What It Feels Like For A Girl

What it Feels Like for a Girl: Writing in a Teen Girl's Voice

Jessica Blank Eireann Corrigan Sarah Dessen Jenny Han Terra Elan McVoy Siobhan Vivian Adrienne Maria Vrettos Jacqueline Woodson

fancy feet: librarians at the NY Public Library: Jack Martin and Megan Honig.

At the NYC Teen Author Festival, a savvy panel of writers talked about defining strong female voices in YA fiction and the power to steer the reader's gaze.

"As a teen, you judge yourself constantly," said Adrienne. "It's not just about beauty. It's the skin you're in."

While male voices are often loaded with bravado (and four-letter words), female voices are sometimes tinged with self-doubt. Their characters might drift into interior monologues loaded with questions. These stories frequently dwell on relationships (a common denominator in all YA books) as the teen protagonists struggle to find their place in a family, a friendship, or new love.

Eireann mentioned that, as a adolescent, you're starting to construct yourself as a person. Girls are often judgmental, obsessing on every detail, always wondering, Do I matter to the world?

Jessica described this point of view as a "prism," the way teen girls shape their identities through the eyes of others.

"The way we view ourselves is equally powerful," added Siobhan.

"It's scary to walk into a room full of girls." Sarah laughed. "We know what they're thinking."

Bryant Park view of the New York Public Library

On Saturday, a crowd gathered at the library to hear Libba Bray give the keynote speech at the New York Public Library.

When asked, "Why do you write for teens?" (or: "When are you going to write a 'real' book for adults?"), Libba's answer took the shape of a short story. She hasn't forgotten the "too muchyness" of being a teen...what it feels like to sit in the closet, plugged into your headphones, and listen to your favorite band, a song that "sums up your life."

Libba Bray, author of Printz medal winner, GOING BOVINE

Adults often forget "how close you are to a moment that could change your life forever." Adolescence is power, armor, want, and longing. It's about watching a boy in class, the way he taps his pen against his lips...and wanting to be that pen. It's about arranging ("accidentally on purpose") to be where he is. (and wondering if you could actually die of embarrassment).

Libba described a middle school dance as "Hamlet with a shitty DJ." A shrug is your signature move. Your bedroom door is painted with ironic unicorns...added by zombies. You want to flip off the world one minute and save it the next. A school picture is a moment "preserved in amber." It's about secrets, comics, midnight movies, Coke (or maybe Pepsi).

"Don't take notes," she warned. "This could all change tomorrow."

Why write for teens?

Libba raised her arms, as if scooping the audience into a giant hug.

"Because I don't think any of us ever stop coming of age."

crossposted at www.Readergirlz.com