“I don’t think you’re dark enough for young adult. If you’re going to submit this book to this agent, I would make it a middle-grade novel.” I considered this an immense compliment. Kate Hannigan and I were chatting about what sells in young adult fiction today. Angst, darkness, often it’s overly-sexualized themes. Yeah, I wouldn’t fit in that world.
I am blessed enough to know an author through my day job that published a middle-grade novel through Little, Brown and Co. that is showing me the ropes and helping me pitch my books to agents in the traditional publishing world. I feel lucky to have met her and have a mentor helping me understand the ins and outs of the traditional publishing world, and what I’m going to have to do in order to get the attention of an agent.
This advice was very good, especially if I’m going to pitch my book to an agent.
A few days after this conversation, my friend Sarah Delena White gave me an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) of her beautiful book, Halayda. Pre-order it here. I am about at chapter 18, and it’s magical and uplifting. While it deals with blood, violence, war, and death, at the same time it manages to be fun, positive, hopeful, funny, uplifting. There is “more light than darkness,” as one of my poems says.
The love scenes are relatable, enviable, and adorable.
And it’s incredibly Sarah.
I’ll save more for a full review when I finish it, but what struck me most about this book are these two things:
- It’s young adult
- And it’s exactly the opposite of what the agents say they are looking for in young adult books, except for the steam punk and fantasy themes
I know Sarah well. I know her love of tea, blankets, fairies, and solid love stories. I know her style of adulting and know that there is a place for it in the world. This book could not have made me happier. It was like sitting down and spending 3 hours over hot tea talking to a dear friend. I know she doesn’t believe you have to be dark and hopelessly confused in order to be a young adult, neither do you have to write dark and were-wolf-like novels in order to find your audience. (Though if she did tackle something dark and werewolf-like, she would redeem it).
Let’s take a break from books for a moment.
I love Lindsey Stirling’s violin version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. But I only today saw the youtube video of it.
At the end of the video, Lindsey Stirling says something very interesting. She mentions a time in her life where she didn’t think anyone could see her for who she was, see the beauty in her. (She was told at American Idol auditions that there is not much of a market for what she does). Then she talks about how we, her listeners, might be feeling the same way. “There is one person who can see the beauty in us, and that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Now these words may have surprised some of her fans. Lindsey doesn’t make every video she makes about the Gospel of her Savior. Something that struck me right in the heart today is the only way Lindsey Stirling could have the kind of platform she has and do what she did in that video is if she made her own way. In a completely secular world, she would not be able to choose to give her message of faith whenever she chooses. In a Christian music world, her music would likely have been sanitized and christianized to the point that it wasn’t really Lindsey. Again, it would probably have been “what the industry wanted.” In this Christianized sub-culture, Lindsey would like not have reached the audience she was able to reach with her Hallelujah video, because people who view themselves as secular and non-faith people don’t subscribe to the what the Christian sub-culture’s industry puts out. Like my friend Sarah, she was just being herself.
These thoughts overwhelmed me this morning. Peter Hollens was singing with his wife Evynne on their self-made youtube channels. Lindsey was playing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and speaking out with her voice and faith. My husband is finding a local fandom and audience for doing what he loves to do—drone videography. I feel like celebrating all things self-made and self-marketed today. All the indie music artists and authors who said they weren’t going to fit in. Who believed their message was important and unique even though it wasn’t industry standard. Today more than ever, those with a unique voice, style, or message have the chance to build a platform, and, more than ever, I believe their voice is needed.
One thing is sure. The world needs more Lindsey Stirlings, Peter Hollens, Butler families, and Sarah Whites. Maybe what the young adult world needs is not more angst and darkness, but more hope and faith.