I’m experiencing a not-terribly-unusual bout of indecisiveness, so I’m just gonna blog about a whole slew of things right now. I didn’t do much writing during the week just gone by, so naturally I’m also contending with a sizable dollop of self-inflicted guilt – you know, “oh hully gee I’m blogging instead of writing I’m such a misguided loser,” that sort of thing. Fear not, this too shall pass.
THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA! You’ve read it, I trust? You’ve perhaps even read this fabulous interview with author Tom Angleberger, brought to you by the good folks From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors? You really oughta hustle over there and enter the contest by leaving a comment, because dude, seriously, an original illustration AND a signed copy of the book? You understand my fervor about this prize if you’re a nearly life-long Star Wars supergeek like myself. The fact that LucasFilm’s official Star Wars Twitter account retweeted my link to the contest only amps up the intensity of the geek happiness currently flooding through the Jung household. You should also know that I’m not entering the contest! Which means you actually have a chance to win! I’ve steadfastly refrained from entering any blog contests recently, unless they’re on Cindy Pon’s blog and she won’t stop badgering me to enter. DAMN YOU CINDY PON…
Would you consider THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA to be a contemporary realistic story, just out of curiosity? I say that in order to make a bumpy and awkward segue into a new topic, which is my mildy skewed perspective on contemporary realistic YA fiction. You oughta check out The Contemps, btw – it’s a great new blog community of contemporary YA authors. I’ve publicly stated on more than one occasion that contemp realistic YA is not my favorite thing – not that I have anything against it, but I write middle-grade (which means I read a lot of middle-grade), I read a lot of fantasy, and somehow I’ve always felt like the contemp YA books tend to sit on my nightstand longer than others before I pick ’em up. And yet, my four most recent reads are CRACKED UP TO BE (in progress), MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD, MOCKINGJAY, and LIFE, AFTER. Some of my upcoming reads are MINDBLIND, THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS and STALKER GIRL. With the notable exception of MOCKINGJAY, they’re all contemporary YA novels! So maybe I need to shut up about how I’m not a big reader of YA contemps?
This touches a little bit on my last blog post too, when I talked about my feelings of inferiority after reading MARCELO. There were some interesting comments, including one or two about the wisdom (or lack thereof) in comparing one’s self to…well, anybody else, really. Then I read this blog post by the very thoughtful and smart Becky Levine, and I started thinking that maybe I need to engage in a little self-examination about this business of creating all these lines of demarcation. “Better” writers and “worse” writers, “big readers” of contemp YA novels and “little” readers of same, us and them, me and you, this and that.
It’s entirely human to do that, I think. We all tend to compare and contrast ourselves with the people around us, whatever that context of “around us” might mean – in my writing life, “the people around me” tends to mean “the people who write the books I read.” It’s human, and common, and understandable, but it’s ultimately pointless, isn’t it? It’s an activity that’s helped me preserve my ego more than once in the past – “oh that person sucks, I’m soooooo much better at this than they are” – that sort of thing. I don’t feel particularly good about that, however, it seems like a crappy and damaging way to preserve your self-image. By the same token, it’s easy and unuseful to tear yourself down when your perceptions run in the opposite direction. Are there actually any objective standards to hold ourselves up to? In the end, the business of creating children’s literature is magnificently subjective, right?
Right you are, Mike! (It’s okay if you thought that on your own, I was just pointing you in the right direction.) All we can do is our best. Yes, yes, that’s a sentiment that’s cheap-sounding and easy to say, but really, it’s true. I’m not all Pollyannish about this, you know. A person’s belief in the subjectivity of this creative endeavor can run off the other side of the rails too – that’s when you get the frustrated types who rant about how nobody in this industry has any eye for talent or a brain in their head and it’s all gatekeepers, gatekeepers, gatekeepers and they’re all stupid and evil.
Hey, if that’s how you feel, can you…um…try not to feel that way? At least when you’re talking to me? Because whether a person’s thinking “oh dude I’m a total loser” or “oh dude everyone ELSE in the business is a total loser,” geez, the mental and emotional corrosiveness of those feelings will only result in…well, corrosion. And my brain is corroded enough already. I shall endeavor to be more positive, reduce the tiered nature of my perceptions, and view myself as part of a continuum – a difficult and perplexing continuum, to be sure, but also a majestic and wondrous continuum. I think that’s nicer. And, in a way, more accurate. So maybe I will engage in one last bit of hierarchical thinking after all, just because I’m a puckish little devil. There’s this idea that we all exist on these separate planes, some higher, some lower, some better, and some worse. And there’s this other idea that we all exist as part of the same continuum!
I like the continuum idea more. I think it’s better. So there.