It seems my mom had been cleaning in the basement and found my old high school literary magazine. As you can tell by the year on the cover, it's kind of old . . . almost *gulp* twenty years old. I was hesitant to flip through the pages, knowing the book contained several cringe-worthy poems penned by yours truly, along with a short story I co-wrote with a classmate, but curiosity got the best of me. And yes. They were just as bad as I was expecting.
In my defense, I was forced to submit these pieces by my creative writing teacher--trust me, I was super shy in school and would've never had the courage to do something like that on my own. Oh, and if you think I'm going to share some of that work with you, think again--I could barely get through them without bursting into a fit of laughter (the poems were cheesy and cliche, and the short story was laden with adverbs, dialogue tags, and even more cheese).
Even though my own work made me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a hot poker, I was pretty impressed with some of the work of my [then] classmates. What struck me the most was the common themes. Most of the poems were about feeling alone, depression, heart-break, love . . . in other words, teenage angst. The work could be put in a book with the year "2012" written on it, and no one would know the better. Teens always like to think adults don't understand what they're going through, but we do. We've been there.
My generation thought we were so different from every other generation before us. We were Generation X, for Heaven's sake! We had grunge music! We DEFINED angst! Um . . . yeah . . . not so much. We were no different than the generations that preceded us. Teenagers haven't changed over the years. Yes, times have changed. Technology has really changed, but the feelings and emotions teens deal with haven't.
I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy writing in the young adult genre--no matter how much time goes by, all the good and bad memories of my teen years are still very vivid in my mind. No matter how old I get, there will always be teens who can relate to the real-life situations and emotions in my writing.
You don't have to do research to write young adult novels. You don't have to immerse yourself in the teen environment, or follow every teen you know on facebook (unless you want to improve on your teen slang, but beware, a teen's facebook page is a scary thing). All you have to do remember what it was like to be a teen. If you need help remembering, peruse your old literary magazine, letters, or yearbook. Take away the cell phones and flat-irons, and you'll realize teens today aren't that different from us twenty years ago :o)
Speaking of young adult novels, I want to give a quick shout-out to my dear friend (and FAVORITE contemporary YA author), Bethany Crandell!! She just sold her book! Click here to read all the details!