it may be dreadful to be old but it’s worse not to be young

I sat in the audience of the BEA Middle Grade Author Buzz today, listening to three authors discuss their upcoming books. They fielded questions about where they got their ideas, how many drafts they usually wrote, how they felt about being labeled fantasy writers, writing to boys versus girls. All three were pleasant and articulate and I was happy to grab the advanced reading copies of their work, which I will devour as soon as I can. I happen to love Middle Grade books. There’s something so lovely about pre-pubescent stories, the absence of all that smelly, hormonal angst that YA books are steeped in (although I love YA books, too).

I wanted to ask a question, but I couldn’t quite put together a coherent enough sentence, even in my own mind. What did I want to know? It was something about voice, about writing the characters, about capturing the essence of an 8 to 12 year old, and getting it to ring true on paper. How do they do that? It’s not about writing a story and then dumbing down the language or vocabulary. At least these authors hadn’t.

After the panel discussion was over I kind of slunk up to one of the writers and sort of fumbled around with a half assed question. He was so kind and generous and somehow extracted what it was I wanted to know. He said, “I write to my 11 year old self. I write characters I would have wanted to read about or know when I was that age.” I love that. I can get that. That just seemed like such an authentic way to go about it.

All afternoon I’ve been trying to remember who I was when I was 8, 9, 10 years old. What books did I read and love when I was 12? How about you? Who were you? What did you read?

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8 responses to “it may be dreadful to be old but it’s worse not to be young

  1. Frederick B. Londamonda

    Hello there young Paduan. If I remember correctly, when I was that age, I read the dictionary. I memorized every line of it. I could recite it for you if you’d like. But since then I’ve begun to read more interesting subjects such as encyclopedias and such.

  2. Rhonda

    I loved Judy Blume, of course. OTHERWISE KNOWN AS SHEILA THE GREAT stuck with me.

    The first book that slapped me across the face as a middle-grader, though, was MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN (an old book, even then). I’d never been fully consumed by a book before that. In fifth grade, I was outwardly doing stereotypical girly stuff (voice lessons, dance lessons, and really ridiculous pageants). But in my head I was ditching reality for a life in the wild with Sam, and later with Swiss Family Robinson, and later, still in my head, I took off to make a new life on a remote island in the Pacific where I’d never wear a bra or makeup ever again.

    Jean Craighead George set my imagination on fire in fifth grade and it’s still going strong, most days. Fourth through sixth grades are the make or break years for pleasure reading, if you ask me. Catch them then, or you’re probably not going to. On the other hand, maybe YA has gotten so strong in recent years that kids more easily take up reading for pleasure later.

  3. Hey to all the people who can remember the tween years. There was a War on and we were sort of OK. However we as a family were going thru some life shaking things. My cuz Lee Epstein became ill and we were like siblings so when he was taken to a hospital because he developed Polio I was sure I had it too/ it was a sore throat/ but I felt guilty that he got sick without me. We had uncles away at war and the family wrote letters and sent packages and prayed it got there. We were rationed and had stamps to control what we consumed/ Sugar, meat, butter etc.Every night we listened to the news and read the papers, went to the movies so we could see in the news reels a familiar face. My friends and Iwould put on lipstick and wink at sailors. If Dad had known/ he would have removed my wink for the duration of the war. Stockings were so rare that ladies wore leg paint but once it rained that became a mess. People were serious and introspective/ kids in school that escaped the Nazis talked funny but we did make friends. We helped eachother more and had high hopes as we trusted those in power/ even if they didn’t deserve it sometimes. There was concern for our European families and as we all know that was a big tradgedy. We wnt to the Temple to say Yiskor for those that we knew for sure would never be heard from again. We celebrated with block parties and got drunk with our friends and neighbors and we moved on and grew up and kissed our ideas of sugar plum fairies goodbye forever. I cherish all those memories still as they were mine and I share them to include you too Your couisin Molly♥

  4. Wow. Neato. I’m still embarrassed by my Dad. Thanks, Dad!

  5. Dad

    I just spoke with your Mom. 8, 9, 10 was so long ago (in our minds)). We don’t exactly remember what books you read. However, of one thing we both are certain. All three of you READ! You always had books available to you and you three were always reading.
    As I read your blogs I ask myself, “Who is this articulate, self assured, knowledgeable person?” Yeah! I know! It’s just you… But the YOU that I am seeing in a completely new and wonderfully refreshing way.
    Please don’t let this go to your head. It’s just the ramblings of a very proud parent. My mother used to say to me, “I don’t care how old you are. You’ll always be my kid… and I’ll always be proud of you.”
    I’m proud of you!!