For a good solid chunk of my adult dating life (6 years), I maintained online dating profiles at Match.com & eHarmony. During those years, I rewrote my profile statements a ridiculous number times. One thing always remained constant: every dating profile I ever published included the fact that I was an aspiring YA author and a voracious reader of YA literature (usually with the explanation that YA = young adult for the not-so-literary gentlemen who might actually possess other redeeming qualities).
The following is an actual communication I received on Match.com (though usernames have been changed):
|Date received: October 10, 2006
|Subject: Let’s Meet
I enjoyed reading your profile, but I’m confused by your reference to young adult literature. Isn’t that an oxymoron? I seem to remember there were some books about teenagers in my high school’s library, but I found them all stupid and soulless.
Would you like to meet for coffee?
In my opinion, there are three ways to respond to this type of message:
- Click the “Not Interested” button, delete the message, spend the next hour looking for at least 3 profiles that tweak your interest, and compose quick, friendly greetings to the 3 lucky guys. (Very healthy!)
- Fire off a “What kind of moron would send this?” response, report the poor hapless fool to the Match.com authorities, then stomp around your house gnashing your teeth and cursing the heavens because you are stuck in this idiotic dating pool. Seriously consider complete celibacy for the rest of your life. (Not so healthy)
- Laugh hysterically, click “Not Interested,” forward a copy of this message to all your single friends with a “Can you believe this guy?” introduction, and save a copy so you can pull it out in response to everyone who asks, “Why are you still single?” (In other words, my response.)
Please note: This is NOT a rant about online dating or the dating pool in general. This is a love story.
Act One: Trisha meets YA
I have no memory of a time when books and storytelling were not a huge part of my life. When people ask, “When did you fall in love with reading?” I’m speechless (a nearly impossible feat).
My grandmother kept a two-foot-high stack of mystery novels from the library next to the kitchen table that needed to be refreshed every two weeks. My mother would cart home paper grocery bags filled with used/borrowed romance and mystery novels. (I distinctly remember scrambling over a mini-mountain of those books in order to climb in bed with her after a bad dream.) Even my grandfather, a man forced to quit school after fifth grade, used to read every inch of the daily newspaper before starting any activity for the day.
My very first purse contained two items: a tube of Bonnie Bell strawberry lip gloss and a library card. Before I could actually read, I would carry around picture books and make up the stories to “read” out loud to any audience that would sit still long enough to listen (poor Gramps with his newspaper was a frequent target). I read through every Nancy Drew before fourth grade and worked my way through most of the Newbery Award list before middle school.
Like most girls, my first YA novel was written by Judy Blume. Oh my…so delicious! So real! So naughty! I read every book she wrote before diving headlong into YA novels filled with angst, mystery and romance. The only detention/demerit I ever received in junior high school was from a science teacher who caught me reading a YA novel instead of paying attention in class.
Act Two: Trisha forgets YA
I’m not sure exactly when or how it happened. Somewhere around 9th grade, I think. Perhaps I thought I was too mature and worldly to read about other teenagers. Perhaps I just ran out of YA books and needed fresh reading material. Whatever the reason, I moved on to Stephen King, Victoria Holt, Mary Higgins Clark, Anne Rice and other mainstream adult authors.
Act Three: Trisha rediscovers YA and finds true love
When I signed up for a correspondence course on Writing for Children and Teens, I wanted to write middle grade novels. Books like MRS FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH, BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA and ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS. Those were the stories I remembered with great awe and admiration.
In the first assignment, I was provided with 3 black and white illustrations, told to choose one, then asked to write a short story based on the illustration:
- Gummy-looking bears dancing near a bathtub (Puh-lease)
- Two kids in overalls standing on a farm (I don’t like farm stories.)
- Two teens, a guy and a girl, locked in what looked like an intense argument in front of the bus station (oh, the possibilities!)
In the next assignment, I wrote about a high school art student plagued by voices and the incarnation of an Egyptian goddess. After my third submission (in which a miserable older stepsister finds a suicide note in a library book), my instructor told me I was a YA author and suggested some books to read.
NOOOOOO…..that simply could not be! I wanted to write novels like THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS and HOLES. I wanted to be a Newbery contender some day.
Well, I calmed down (eventually) and read her suggestions. The world tilted. Angels sang. I could not put the darn books down. Then I joined SCBWI, went to that fateful first conference, and learned all about the glorious, magical, ever-expanding world of YA literature. My fate was sealed.
If you are an adult who loves to read fiction and thinks YA literature holds no allure, nothing but vampires and mean girls…oh my goodness! I truly feel pity for you.
It’s been 6 years since I rediscovered young adult literature. The romance is still alive. Yes, I read plenty of “grown up” novels too, but it’s rare for me to feel the sort of connection I feel with Melinda in SPEAK, or Pudge in LOOKING FOR ALASKA, or Charlie in THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.
It is not always easy to balance my passion for YA novels with real-life romance. Men who are intrigued by my literary aspirations tend to ask why I don’t want to write “real” novels. Men who don’t appreciate books leave me cold (and almost certainly think I’m a bizarre creature.)
I’m the sort of woman who loves to take myself out to eat. I’ll order a nice dinner, drink a glass of Pinot Noir, and become absorbed in the romance of a Sarah Dessen novel or giggle out loud to the slapstick antics in SPUD. (Bizarre creature indeed!) Unfortunately, it’s a well-known fact that a single girl sitting at a restaurant bar with her nose in a book must be in want of a pick up line. That said, nothing scares away an unwanted suitor like flashing the cover of a YA novel; especially one entitled BOY MEETS BOY. (Seriously, all single women should keep a copy in their purse.)
But don’t worry. This is not a tragic story of star-crossed love.
In case you are wondering how that whole online dating profile thing worked out, let me share a ray of hope:
|Date received: November 1, 2009
I enjoyed your profile and believe we have much in common. Please check out my profile and let me know if you would like to chat further.
PS – Are you aware that the Dahlonega Book Festival is this weekend? Here is the website : http://www.literaryfestival.org/
If you are attending and would like to meet for coffee, that would be great. Even if you are not interested in meeting, I think you would enjoy the festival. There’s an impressive list of authors on the schedule as well as at least one literary agent.
Happily ever after? Maybe. I’ll let you know in a few years.