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My So-Called Writing Life
A few things that I’ve been doing while working on line edits for THE FALLING GIRLS.
1. I made a calendar for the book because I’m horrible at keeping track of my timeline. So now instead of scrolling through my entire manuscript to see what day everyone is on, I printed out two blank calendars and am using it religiously. Do other writers do this?
2. I’m watching My So-Called Life with my 12-year-old. I was 23 when I first watched it. I remember being obsessed with Angela Chase because she had all of the right things to say to iconic and infuriating and HAWT Jordan Catalano. Why didn’t I have those kinds of words when I was 15/16, talking to the boy I was obsessed with?
Oh, that’s right.
Because her character was written by Winnie Holzman who was 41 when she wrote My So-Called Life. Because writing about teenagers in a deep, thoughtful way takes reflection. Yes, there are plenty of college-aged folks or even in their teenage years who are far more mature and eloquent than I ever was. But I seem to be on the Holtzman track.
Yet. Here I am 3 days away from turning 50 (Hellooo Aries energy!) and I wonder about my career. That I’ve gone from journalist to young adult author and it feels... a little backwards? I absolutely love writing about teenagers, but recently I got a note from my editor that said, “This reference feels dated,” and I started questioning myself. Am I too old to write this? Maybe those are the kinds of insecurities that every writer has – I’m certain that they are, and they come in different forms of insecurities. With young adult lit, it’s the nature of the beast.
Am I in touch?
3. The truth is that I’ve never felt more connected to characters than I do to the teenage girls that I write about. I don’t try to make myself “younger” whatever that means, when I write. I just write. I just feel. I just put it there on the page. If I was writing an adult novel, I think I’d STILL write about teenage girls because I’m very connected and fascinated with that time. I look at some of the authors who are much older than the characters they write about. Say, Alice Munro, one of my favorite authors. Her short story collection Runaway (one of my favorites) was about women in their forties and younger. Munro wrote it in her 70s. Suzanne Collins first published The Hunger Games when she was 46. Karen McManus who wrote One of Us Is Lying which has been on the New York Times best seller list for about 40,000 years is 52.
Okay, I think this is about me having a holy-shit-I’m-turning-50-moment. This is raw and vulnerable, but I want to put it out there because I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this.
As Erykah Badu said, “I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit.”
That’s basically my life motto.
4. I ‘ll leave you with the absolutely beautiful exchange between Patty Chase (Angela’s mom) and Amber Vallon (Rayanne Graff’s mom) from My So-Called Life. Amber tells Patty that Rayanne is obsessed with Angela. It’s all she thinks about and talks about. That she wants to be Angela.
It reminded me so much of how I felt when I had a female friendship, the kind where I was completely taken by the new friend, intoxicated by her. Where I wanted to do everything I could to impress her or make her see the real me. It’s what I’m trying to do in THE FALLING GIRLS. Really depict that intoxication. That obsession and that loss of yourself.
My So-Called Life is on Hulu. I’m not sure that we’ll finish the series with the 12 year old. She already is very very mad at Jordan Catalano. I tried to explain that I had boys like him exist and that I had multiple relationships with boys like him. She looked at me like I had two heads.
Here’s to 50 years.