Thursday, June 30, 2011

CPC: Week Two

Week the second! Highlights?

---Running into an old friend who I haven’t seen in six years. No biggie. Just walking down the streets of New York.

---Finding the perfect rooftop bar (with twinkle lights!) that serves my favorite hard cider.

---Touring and apartment-scouting in Brooklyn with my soon-to-be housemate. It’s like a summer camp down there! I kept getting distracted by all the puppies.

---Peter Pan Doughnuts. I had a chocolate crème-filled doughnut with a chocolate glaze. It was the size of my head and I only paid a dollar for it. I nearly died.  

---Oh, you wanted publishing news? Ha. OK. We were incredibly fortunate to have the creative team behind The Tiger’s Wife come to speak with us, including Téa Obreht (the author), Seth Fishman (the agent), Noah Eaker (the editor), Susan Kamil (his mentor/boss), and Jynne Martin (the publicist). We’d heard from several sources that a certain ineffable combination of alchemy and synergy must be present to create a bestseller. That combination, so hard to describe with words, was on full display that evening. I could tell they genuinely loved working together, and they were all so gracious with us. Téa signed everyone’s books long after she was supposed to leave, and she even remembered one of my friends from a book signing earlier in the summer. (She doodles a pretty adorable tiger.) I am completely rooting for her as her career develops, but I know she’ll be fine. She has a great talent, not to mention a great team guiding and growing with her.

---Again? Again. The YA controversy I touched on here has reignited. The author of the original article published a defense in the WSJ which I found just as tone-deaf as her first piece. Again, she’s complaining that books for children are too dark, that dark books endorse their subject matter, and that the quality of the writing has gone down. Fine, if you think so. I’m not even engaging with that. I did, however, break the first rule of the internet by reading the comments. Though my blood pressure went up, I think I have a better handle on what people think they’re objecting to when they call YA books “too dark.”

I think it all boils down to people’s views on how books should function. A ton of the commenters (I’ll hazard saying they skewed older) lamented that books used to be transportive, that they took children away from the sadness of everyday life to a place where hopes and dreams were realized. (Alternatively, if sad things happened, there was always hope at the end.) Now that the world is so much bleaker than they remember, they thought books should do the same thing for today’s youth. (I don’t think many of this crowd read current YA books or even get beyond the flap copy.)

The second group of commenters was comprised of YA readers and advocates. This bunch refuted that books help children make sense of the world as it is. (They also entertain!) Books about tragedy teach empathy by exposing kids to situations they have been fortunate enough not to encounter. On the other hand, “dark” books help kids (some of whom have been exposed to these horrors) by doing exactly what the first group says: showing a way out and lessening the sense of being alone. Sure, a number of these books are mishandled, but not all adult books are of the same stellar quality. The classics never go away either! Just two hours ago, I popped into a children’s book store to check out the current titles. A little girl came in with her mother asking for iCarly. She left with Little House on the Prairie. (When I was that little girl’s age, I read classic and new books alike. Just check out my list of favorites here and here.)

The bottom line is that the two camps are not so far apart. In children’s literature, now and then, lessons are learned and friends are made. They have their adventures in far-off lands or in their hometowns. The characters grow up in small and big ways. Their dreams are still a very present part of the genre. They may not be the same dreams of fifty years ago or even the same dreams the protagonist had at the beginning of the book, but something is realized in the pages lived. Children are smart enough to know exactly what that is.

...Anyway, I’m heading into the book workshop this week. Hello, 16 hour days! No blogging for a while, but I’ll miss you!

No comments:

Post a Comment