Friday, July 22, 2011

Know It All

"Here's a question: do any other YA authors out there get asked if they have kids of their own? Because when I say no, I get this look..." - Claudia Gabel.

When Claudia* twittered this out, it got me thinking. "Write what you know" is a great way to tap into pure feelings and experience. You can explore real-life texture and detail from your own life. You can provide genuine emotion, and finally take advantage of some of the crap you’ve been through by spinning it into fiction. But you can also get tangled up. You can get set in, “But that’s not how it really happened,” and force your story to follow a narrower path. I’m a big believer in spring-boarding real feelings into new creations. It’s just that when I do it, I have to remind myself to balance what’s best for the story. Real life doesn’t always translate into believable fiction!

I say: whether you have kids, know kids, or were one (what feels like) two seconds ago, don’t let anyone give you the look! Have faith in your gut and your imagination, prepare an answer for the doubters, and do what feels right! Plus you know, if we had to wait for writers to write “what they know”, there’d be no Labyrinth, no Neverending Story, and not even a George’s Marvellous Medicine (I hope!)

Do you think that having kids is key to writing YA?
Do you write what you know?

(Or if it is true, and you have to have kids to write YA, and be in love to write about love, etc. Let’s not ask what’s happening over at Stephen King's place...!)

*Claudia is super-sweet, super-talented, and has an AMAZING new publishing deal. I was lucky enough to work with Claudia on my book The Jelly Bean Crisis, and can say without hesitation: she rocks! Yay Claudia - so excited to read Elusion and Etherworld!

Keep kicking ass!


  1. I wrote a YA series, but I don't have kids! We were foster parents for a while, and that did help with one of the stories. Otherwise, I relied mostly on my own memory.

  2. I get that look all the time! Jolene, I like how you suggested to just have faith in yourself and be prepared to give an answer. I always say I'm a kid at heart and if that's not enough, I tutor young children to get in touch with what's current.

  3. I have kiddos but do they make my writing more convincing? I'm not sure. I don't think that in order to write YA that you have to have children. You could work around them or just be surrounded by them and know how they think or how their minds work.

  4. @L. Diane Wolfe - I love that you write YA fiction and non-fiction (me, too!) Ooh, and go foster parents!

    @Ashleu Zurc Pereira - Thanks for sharing your response! We could start a list for newbies :)

    @Regina - That's so true :)

  5. I wrote way more kids stuff before I had kids, now that I do have kids I don't have time to!

    The trouble with adults is that they have forgotten to play, to creatively expend on their everyday experiences and do exactly the things that kids do - create alternate realities with suitably heroic endings!

    Next time someone gives you "that look" poke your tongue out at them, blow a raspberry and tell them that you have a real live dragon in your pocket who's fiery breath will melt your cold stony heart until you are just a sad watery puddle that even the janitor wouldn't dip his mop into for fear of taking the fun out of cleaning the floor!

  6. @Ross Bennett - Soooo true! The time factor is massive.

    Chances are, we'd all be a lot happier kid-like (and being able to throw your food on the floor? Bonus!!!) Our heroic endings could even take place in this reality :)

    PS How did you know about that dragon??!