Tag Archives: YA

Back from summer vacay! And not only that, today’s pub day!

After a two month hiatus from blabbermouthing, I am officially back on it! I’m still closed to queries, but I’m happy to go back to talking to you all every week. So, here we go!

A few years ago I got a query in my inbox that had me sit up and listen. It was from a new writer, someone who was going with hyphenated initials. Hunh? I found out she’d actually only been writing for two years. Hmmm. The manuscript definitely needed work but I heard something something something in this writing that had me say, “Stop everything! I actually must represent this author.” What was that? It was an amazing main character, Pen Olivera, and it was the powerful, smart authorial voice of M-E Girard. “Good god,” I thought.

Since I took M-E on as a client, that manuscript was revised and revised again; it was workshopped and rewritten, and basically turned inside out. Then HarperCollins editor Jill Davis snatched it up.

DSCN0384-2-150x150@2xToday is the publication day of that young adult novel, Girl Mans Up. I absolutely could not be more proud of M-E, for her hard work and perseverance, for remaining true to herself and her characters, and for her contribution to young adult and GLBTQ+ literature.

Here’s what she has to say about it…

This is the eve of the release of my debut YA novel. In select stores, there are already copies on the shelves (someone tweeted me the evidence). Tomorrow I will go to my local Chapters (which to Americans who don’t know, is the Canadian equivalent of Barnes & Noble) and stare at my book on a shelf, and then I will take a copy to the cashier and buy it.

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My story is now a real book, and somehow I still can’t freaking grasp that fact, like it’s way too unbelievable to be true. When I pick up one of my author copies, I feel like it’s a book that I had made to merely appear to be the real thing—some kind of sweet-looking prop I can display for myself. But it’s not that. It’s the real thing, and people out there—readers—will go out to deliberately pick up my book and exchange money for the opportunity to read it.

That is just…wow.

DSCN0414-2-150x150@2xAs much as it’s taken a fairly long-ish time to get here (I mean from landing an agent, to selling manuscript, to having it hit shelves), it feels like it literally just all happened at once. I went from being in awe of the first ARC mailed to me, to having my first book launch (because I’m having two of them!). There were people who came, not only to support me, but also interested readers who came just to see a reading and buy a book. People are already reading my story, and they have thoughts and opinions. They’ve taken the time to tweet about it, or write reviews—many incredibly detailed and insightful. I’ve been lucky enough to earn a couple of starred reviews from professional publications.

I mean…how did this happen?!

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M-E reading at the launch.

It happened with the idea for a story. A story that I got so excited about, then got super confused about, and then grew to hate—but then grew to love all over again. It was a story worth fighting for, even when it felt like homework, when it felt like everyone else but me would do a better job at writing it. I’m a newer writer, and it took time for me to bring my voice and writing skills to the point where I was able to figure out what I was trying to say, what the story was trying to be about. I had a vision for where I wanted my work to end up, and I came up with a plan to give myself the best shot to get there. Of course I couldn’t plan for timing and luck, but somehow it all aligned, and now here I am, on the eve of my official release date.

My book is coming out, and I keep feeling like I need an Oscars Thank You speech.

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Quite a crowd…

But I’ve done my acknowledgements (they’re at the back of the book!), so instead, I’ll thank the one person I haven’t thanked yet: Thank you to my main character Pen Oliveira for giving me someone compelling and badass to write about, whose story is what took me from First Draft, to “Oh-my-god-look-at-that-awesome-book-cover.” Oh and also: Sorry for making you sound super rude and whiny in the beginning, and sorry for giving you a kind of over-the-top emotional plot at first, which you’re probably still cringing about.

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M-E knows how to crack up her girlfriend AND her agent!

Enjoy the photos from the official launch for Girl Mans Up, which happened on September 1st, at Glad Day Bookshop, a long-surviving LGBTQ bookstore in downtown Toronto. Doesn’t it look like the best book launch ever?! It really was.

 

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GUEST POST: Dear Unlikable Teen Protagonist: Don’t Ever Change, Man. (Part 2)

Last time, I talked about the way teen protagonists can be deemed unlikable based on characteristics that are inherent to being a teenager. It’s kind of unfair, isn’t it? Well, today I’m here to talk about something that’s even more unfair when it comes to this likeability factor thing: The girls get it worse than the guys do. Surprise, surprise, huh?

Sometimes I think about YA books I’ve read in the past that had male protagonists, and I wonder how these books would’ve fared had they been sent out into the world with a girl cast in the lead instead. And what about the male love interests in a lot of the popular YA books? Would girls have gotten away with being the way these boys were written?

Pen, the protagonist of my work-in-progress Boifriend, acts and thinks more like a typical boy does (hence the title of the book). But since the very first drafts of the story, I’ve been very clear at establishing Pen’s gender identity—she’s a girl, not a boy. I do wonder, though, had she actually been a boy, would she have still come off as sarcastic, moody, and blasé? Or would those characteristics even have been viewed as negative and necessitating revising? (Note: I don’t want to discredit any reader’s opinion, because if her characterization really was causing readers to not care about her or her story, to not find her compelling, then this would call for changes to be made.)

Teenage girl (14-16) lying on bleacher Stereotypically, girls are nice and they are mature—they’re mature enough to understand they must be nice. But, if you’re going to write a novel about one, and you’re going to force her to endure whatever awful complications come between your opening and your climax, then expecting her to play nice and mature all the time would be ridiculous. This is where the unrealistic teen protagonist often steps in, because it’s a lot easier to accept an angry, mean girl if she’s using her adult powers to manage her unlikable attributes—if she has the perspective, self-awareness, and experience of a 40-year-old to show you that she really feels bad for being this awful and petty and unladylike.

As a reader, I’m most drawn to stories about angry or jaded teen girls. I went on a Courtney Summers binge a couple years ago when I discovered Cracked Up To Be and Some Girls Are.  I was blown away by her protagonists’ voices, and I would’ve followed them anywhere. But these girls weren’t “nice.” I discovered that Courtney blogged about this very issue here and here  a few years ago. In fact, she stated that writing Cracked Up To Be was her response to agents disliking one of her previous female protagonists.

indexReading Courtney Summers’ “unlikable” female characters is probably what gave me the confidence to let my own girls be messy, and not always nice, and real. And then just a few weeks ago, at the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Writers, my cohort faculty, author Malinda Lo, and I had a great chat about our love of unlikable female main characters. All this made me realize that my job as a writer is to make you care about my protagonist, to make her compelling enough that you want to hang out with her and experience her world. If you’re not into it, it doesn’t make her unlikable; it doesn’t mean I have to change her into a sugar-coated girl.

So think twice before you de-crustify, fellow YA writers. Plenty of readers like their teen protagonists, even the female ones, rough around the edges and true to life.

Headshot MEM-E Girard is a registered nurse moonlighting as a writer of LGBT young adult fiction. Her first manuscript was a finalist in the 2010 Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest, and recipient of other contest awards. M-E serves on the board of directors of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region and manages its website Reading As Writers, a resource site and weekly blog. She does the social media thing in a variety of places, including Tumblr, Facebook, and hanging out on the RAW Twitter account as well as her own @ME_Girard. Check out her website for more info: http://www.megirard.com

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GUEST POST: Dear Unlikable Teen Protagonist: Don’t Ever Change, Man. (Part 1)

teenage boyI’ve given birth to a prickly teen (if you’re more literal, you’ll be experiencing a bad visual right about now—I apologize). Her name is Pen and she’s the star of my work-in-progress (WIP) Boifriend. Right from the beginning, Pen had a likeability factor problem. I remember some of my beta readers thought she was too sarcastic, moody, and blasé. I worked on her attitude for a few drafts. But still, some still felt she was all these negative things that needed to be looked at. It surprised me because I thought she was awesome. I thought she sounded so much like someone I might’ve known (or been, really) in high school. At the same time, many other readers thought like me, and they loved Pen’s voice. They saw her attitude and demeanor in a different light. Those who “got” Pen even liked her earlier, crustier incarnations.

But we all know our protags are supposed to be likable.

Except…what does that even mean? And furthermore, what does that mean for a teen protag? I’m not talking about a serial killer as a main character here. Just a regular teenager.

Whenever someone has critiqued my protagonists—because I’ve got far crustier protags than Pen in other WIPs—as being anything that could translate to “unlikable,” I’ve carefully considered the feedback and made changes accordingly. Because if I’ve got an unlikable protag, then I’ve failed as a writer, right? But, lately I’ve been thinking enough is enough. If I keep going with this “stamp removal,” I might just erase the kick-ass teen right out of these protagonists of mine.

Here’s a truth about me: I’ve had a love-hate relationship with YA fiction. My problem has to do with the fact that many of the main characters I encounter in YA novels don’t feel like teenagers. I can’t tell you how many 27-year-old self-aware adults I’ve found masquerading as teens in YA. They talk and think like adults. They have such perspective and empathy. They’re concerned with adult issues—and it can happen, fair enough—but they handle these issues using the maturity and experience of adults. It rings false to my ears, and worse, it makes me feel like my teen experience was juvenile and pathetic. If you had been inside mine and my friends’ minds when we were 16, you likely would’ve found us to be nice enough, and cool (I’d like to think) but quite sarcastic and crusty. Also a bit irrational and impulsive, and a lot self-absorbed. Is that unlikable? I don’t think so. All these characteristics don’t necessarily mean unsympathetic. They don’t imply meanness.

As a writer of YA fiction, you have to be faithful to the teen experience to give an accurate inside look at the teen world. And yes, all teen experiences are different—I get that. But when it comes to a regular teen in a contemporary novel, you can’t disregard the characteristics of that developmental age. That means the hormones, the ego, the identity stuff, the magnified emotions, the angst. I mean, would you call a toddler protagonist unlikable because he pulls the dog’s tail, destroys the paint job by using markers on the wall, and drops his mother’s iPhone in the toilet?

If you don’t care about my protagonist, that’s one thing; but if she’s not sweet and rational all the time, that’s not unlikable—that’s life. And if Pen asked me to sign her yearbook, you can be sure I’d write, Don’t ever change, man.

Headshot MEM-E Girard is a registered nurse moonlighting as a writer of LGBT young adult fiction. Her first manuscript was a finalist in the 2010 Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest, and recipient of other contest awards. M-E serves on the board of directors of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region and manages its website Reading As Writers, a resource site and weekly blog. She does the social media thing in a variety of places, including Tumblr, Facebook, and hanging out on the RAW Twitter account as well as her own @ME_Girard. Check out her website for more info: http://www.megirard.com

 

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