On Being Kind, Being Afraid, and Being a Young Writer

I’ve been wanting to write something about this whole situation with Andrew Smith and #KeepYAKind. I’ve wanted to say something.

I haven’t in part because so many other brilliant people, who are more experienced in YA, who are smarter, who are braver, have already said so much. I pretty much obsessively followed what Ellen Oh, Kelly Jensen, Justina Ireland, and Tessa Gratton were saying on Twitter. I read the amazing posts by Sarah McCarry and Jenn Northington and I thought: I don’t have anything to add.

I read YA, sure, and I review some books, but irregularly. I want to write YA but I don’t have an agent or a book. I’m unestablished. I haven’t even graduated college yet. Why should anyone care what I have to say?

I also held back because of fear. Because I am unestablished, because every new connection I make is a treasure and I’m worried they’re fragile. Because I want to be published and read and I kept worrying that if the wrong person saw me tweeting about my hurt and anger over Andrew Smith, I’d be marked as aggressive and mean. I’d be overreacting and hysterical. I’d be a bullyAndrew Smith already decreed me and the many other women reacting to systemic and internalized misogyny as fools and assholes.

So I RTed a lot and I tweeted a little bit, and nothing happened, and I don’t know if that’s because my fears were unfounded or because I’m lucky or because I just didn’t go as hard as I wanted to.

It’s important to note that as a white cis woman I already have a certain amount of shielding from harassment that trans women and women of color aren’t afforded. It’s not as dangerous for me to speak up as it is for them. But I was still worried.

I was too worried to speak up, at least to any extent that I thought was good enough.

I just watched as people I respect, people that I want to one day be my colleagues, said that if I spoke up too loudly, I would be mean, I would be a bully and abuser. I would be saying that I can’t see nuance. I would be one of the horde of overreacting Twitter feminists.

I watched as women who did speak up were torn down, spammed, threatened. I watched as they were told to just sit down and shut up because he just messed up, you can’t criticize him for messing up, we have to protect our own, and our own means this white male writer, but not the women he found too mystifying to write, not the women being targeted.

I hate that I’m scared of being called mean while standing up for what I believe in, but I am. I’m scared of having something negative already attached to me while I try to get into the YA world.

When I was seventeen, I got Twitter and discovered that all of my favorite YA authors knew each other. They talked. They were friends. They supported each other.

Since that moment I’ve dreamed of being one of them. I’m passionate about YA. I’m passionate about the importance of teen voices, of giving teenagers the representation I wish I’d had. These are the books I want to write more than anything, and these are the authors I’ve dreamed of joining.

Over the past couple of weeks, for the first time in seven years of dreaming, I’ve been scared of entering this world.

It’s not that I’ve never seen conflict before, between authors, between authors and reviewers. I’ve known it’s not a perfect community. But that conflict has never made me think that I shouldn’t be there.

I’m scared of being the person I am and being a YA writer.

I’m scared because I’m a woman with strong opinions, an activist, and I don’t like to keep quiet about it. Sometimes that involves being not so nice. Sometimes that involves being aggressive. Don’t get me wrong – I like to be understanding and kind. I know that people make mistakes. But I also know that mistakes can hurt other people, and that we have to talk about those mistakes. We have to have these hard discussions or nothing will change.

I’m scared that being part of the YA world will mean compromising a part of myself. I’m scared that it will make it more difficult to stand up for the things that I believe in, because what I’m seeing is that when a woman in this community says, “Hey, that thing that male writer said? It was kind of shitty,” they get told to be nice. So, what, we can talk about things in abstract, but can’t point out the specific examples when they happen? Criticizing these mistakes means that we deserve entire hashtagged movements against us?

I’m still going to write the books I want to write, because more than the fear, I care about the fat girl in high school wondering why she never reads books about girls that look like her. I care about the kid having panic attacks between classes that doesn’t know what’s wrong with them or why they can’t just be normal.

I care about giving a voice to my seventeen-year-old self, even if her dream has become less rose-colored.

I have hope because I also see the amazing women in this community speaking up despite the backlash, despite being told to stop. I have hope because I see these women supporting each other. I see women more vocal and aggressive than me facing horrible responses, but also receiving love from those they speak up for.

But every second I’ve been writing this, I keep thinking: This is silly, these fears are silly, you’re just paranoid, you can’t post this.

Maybe they are, maybe I am, but the emotions and fear are real, and I know I’m not the only one feeling them. I know I’m not the only young female writer hesitating, thinking,

“Is this really the world I want to be part of?”

And I think that fear matters. I think it should matter that young women are seeing this situation go down and having those thoughts. I think this is worth posting.

Publication: “I Dated A Real-Life Christian Grey Online When I Was Just 15 Years Old” on The Gloss

Hello, friends!

I’ve had another essay go up, this time at The Gloss, which is one of my favorite places on the internet. Seriously I’ve been reading it for years and to actually have a piece up there is kind of wonderful.

chris-pratt-gif-3I do want to put a trigger warning on this essay – it is entirely about emotional and psychological partner abuse. I definitely want everyone to read it, but I want you to do it safely.

Oh yeah a link might help here

“I Dated A Real-Life Christian Grey Online When I Was Just 15 Years Old”

Tuesday Reads: The Body Electric by Beth Revis

“Science can make a heart beat,” Jack says softly, each word falling on me like a caress. “But it can’t make it race.”

22642971I loved Beth Revis’ Across the Universe trilogy (please can we get some more YA in space? can that be the Next Big Thing?), so when The Body Electric came out, I bought it immediately. And I regret nothing, because it’s wonderful.

There’s a lot about Ella Shepherd’s life that isn’t awesome. Her father was killed in a terrorist attack. Her mother’s terminal illness is barely kept at bay by the nanobots in her brain. Ella spends all her time at her mother’s spa, where people come to enter reveries – technology that lets them relive their happiest memories.

When her mother’s illness makes it difficult for her to enter reverie, Ella does something experimental, and possibly dangerous. She enters her mother’s reverie. Manipulates it to be as happy as possible. People aren’t supposed to be able to share reveries, but Ella can do it. The government finds out, and recruits her to enter the reveries of suspected rebels. They want her to learn their secrets. With justice for her father on her mind, Ella’s happy to do it.

This starts Ella on a path to discover the secrets her government and family have been hiding. She meets a boy, Jack, who claims to know her intimately – but she’s never met him in her life. Her memories of him have been entirely erased, and she doesn’t know by who, and she doesn’t know if she can trust him. She pretty quickly realizes she’s not sure if she can trust anyone – not even herself.

There’s so much about this book that I loved. I loved the futuristic world that Revis created. It’s filled with nanobots and androids but doesn’t feel like every other scifi book with nanobots and androids. They’re still fresh and interesting and I enjoyed learning about the world.

I loved that it’s set in the Mediterranean rather than future US. This is a scifi YA with a kickass girl of color as the protagonist. I’m actually pretty sure that there are more people of color in this book than there are white people, so that’s awesome (it was similar in Across the Universe, actually, Beth Revis is great).

I was also really into the romance aspect. It was there and it was swoon-worthy, but it didn’t overpower the plot and it didn’t define either Ella or Jack. It was part of their arcs and part of their characters, but it wasn’t everything, they didn’t drop their entire lives and beings for each other. Plus, Ella had other important relationships in her life, ones that often took precedence over Jack – her family and her best friend.

I honestly don’t have much bad to say about The Body Electric. I thought it was incredibly fun and interesting, I loved the setting and the characters, and I think all y’all should read it ASAP.

STARS: 5/5

Tuesday Reads: Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

“We’ve all had terrible things happen to us,” Marcus said without looking up. “Only the weak use it as an excuse to prey upon others.”

91RBFPPpCNLI’m a huge fan of Lisa Mantchev. If you haven’t read Eyes Like Stars and its sequels, you should do that immediately. Unless you’re reading Ticker. You should finish that first.

I’d been waiting for Ticker for…I don’t know how long. Months. Years. Lifetimes. Lisa would post about it on her Facebook page or Twitter, and then that beautiful cover was released, and even though at that point I wasn’t sure what it was about, I knew I needed to read it.

When I finally got a chance, I was hooked by the first line: “A girl with a clockwork heart shouldn’t be running late, but I was.”

Ticker is about Penny Farthing, the first of the Augmented – someone who has had parts of their body replaced with clockwork. For Penny, it’s her heart, her Ticker, and it’s running out of time. It was only ever meant to be a prototype. She needs a new one.

Problem is, the only surgeon with the skill and willingness to do such an Augmentation, Dr. Calvin Warwick, is in prison for the many murders he committed experimenting with the Ticker now in Penny’s chest. Penny’s happy to have him there, quite frankly, because she’s never been able to feel like the blood isn’t on her hands, too.

Then there’s an explosion at her family’s factory. In the chaos, her parents are taken from their home. In a second explosion at the courthouse, Calvin Warwick escapes. His demand? Penny.

I was a little little bit worried going into this, because I wasn’t sure that steampunk isn’t played out and I wasn’t sure that wouldn’t bug me, but really, I should have known. I should have trusted in Lisa Mantchev, because the steampunk world of Ticker is beautiful. It’s like this Victorian clockwork fairyland decorated with some healthy doses of murder, intrigue, and romance.

The characters, of course, make it. I rolled my eyes in frustration at Penny’s very big-brother-y twin brother, Nic. I fell in love with Marcus Kingsley right along with her. I kind of need her best friend, Violet Nesselrode, to be my best friend. I also really want to be able to go to the SugarWerks Fully Automated Bakery.

(Warning: Whenever you read Lisa Mantchev’s books, you will get hungry. Her description of food is second to none. You know how in Miyazaki movies, something as simple as egg on toast looks like the most delicious thing in the world? Yeah. That’s how this is, only in prose. You may eat your e-reader or book in desperation.)

Lisa gleefully quoted one of her first negative reviews as using the phrase “an over abundance of nonsense”. That is a completely accurate thing to call Ticker, but I don’t see why that’s a bad thing.

STARS: 5/5