Sunday, March 25, 2012

Writing for Teens with Kathryn Erskine and Rich Wallace

In order to connect with young-adult readers, adult writers must reconnect with their teen years. Both Kathryn Erskine and Rich Wallace have mastered the ability to jump back in time and give their readers the honesty and emotion of a teen perspective.

Kathy's successes in the YA genre include her National Book Award—winning, MOCKINGBIRD. Kathy is praised for her authentic teen voice and complex, yet well developed, characters. Rich's books reveal the struggles between and within every teenager. For many of Rich's YA fiction titles, he taps into his athletic past, as he does in WRESTLING STURBRIDGE, named a YALSA 100 Best Books for the 21st Century.

Rich and Kathy share with us why they write for the young-adult audience, and how you, too, can write for teens.

Rich Wallace: I started writing about teenagers because I felt strongly compelled by my own teenage years. There were things I wanted to work out, and I did that by writing about them. Gradually, I learned how to take a few steps away from "what really happened" and craft stories that more kids would relate to.

For me, it's all about reconnecting with that part of my life, most notably the up-and-down emotions that are such a part of that age. Even if you're writing about a character very different from yourself, you'll connect with your readers more effectively by conveying believable emotions.

Kathy Erskine: It's a great age. The whole world is opening up for you. You're experiencing freedoms you never had. You're on the brink of adulthood, deciding what you're going to do with your life. Wow! Plus, young adults have a sophisticated sense of humor, which is fun to incorporate into writing! We're all just teens in grown-up bodies. Even when we're old it's easy to remember being a teen—it's such a significant, powerful, memorable part of life.

I think [the young-adult book market] is strong. Younger people are reading YA and many adults are, too, and are no longer afraid to admit it. I read more YA literature than adult, and not just because I write for that market. There's some fantastic writing out there in the YA realm.

Rich and Kathy will lead the Highlights Foundation YA Bootcamp: What Young-Adult Readers Expect from You, June 7-10, 2012. Learn the ins and outs of writing for young adults through lectures, hands-on writing sessions, and one-on-one manuscript critiques.

For more information about this workshop, which takes places near Honesdale, Pennsylvania, or to request an application, please visit our website or contact Jo Lloyd at

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