Tags: YA

When the ice is thin…

by Amber Keyser
Published on: November 12, 2014
Comments: 1 Comment
Frozen lake in Algonquin Park (Photo by Voyageur Quest)

Frozen lake in Algonquin Park (Photo by Voyageur Quest)

Currently I am in the very final revisions of a contemporary YA novel called THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN, which will be published in Fall 2015 by Carolrhoda Lab. At this stage in the process, I have moved from my usual methodical application of hardwork and craft to something more uncommon and harder to understand even for me.

As I work my way through the manuscript, I come upon passages that to my eyes and to my mind seem okay. The writing is tight. The descriptions are vivid. The dialogue feels real. But my gut says that something is off. It’s as if I am on a frozen lake and suddenly a subtle sense of danger grows. The ice is too thin here. It will support neither me or the story.

I sit and stare at the screen, imploring the page to reveal what is missing. I pace my office, wondering what is off-kilter about the emotion and sentiment in the paragraph. I imagine myself as each character, plumbing the depths of their inmost selves.

Eventually I will feel the way before me. I will caress the words. I will shape them into struts and support. They will become as thick as reality itself. It is both mystical and terrifying. I wonder if I will lose myself to the depths.

What is YA anyhow? Smart stuff from editor Cheryl Klein

by Amber Keyser
Published on: May 12, 2014
Categories: Craft, Genre, Other Topics
Comments: No Comments

My dear friend and kick-ass writer, Cidney Swanson, gave me a copy of Cheryl Klein‘s book SECOND SIGHT: AN EDITOR’S TALKS ON WRITING, REVISING & PUBLISHING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS.  It is so awesome.

My favorite parts, which you should definitely read ASAP, are the sections when she shows multiple drafts of the same manuscript chapter through multiple rounds of revision.  This will help you learn to revise more than anything I can think of.  Go buy the book now!

But what I wanted to call out in this post is the chapter entitled “Theory: A Definition of Young Adult Literature.”  Since many of us Scrivas (Nicole, Mary, Ruth, Melissa, Addie, and me) write YA fiction, I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes a good YA novel.  Cheryl Klein’s exploration of the form is spot on brilliant.

She says:

So I’ve been thinking off and on about a practical definition of YA literature — something I could look at to help me decide whether a manuscript is an adult novel or a middle-grade novel or, indeed, a YA. Such delineations don’t matter to me as a reader — a good book is a good book — but they do matter to me as an editor and publisher, because I want every book I publish to find the audience that is right for it, and sometimes, despite a child or teenage protagonist, a manuscript is meant for an adult audience. Hence I have written the definition below to help me think through these situations as they come up. This is very much a WORKING theory; I hope you all will offer challenges, counterexamples, additions or arguments to help me improve what I’m saying here. But here’s what I have right now — the definition broken into five parts for easier parsing:

  1. A YA novel is centrally interested in the experience and growth of

  2. its teenage protagonist(s),

  3. whose dramatized choices, actions, and concerns drive the

  4. story,

  5. and it is narrated with relative immediacy to that teenage perspective.


In the complete post, which you really must read, she deconstructs each of these points and adds a sixth implicit feature of YA.  I really thought Cheryl’s thoughts were wonderful.  Enjoy!

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