Welcome the Newbie, PJ Sharon
Hello fellow readers, writers, and bloggers. Thanks for the warm welcome!
Although I'm no newbie to writing YA, I am the newbie to the group, so I'll give you a quick head's up about what I write and why I write for young adults, and then we can get to this month's topic, "what went right this year?". I think you'll be surprised by my answer.
Many YA authors will tell you that an angst-ridden seventeen-year-old still resides within the recesses of their brain, feeding them heartbreaking stories of first loves, teen dramas, and family tragedies. They might say they are haunted by troubled, awkward, but loveable characters who refuse to be ignored until every last word is on the page. And they will probably also tell you that they write stories they wish they'd had to read as teenagers. Something to bridge the gap between Nancy Drew and Victoria Holt. Stories with sweet romances, maybe some action and adventure, and sympathetic characters who's personal growth arc takes them on a turbulent journey from childhood to adulthood. Mostly, they'll tell you they love reliving those first kisses and swoon-worthy moments of their youth. And maybe even that they relish an imagined do-over on past mistakes in their own lives.
Yes, I am one such author. When I began writing back in 2007, I became obsessed with the characters and stories in my head and spent a solid five years learning the craft. I attended conferences and workshops, joined writer's groups, found critique partners, and honed my skills while writing in various romance genres before I found my elusive "writer's voice"...in YA lit, no less. Though I was in my forties, I had come to the realization that my inner teen had some important stories to tell.
I was drawn to write books about the real-life issues of older teens and their struggles with family, friends, and the guys they fall for--being that those years were especially difficult for me and that I had my own significant history to look back on for reference. Early advice in terms of learning to write in "deep point of view" was to "write what you know", and my tumultuous youth was a minefield of fodder.
Although the themes in my books are mature (a teen pregnancy, death of a parent/sibling, eating disorders, suicide, abortion, abuse, drug and alcohol issues, surviving in a post-pandemic world...to name a handful), don't worry, it's not all gloom and doom!
All my books are suitable for ages13+, and are loaded with positive messages and the promise of a hopefully-ever-after ending. I primarily write contemporary YA Romance, but I 've also published a YA dystopian trilogy, The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael , which RT book reviews called "An action-packed read with a strong female lead," and a New Adult novella series based on Holt Medallion winner, Savage Cinderella . (The novel is available for free download if you're looking for an emotion-packed, YA/NA romance/action/thriller).
And for those of you who are desk-dwellers or couch potatoes, I even have a health and wellness non-fiction title my clients and fellow authors love for its practical suggestions and easy solutions to everyday aches and pains! You can check out Overcome Your Sedentary Lifestyle and more about me and my books on my website at www.pjsharon.com.
Now, as for what went right this year: I did enjoy a beautiful summer, managed lots of hiking, kayaking, and yard work, spent more time on my front porch reading and hanging out with my husband than I have in the fourteen years we've lived here in Western MA. As a bonus, and in order to meet the Covid guidelines, I had to rent a new office space (which I love) for my massage practice if I wanted to go back to work.
But as far as what went right with my writing, I'm going to make a confession. I'm somewhat of a Pollyanna, always looking for the silver lining in every dark cloud, seeing the best in people, and generally maintaining a sunshiny disposition and an attitude of gratitude most of the time. Counting my blessings as I fall asleep at night, and reminding myself that every day is a new opportunity to do good in the world is what allows me to sleep nights and gets me out of bed in the morning. But this past year has absolutely kicked my butt in terms of sucking the light out of me and sapping my creativity. Here's the confession part...
I haven't written since January. When I released the last novella in my Savage Cinderella series last December, I planned to take a break from writing for a few months and dedicate myself to marketing and promoting the series for the first half of the year before deciding if I would continue the series or move on to something else. I have trouble doing both writing and promoting well, and promotion is my least favorite part of being an author, so committing to it for six months was already outside my comfort zone.
Then Covid-19 hit, and I, like most of us, went into survival mode: cleaning, baking, eating, and yes...drinking a tad more than usual, all in an attempt to adjust to this bizarre new normal of masking-up and hiding from the dangers of everyday life. This, while mourning the losses piling up around us. The deaths of over a quarter of a million Americans, isolation from loved ones, fear, food insecurity, civil unrest, and a tsunami of bad juju in general. It was enough to stop me in my tracks.
To be honest though, my ambition was already waning. I'd been writing steadily for thirteen years, producing and publishing twelve books since 2011, and with my focus shifted to social activism the past few years, I was feeling burnt out and ready for the break. Thankfully, my day job as a massage therapist and yoga teacher has taught me to listen to my intuition and trust in my process.
Despite being a fairly driven, type-A personality, I'm being kind and patient with myself, allowing my priorities to shift, and being okay with taking a time-out from my writing life. But I also know, like much of the rest of the world, that I've been stuck at a cross-road and that it's time to move forward. With hope now being more than a speck of light on the horizon as a vaccine awaits around the corner, and knowing cooler heads will be in control of the pandemic response, I'm seeing a growing light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel, and it's time to get back to healthy routines and to looking forward to the future.
However, there's still the dilemma of figuring out what comes next. Do I go back and continue writing another novella in the series or diligently trying to find a new direction for my writing? With no new characters burning a hole in my head, and no stories bubbling up from the depths of my soul, I am--for now--at a loss and technically still on hiatus. I anticipate this is a temporary state of being and that something will jump start my creative spark any day now. In the meantime, I'll be here once a month to share my love of YA lit and hang out with my author pals waiting for inspiration and motivation to strike.
I hope whatever beach, on whatever tiny island my muse is lounging upon, that she's almost ready to pack it in, hightail it home, and get back to work!
In her absence, I'm always open to suggestions. What's hot in YA Lit these days and what kind of stories would you like to see written?
Peace and blessings until next month,