Tony’s Thinking…On Losing a Story

A few months ago, I’d just finished writing another novel, and was wondering (maybe dreaming would be a better word) what would happen if I was suddenly granted my wish…to be a full time writer and at that a famous full time writer. Kind of suddenly discovered like JK Rowling, people everywhere reading one of my books.

What would my life be like? Imagine that…never having to leave for work in the morning and never having to drive through snow or rain or rush hour traffic. To sit at my desk all day and (to quote Steven Spielberg) ‘to dream for a living’.

But it wouldn’t be all regular royalty cheques and a quiet home. I know I’d get easily distracted, sitting there in an empty house. I’d be forever checking my Goodreads reviews, my Facebook friends. There would be constant pressure to Tweet my every move. Not to mention the endless meetings and flying to Hollywood to meet with Mr Spielberg for the movie deal, and the endless parties and other things I’m sure I’d hate. Would be tough, I’m sure, having to fly to the Caribbean and lie on a beach.

I digress into my fantasy there, but thinking about how my life would change set me thinking about a story, as such things do. I imagined a housewife, bored with her life. She has everything she ever wanted: beautiful home, devoted husband and adorable kids. But still she’s bored. She’s always defined by how other people see how she relates to her family. She’s always a wife, or a mother…never just her.
Finally, she starts writing one day, just to slay the boredom and the incipient feeling that life has more to offer her. She writes, and she writes, telling no one – this is something just for her. Eventually she writes a novel and sends it to an agent, and they accept it, but still she tells no one what she’s doing.

Which is where the story starts: she’s sitting at her kitchen table, looking at an advance from an agent and a publication deal that would free her from her domestic life forever. All she has to do is cash the cheque and make it to the airport, and her life is her own. The story is about how trapped she feels, and whether she’d be more free if she was suddenly flung into the spotlight.

I loved that story. I really felt for that woman and what she was going through. It might have been realistic if she just told her family what she was doing when they came home, but I wasn’t interested in that; I wanted to go through what she was going through.

But here’s the really terrible thing: I lost that story.
I thought I had it saved on at least ONE of the computers I use, or the memory sticks that hold my work, but I can’t find it. I must have saved it somewhere because (being the tech guy I am) I always hit save before I print. And I printed two copies: one for me and one for a writing friend.
I can’t find my printed copy, and I NEVER throw my work away. I have hopes my writing friend can find it and I can re-type it. I’ve even tried a file recovery…but nothing.

Why not recreate it? You might ask. That’s a hard one to explain…stories are ephemeral, flighty things, gone with a breeze. If I re-write it, it won’t be the same story. I know I won’t be able to recreate the same…intimacy…with the woman in the story, I won’t get into her head the way I did when I wrote it on a whim. I won’t know who she is as well as I did before.

I’ve never lost a story before, and it’s gone as though it never existed. And I feel bereft. I’ve lost a story and it feels like I lost a friend as well, and they’re such hard things to grasp at the best of times. I know all the arguments: hit save, hit save, then hit save again. I did. I do.
But this time it wasn’t enough. Farewell, lonely housewife.

I’ll miss you.

(Stop Press 18th June 2012: My writing friend found my story! Thanks Portia! You can read it here)

Guest Post…Diversity in the YA World

Today’s guest post comes from Ebony who blogs at The Hundred Book Project. It was originally featured on her blog on April 30th 2012 and she’s kindly allowed us to re-blog it here for you to see. Hope you find it as interesting as we did – if you’d like to hear more from Ebony, you can check out The Hundred Book Project here. Now – on to the post!
Last month I reviewed a young adult contemporary fiction novel called Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz.
I had a bit of a moment whilst reading that book, and it prompted me to write this post.
Inconspicuously slipped in, as one main character recalled another, was this line:

“His hair might not be golden blond – he’s black, so that would be a little weird – but his eyes kind of are.”

I did a double take.
It is honestly that rare to find a black protagonist in young adult literature that I had to make sure I had read correctly.
The book goes on to detail the tribulations of the budding relationship between the two characters. Did I mention that they are both guys?
That’s right; a gay, interracial teen romance.
And more amazing still, the issues that they struggle with don’t depend on their race, or even necessarily their sexuality. Those things are just a part of who they are, and beyond that they have the same problems ‘traditional’ couples experience: emotional vulnerability, family trauma, social/political issues, etc.
So, why don’t we have that kind of awesome diversity across the board in YA lit?
Teen readers are at a time when they start to form strong values and ideas. When better to acquaint them with the ideas of acceptance and moral courage – not to mention introduce them to other cultures and lifestyles? And that better way than to write life-like, relatable characters who just happen to be of assorted cultural heritage and orientation? Why do so many authors shy away from presenting the world as it is – and in a positive way, for once?
I can only guess.
Perhaps authors rush to create characters that their supposed audience will relate to. If the audience is considered to be made up of white, upper-middle class fifteen year old girls, then the prevalence of characters mirroring that stereotype is understandable.
understand it, but I don’t accept it.
In a majority of the YA books I’ve read, there are pitifully few ethnic or gay characters, let alone protagonists. It has got to stop.
Just like glorifying abuse is bad for real-world victims, when readers are shown Black or Asian characters who are mere bit players in the lives of the white protagonists (or my pet peeve, the ‘gay best-friend’ stereotype), it only serves to bolster the ridiculous idea that those societal groups are of less value. That their hopes and dreams and desires are inferior to their white counterparts’.
Why, why, why are authors not concerned with including a cast of characters which accurately represent racial and sexual diversity in the world?

I’ve thought about this question and decided it is not a conscious effort to cut certain social groups out of literature (that would be too horrible to comprehend), but rather a kind of laziness.

For white authors, I suppose it seems more difficult to write from the frame of mind of someone of a different culture, religion or orientation than oneself. But it is a worthy effort to include at least some diversity in your novel.
I don’t think there is any valid excuse for arbitrarily excluding diversity in novels, particularly those aimed at a vulnerable audience.
I can only imagine how it must feel to be a lover of young adult fiction, yet open an otherwise enjoyable book and find no central character whose ethnicity of orientation you can identify with.