My audience is supposed to be young adult readers, but it’s useless to think of writing to them as if young adults were all one dark-haired girl curled up with a book in her bed at two in the morning. Talk to a young adult for ten minutes and you’ll find an individual as unique as your grandma. Talk to a young adult for decades, and you’ll find friends of all ages with a common young heart.
What’s more important than trying to write to teenagers is being inspired by them. If Gaia in Birthmarked seems determined, loyal, and hard-working, consider the local school crew team meeting at 4:15 a.m. to bus to Lake Waramaug at the other end of the state, then rigging their boats, hauling them to the water, affixing the oars, rowing to the end of the lake, lining up precisely and patiently in their lane, racing like mad for five minutes, pausing in elation or defeat for a moment, rowing back to the dock, hauling their boat out of the water and back to the staging area, de-rigging it, putting it back on the trailer, and busing back to the school to arrive home again around 6 pm. Then add in that most of the rowers were at prom the night before.
One of the perks of being a parent is filling out the audience at sporting events, concerts, and pre-prom photo shoots. No matter how much we parents talk, at heart, we’re struck dumb with awe at our children. We fill our eyes with them and try to memorize and encapsulate them.
Then come Monday, we return the tuxes and write our novels.