Read to Emulate

When I first started writing, I just wrote. I didn't think about genre at all. It wasn't until I got my first agent that she informed me that the book I had written was young adult. See, I was in an MFA program, so what I thought I was writing was a bildungsroman-- a coming of age literary novel. Maybe I was, but if we wanted to sell it, I needed to turn it into YA.

Here's the thing, before that I'd never read any YA. It didn't *really* exist the way it does now when I was in high school, so I started reading.


I read every YA book I could get my hands on while I edited to make my book Young Adult. I liked them, they were books my agent recommended (things didn't work out with her but that's another story) but none of them felt like what I was trying to do. (Maybe that should have been a clue that this agent wasn't the right agent). I kept reading and I found the book "Cracked Up To Be" By, Courtney Summers. It was like the sky opened up and a ray of light rained down on my head. The angels started to sing.

This book, THIS BOOK!

It was smart, funny, important, full of REAL teenage feelings. It was everything I wanted to do with my work and it let me that YA was where I belonged.

I looked for more books like it, "The Story of A Girl", "Hate List", and "Looking For Alaska" to name a few. Reading these books helped me solidify what I wanted to write. Emotionally charged, smart contemporary YA. I read for entertainment just like anyone else, but I also read to emulate. I read to see what others authors I hope to someday touch in talent are writing.

 What books have changed the way you write?


  1. Good post. I must've been living under a rock because I just now discovered Courtney Summers. I read her book Fall for Anything a few weeks ago and was blown away. Now I'm on a quest to read her others. Looks like I will start with Cracked up to Be!

  2. Anytime I read a Catherine Ryan Hyde book, I feel like it's made me a better writer...

  3. Lisa!!! I had the same experience! When my agent told me I was writing YA, I was like whaaaaa? The only YA I knew and loved as a teen was Francesca Lia Block. But then I read Looking for Alaska as well as Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess and my world as a writer and a reader was totally rocked. I adore Cracked up to Be also!


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