Sunday, May 3, 2009


As you might know (if you pay any attention to the badges in the right sidebar anyway), last month, I signed on for a project requiring daily blogposts for April. Why not? I post fairly often anyway and why pass up the opportunity to put your work in front of new eyes? It sounds easier than it is. Blog Every Day in April (BEDA) was the brainchild of YA author Maureen Johnson as a means to get herself to blog more often and provide greater accessibility to her fans. Gone are the days of JD Salinger and his peers hiding from their readers, the modern author steps out there and participates in an active discussion of their work. And MJ's status in the young adult community has prompted an amazing amount of young people to take to their keyboards (I almost said "Take up the pen". I am so 20th Century sometimes...) and write about themselves, their lives, their loves and their personal travails. April 2009 has passed into history and as of this moment, there are 6,682 posts on the rolls and more spread across the internet on personal blogs and even in video posts. Anyone who thinks the written word is dead or that kids don't know how to express themselves anymore is wrong. Those of us who learned to type on actual typewriters can often place too great an emphasis on the old forms to the exclusion of the volumes and value of what is happening in the digital realm. Working at the writing center, I could've told you that young people write all the time above and beyond their schoolwork. Often, they are writing under, around and in spite of the way in which they were taught to do so. Theater and film are thriving on YouTube. Poetry is alive and admirably suited to Twitter. And young adult fiction has never been a stronger medium. Just because Harold Bloom doesn't like Harry Potter, there is no reason to believe that the young people are any less literate than those who preceded them. Quite the contrary in my opinion. The formats change, the topics expand and evolve, but the printed word is far from dead. The breadth of subjects and depth of thought that have been made manifest in this project is breathtaking: book reviews, modern cultural shifts (such as Amazonfail), college choices, lifestyle choices of all stripes and a lively community of very literate young people. Like too many others before me, I once said I could never write for the Young Adult market because I didn't want to have to 'dumb down' my stories for 'kids'. How wrong I was. And how wrong those who came before me were to believe that. To the point that I think I might be daunting writing up to the level expected by a new and demanding audience of literate readers. It has been at times surprising and hilarious to watch BEDA unfold. At times it has been predictable, filled with the banality of daily life: school, dates, crushes and cetera. But frequently it jumped into another sphere and became something completely other... like unmaking an exquisite piece of origami to find it was folded from a collage of Roald Dahl short stories, Shakespeare, JD Salinger and a social studies textbook. It was an honor to participate and be invited to read your thoughts these past thirty days. See you next April! --- Cross Posted at Maureen Johnson on the Ning.


  1. Great post. I know from experience that kids may start out not being keen readers, but by providing access to a range of texts, graphic novels for example they become more and more involved with books and while some books like HP may not seem the most literary of choices they lead on to other things. Loved your comments on kids online, they really are involved in endless communication and writing, some of which is quite remarkable.

  2. Thanks! (Sorry, I missed your comment when you first posted.) YA books have been getting smarter and more nuanced for some time now as the authors and publishers begin to realize that they've been talking down to their desired audience. It's the one section of the bookstore that grew appreciably in audience and depth of content during my tenure as a bookseller. I look forward to the literary future that the young people who cut their teeth on these books create.


Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).