Ready for a revelation? I just finished writing my first young adult novel. In “as u like it” the themes of a Shakespeare play echo in the teen actors’ lives. The plot and characters are original, and the story is set now in NYC. The tone is light and entertaining.
For “as u like it” I drew on my experience growing up in Manhattan. My twelve-year-old daughter helped me make the characters sound up to date. I have tons of material with a tween girl and a teenaged boy living in my house. It was so much fun being able to work on a book with my daughter.
My children introduced me to the fabulous world of young adult literature that has blossomed since Harry Potter. Even though my kids have outgrown bedtime stories, I still like to read along with them occasionally. I’ve learned more about young adult fiction from book bloggers, like The Story Siren. The quality of the writing was a pleasant surprise. Fabulous authors, such as Laurie Halse Anderson, inspired me to try my hand at this genre.
Like any big production, there is a stage crew in the wings. My friend Marika Josephson (pictured at right), an assistant editor of KidSpirit Magazine, offered to be my first reader after my husband. Her experience working with 11-15 year olds was a big help as was her keen editorial eye.
Two of my friends in Maine are young adult authors who encouraged me. Charlotte Agell (pictured at left) was a reader for “as u like it.” I was a reader of her latest novel, Shift. On dog walks Maria Padian and I discuss our works in progress. Her teenaged daughter was interested in my story and had experience at reading manuscripts critically. Maria’s daughter and my daughter are fans of Shakespeare.
The manuscript needed several test drives. I purposely tried the story on a neighbor’s daughter who didn’t like Shakespeare. I wanted yet another reader who didn’t know me personally so Adrian (pictured below with me), who was a high school sophomore like the protagonist, was a great addition to my critique team. My young readers were really helpful, honestly critical and enthusiastic.
Writing for young adults is different than writing for older readers. Tweens and teens look for an emotional connection with the characters and demand a fast pace. YA books tend to be a bit shorter, 60K words instead of the 90K words norm for adult fiction. The author should avoid too much descriptive detail that can make the book drag. The story must be easy to follow.
Part of the reason I chose As You Like It was because it is one of the easiest of Shakespeare’s plays to read. It is written more in prose than in verse, and the main characters are teenagers in love. A central theme is the fickleness of reputation, one that resonates with teens today too. Shakespeare’s protagonist, Rosalind, kicks back when treated unfairly. She pulls the strings of love like a puppeteer. As You Like It was the first Shakespeare play I read for fun; I was 14 and taking acting at camp.
My aim is to make Shakespeare fun and understandable to anyone. A Bowdoin College professor of Renaissance Literature, Aaron Kitch (pictured at right) checked my Shakespeare and loved how it worked in the story. My cousin Gabrielle Savoldelli checked the acting scenes and showed me teenaged hangouts in Manhattan, where she lives and teaches school.
Blog buddies helped too: Mama Shujaa (pictured at left) filled in Kenyan expat details, and Cynthia@Oasis Writing Link and her family proofed my Spanish. My book is fiction, but I wanted it to ring true.
While my literary agent has “as u like it,” I will get back to work on my next book. Like any mom, I’m used to multi-tasking. Looking back through my blog archives, I can trace the birth of this latest novel.
Some of you may remember that I got struck by a new book idea last December during an ice storm. I tried to ignore it so I could finish another work in progress first, but the new book wouldn’t leave me alone.
Remember that beach walk in February when I pondered the new book idea? By the end of that month, I had turned my full attention to writing “as u like it.” Now, while I wait to hear feedback from my agent, I’ll get back to work on the next book. I try to have several projects going on at once to avoid downtime. Book publishing is a slow industry.
You shouldn’t see a change in my blog since I’ve always posted content suitable for all ages. My kids read my blog. I’ll continue to read and to review both fiction and young adult fiction. But maybe I won’t post another cocktail recipe!
You can click on the “as u like it” label below to follow the blog string. Photo of Aaron by Bowdoin College, of Mama Shujaa by Corey McGriff, of Marika by Wayne Kao, and photo of Adrian and me by Charlotte Agell. All other photos taken by me.
Visit my website for an as u like it jacket blurb.