writers point to examples on extreme ends of the spectrum as if teens can be easily classified as one or the other, or they tell us not to pursue publication until we've reached 25. Even writers of young adult fiction. This kind of behavior would be like Terry Pratchett announcing that the majority of people who read fantasy are idiots.

I don't understand. My incomprehension, it is huge and vast and eggplant-colored.

Here is a comic:


This is the end of my non sequitur.

I don't know if this is because the majority of teenage writers out there really do suck (I doubt it) or if it's the fault of society (wtf is society anyway, man?) but I'd like to see everyone move past criticizing other people without invitation and embracing that hey -- we all sucked at some point.

Am I overreacting? I might be overreacting. But you know. The title should have warned you.

Also, college admissions are le suck.

Quick edit: The applicant in question was applying for law school, and had published a children's chapter book.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

High Concept and Realistic it even possible?

Let me start by saying I'm no worshiper of high concept. I'd much rather write a good book than just a hooky book. It's just that when something is this hard to wrap your mind around, well, it's kinda like a rubix cube. It obsesses me.

And as a teacher, I see the appeal. I'm a salesperson of literature every day. I take the class to the library. The true readers (with the exception of a few who think I'm a genius) run off because they know what they want and where it is. The reluctant ones, we play a guessing games. What kinda stuff do you like? What movies do you like? You like sci-fi? funny stuff? realistic stuff? fantasy? sports? And then we start perusing the shelves.

In English-teacher-salesperson mode, high concept works for me. If I were to pull a book off the shelf and say, "this is beautifully written," they would either run away, or put it back as soon as I walk away. But a good concept, well, makes them really look at the book. Snappy cover art is helpful at this point. :)

So, since I am the bottom rung salesperson, just trying to get these picky customers to check out books that have already been purchased, I can see the high concept pitch working on up the ladder of sales and marketing.

Alas, I have never writtten anything high concept. And I don't know if I ever will. By definition (unless I'm wrong and I've twisted this rubix cube a few times too many), in a high concept book everything, even subplots, ties back in to that concept.

I don't think you can really do that in a contemporary realistic book. In a speculative book you can create a situation that everything revolves around. But I think modern life is just too complex and just too messy. In another conversation, Donut suggested Freak Show as a high concept book in which everything tied into the drag queen mc wanting to be prom queen. But honestly, I don't think he came up with that plan until halfway through the book, after his classmates put him in the hospital.

Maybe it works for Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. It does seem that everything does get tied in with the pants. Maybe it works with Audrey, Wait! the whole situation is related to the song about her getting so huge. Maybe my point is moot (like talking to a cow). I don't know. The rubix cube is spinning around again. I'm the kid who took theirs apart with a steak knife and then stuck it back together again.

One more blog, later this week, and I'll do a drawing for a hardcover (cause that's all there is) copy of Handcuffs. Sent from me to you.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

HIGH CONCEPT (it's a contest, with a prize)

Okay, I have a theory about high concept books. The theory might be wrong. It is probably wrong, but it'll be fun to talk about it. Yes, talk. That means you have to respond and then we can have a discussion (new years resolution- be more agressive)...(real new years resolution- be more witty so people will like you). Okay, yeah, I'd like to discuss this with some other smart people- that means you.

Before we beging the convo, I need a list of books you consider High Concept, and if you feel up to it, a short explanation of the concept.

If you aren't familiar with high concept, it was first, I believe, a movie term- when you can sum up the idea of a movie (or book) in a catchy distinctive sentence of phrase.

Jurassic Park- Dinosaurs get cloned from DNA found in amber but are not ideal amusement park exhibits after all.

Sister Hood of the Travelling Pants- 4 girls have their lives changed by a "magical" pair of pants.

Both of these were books before they were movies, of course.

I want to do a couple of posts on high concept books, because it's something I've been thinking about. Just out of interest. So everyone who posts, will be put into a drawing to win a signed copy of Handcuffs. If you already have a copy- you can give this one to a lucky friend, or I can give you something else off my overflowing bookshelf. One of my real resolutions is to be more aggressive-about decluttering my house.

So post away. Post post post.
Happy New Year, I love you all. More posting = more love. Also, maybe my handcuffs book marks will be in soon. I will send those to anyone who wants some.