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.


peachie said...

This is gonna sound really horrible, but. One reason I'm anxious to finish my current WIP, and hopefully get it published (besides the fact that it would be the most awesome dream-fulfilling event ever), is college admissions.

Writing a novel takes time. Lots of it. Time that could otherwise be spent studying abroad, or doing amateur research at the local college. Writing is my passion, and it's also my main extracurricular activity. The problem with that arises on the apps of elite dream colleges - you can't just put "novel writing" and expect the officers to be impressed. Just like with any hobbyish activity, you need to elaborate, show what you've accomplished. Unless you go to an interview where the rep looks at your MSs and realizes that you are in fact a genius, it's good to have something to show for it (I think).

So as a student, I would greatly prefer it if I could get published before I start submitting apps as opposed to after. I could attempt to publish a bunch of short stories or poems instead, yeah, but why not try for the whole hog - a novel?

It's a tough goal. So if I achieve it, I want the recognition. Making the dudes at Georgetown go "wow" would be a huge cherry on top. That guy who wrote the children's book probably put a lot of effort into it, you know? Even if the Yale blog lists it off as some desensitized, gimmicky thing, it still meant a lot to that guy.

But like you said, there is the chance that he wrote the book purely to impress colleges. If so, that sucks for him - and any other students who do it - because he never got to experience the feeling of writing with meaning, writing because it's your passion. It's his loss.

hannah said...

"You people are sucking the joy out of my novel writing by using it to weasel your way into an Ivy League school."


Sophie W. said...

People who are applying to writing programs, literature programs, etc, aren't the problem. It's like... law school students writing children's chapter books that bother me. Which this guy was.


althrasher said...

Well, it's kind of like volunteer work. It pisses me off when people do community service just to look good on applications, but at the same time, a person who genuinely does volunteering for the people should be able to put that on a resume.

It's kinda like sports to me. Does being on the basketball team show that you are going to be a brilliant engineer? No. Does it show that you're a person who can work hard at something to succeed? Maybe. People put all kinds of things that don't directly apply on applications, but in a way it shows what kind of person they are.

Anonymous said...


hannah said...

^haha I don't know why that was anonymous. it's me.

Donna said...

What does writing a chapter book have to do with getting into law school, I want to know.

Getting a book published, at any age, is no easy feat. This just plays into the notion that "novel writing is easy and can be done at any time" with how it's being used as a tick on the yes box for college. If he wrote it because he loved to write and it's just something that happened along the way to law school, good for him. But if it's just a tool to get an in into Yale Law (or wherever it is) . . . there are better things to do that would be more applicable to getting into law school than writing a children's chapter book.

deltay said...

Hahaha, wow.

Just... wow.

Law and children's chapter books are just ever so relevant nowadays, aren't they? ;)

hwp said...

I so wish that I had the presence of mind to write a novel when I was in high school or even early college.

Now that I've hit 30-land I'm finally focused enough to do it. But that's not because of age... it's because it took ME that long to get there.

A good book is a good book, whether the author is 10 or 90 shouldn't matter if the book is good. I would like to apologize for all the morons who have tried to limit you because of age in the past... for real.

Suzanne Young said...

Well, you know I love you Sophie, but I have to say, brag. I don't know, it is HARD to get a book published. So I think it's okay to say it.

Hey, just the other day, I used it to get a better table at Pizza Hut. *kidding. :-)

Love you!!!!


Scott McLean said...

Hello, I like your site and I'm glad there are so many great, young writers in this world. Take care.