I only heard the "F" word six times today, and at least it was not coming over the pulpit from a keynote speaker like the the last two days. Where am I at, you might ask? A high school gym, a construction site, a convention of uneducated grammar-impared neophytes? No--a national convention for children's book writers and illustrators. Though the gratuitous use of this feeble-minded word left me squirming in my seat, it was nothing more than an off-key song compared to the descriptions of sex and drug use rolled into the discussion and instructions of "finding the teen voice" in various workshops.
This was my first national SCBWI conference, and my eyes have been opened wide by the current trend in Y.A. fiction, and I didn't like what I saw. In fact, the first day of the conference I sidled away to a remote corner and showered my over-priced, underdressed sandwich with tears. Literally. I cried for the children of this great country. They live in a world filled with sex, violence and pain on a daily basis, not only in real life, but on the screen. I used to live in a Polyana world where I thought these kids could atl least turn to literature to escape, my biggest concern being that alot of teen fiction was merely candy for the brain. But no, what I found is that YA authors are no longer content with candy. The stuff they are writing now smells more like poison.
"But this is the way kids talk, the way they think, they way they feel. We have to write what they want to hear, or they won't be moved and thus read or buy books," they say.
Is this the best solution to help kids deal with the mountain load of problems today's society heaps upon them--give them what they want? That would be like giving a malnourished child soda pop and Snickers in the place of vegetables to nurse them back to health.
Fortunately, the conference has had some bright spots, one being Richard Peck's address. INSPIRING (and without the use of the "F" word I might add). And that's what he did, inspire me to write what's in my heart, which up until that moment I feared no one wanted any more--meat and potatoes for the brain, with a side of vegetables.
My YA novel is not only squeaky clean, it lifts and enlightens. It's entitled Literary Loom. Its about a boy who experiences the virtual reality rush of book travel with the help of a Literary Loom and is able to delve into books, reliving history and discovering the ultimate source of all freedom.
To all of you fellow child writers who create the same kind of work, keep going too. We must bond together, not be bullied into the background, and produce healthy literature for the children of this world--the future of this world.