I’ve been working on my first young adult novel for the last three years. It’s been a huge personal and creative challenge and there’s been many times I’ve wondered why I’m doing this to myself. Yesterday, I was reminded.
Because it’s fun and because the teacher invited me, I went to visit a local high school’s creative writing class. I’ve been in a few times this semester, talking about various things. This time, I was sharing a couple of chapters from my work-in-progress so kids can see that revision is a natural part of the writing progress. I told them to go ahead and rip my work apart, I have thick skin. “This is how I’ll get my very best work,” I told them.
The kids took their job seriously. They had spot-on and insightful comments. But one student kept raising his hand and demanding an explanation. My story’s topic is a tough one: a girl’s older brother is kicked out of the house for being gay. The student couldn’t wrap his brain around the idea that if a parent and child had an otherwise good relationship that Mom would kick him out for this one “flaw.” (His word, not mine.) I tried my best to explain that the world isn’t always the way we wish it to be. He wasn’t buying it.*
But then, from across the room, another student defended the idea. “It happens more than you think,” he said.**
When the bell rang, this second boy hung back to talk to me and the teacher. He shared with us that when he came out as bisexual to his strict and religious parents that his dad didn’t speak to him for a week. He told us that his parents still don’t accept this part of him and that he’s lost friends and family members because of his orientation. He seemed okay with all of this, or at least resigned in the way many LGBT kids are. I told him I’m the mother of a gay child and asked him to give his parents some time to come around. “They’re on their own journey, too,” I said and hoped it was true.
This kid - and all the other LGBT kids and their siblings - these are the people I’m writing for. And they are the reason I’m working so hard to get this book right. I’m honored to be a part of their story. It’s a huge responsibility and I going to work my butt off to make sure I’m worthy.
Now. If you’ll excuse me, I have a book to revise.
*I actually kind of loved that this young man couldn’t imagine being disowned by his parents for being gay. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if no one could?
** When I was going through what the kids had written me, I found a note from a girl telling me that her cousin had also kicked out her daughter for being gay.