Monday, July 18, 2011


Recorded by Catherine Greenfeder

The speakers for this workshop were multi-published YA authors Tera Lynn Childs, Kimberly Derting, and Sophie Jordan. Books by the authors speaking include Firelight and Vanish by Sophie Jordan, Forgive My Fins by Terri Lynn Childs, The Body Finder and Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting. Here is a summary based on notes taken during this highly informative workshop at the RWA National Conference earlier this month.


How old should the protagonists be? Between twelve to eighteen years of age is fine, past that gets into adult fiction. So, seniors in high school are okay to use.  Make sure to give the characters quirks so that they’re three dimensional.

Where do you start the book?

“All books open with your main character on the threshold of change.”

How hot can you make a YA?

“It’s not taboo to have graphic sex, but you have to keep in mind that the teen’s life experience is different from ours as adult writers.”

Off-page sex is not described but talked about. One of the authors didn’t feel the need to add detailed description on the sex, so she kept if off the page.

Sophie Jordan feels the sex has to be subtle because she has readers who have followed her from a younger age. Keep in mind that parents are buying the books. Her books are for twelve year olds and up.

High school versus the middle school readers are a different reader. Obviously! Sex, drugs, alcohol, and profanity are other subjects used in some of the books.

Does the adult voice intrude on the YA voice?

You have to shut off your adult voice, and put yourself into the view of the teen. Think back to your own experience as a teenager. The writer needs to ask what it felt like when I was a teenage girl of my protagonist’s age. Also, remember back and remember one of those fantasies you had. Teens still fantasize about those things, and it can be worked into your book.

Use Real Life Experiences for Teens

Being at a party where teens engage in use of drugs, alcohol, or sex is a real life experience. It’s real to the readers. However, you as the writer, have to be aware of who’s purchasing the books. Teens, of course, buy books, but so do adults. Therefore, gate keepers on subject matter are parents, teachers, and librarians; they can control the purchase of YA books; this gets into the issue of censorship. That’s not to discount the more edgy YA books gaining popularity.

Point of view

Writing first person P.O.V. versus third person P.O.V. is a matter of taste and is not a problem if you do what feels comfortable for you.

I Am Number Four crosses both girl and boy readership.

Dialogue/Teen Speak and Fashion

Don’t date your dialogue – teen lingo changes; avoid reference to pop culture which can change later on.

There’s a fine line between YA and trendy; use fashion that will still be in style because trends change. This includes music trends.

Common Issues

Dead parents, neglectful parents, and parents who are very busy with their jobs are found in a lot of YA.

Have e-book readers affected sales for YA?

Most definitely, e-books are increasing sales for YA. ###

Catherine Greenfeder is the author of two published e-books, Angels Among Us, and Wildflowers; and is currently hard at work on a YA paranormal set in New Jersey.

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