13 March 2013

confundus!: how ya lit takes over

In this past week, I have noticed a sort of strange phenomenon with both the Harry Potter series and Young Adult Literature in general:

1. Not too long ago--actually very shortly before beginning the Read 1 Watch 1 Challenge with Wordsmith Studio--an old friend from college sent me an owl. Well ... she sent me an owl notebook. It was the second owl notebook I've received since Christmas, when another old friend sent both an owl notebook and an owl toothbrush holder. My apartment is full of owls. I kind of love it.

2. Over the past week and a half, I keep getting sidebar ads for online wind shops. I know, I have been reading Harry Potter and looking up info on the various houses, characters, and other elements of the series, but ... wand shops! All over the place! And here's the kicker: The other day I was checking one of my suitcases for a missing sock and found ... wait for it ... a wand. It was a gift from some kids I worked with who convinced me (I admit, I barely fought the suggestion) to read them Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (with voices). I actually thought I'd left it back in Pennsylvania, but there it was.

3. I just discovered the Harry Potter audiobooks on YouTube. After having read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone four times in the past few weeks, and watching the movie three times, I've now listened to the audiobook twice. I'm currently working my way through the audiobook while reading along, and feeling very much like a kid again.

"once upon a time ..."

It's funny how Young Adult literature can take over your world. There's something about the world of children that is simply infectious. I've been watching Full House on my days off; not entirely because I want to ... It's actually mostly because, when it's on, I just can't make myself turn it off. In the midst of writing this, I actually had to take a break because I was busy bawling my way through the end of an episode. I've also found myself wrapped up in a few Disney Channel specials (a lot of the fairy ones) and children's programming elsewhere. Maybe it's something about the adult world that doesn't translate over from the children's world. Maybe it's the fantasy, the make-believe, the possibility.

a bridge between worlds

Perhaps that's what makes YA Lit so appealing: it is, so often, the "middle ground" land of literature between the place where anything is possible and things don't really need to be explained and the place where things are much more grounded. Even in adult fantasy literature, the world must be fully developed, the history must be explained, and we must endure long explanations from the narrator or characters themselves to make sense of the things we see and hear and are expected to believe. In a children's story, we don't have to know where Fairy Godmothers come from or understand how a superhero got bitten by a spider and instead of being sent to the hospital wound up with super powers. In that middle-ground world of YA Lit, though, our heroes become more complex. We get the back stories of our heroes, and their saviors, and their nemeses, and everyone in between, albeit in degrees. We understand that there are repercussions, that "with great power comes great responsibility." We know that you don't find out your a wizard and live happily ever after: there are costs to magic. Some wizards go as bad as they can go. 

magic in the air

For the life of me, I can't seem to let go of the magical worlds. I love to let them cross over. It happens constantly in my mind. If I read a character at age eleven I'm envisioning what it would be like to cross them on the street now. I find myself going back to familiar tales and rewriting them on both physical and mental pages for a modern age, for my generation. I just had a dream the other night that translated The Little Mermaid into a live-action musical in which we learned:
  • why Ursula was so evil (via a song titled "I Once Was Beautiful"), 
  • that Prince Eric is an artistic and moody twenty-something trapped by a kingdom's insistence that he get married (when all he wants to do is play his music and "live this awful life I've got to live" ... yes, also part of a song), and 
  • Ariel is (wait for it) the most obnoxious early-twenties girl in the world who's theme song is a sickening number called "Today Is a Very Great Day (To Be Alive)"
Where did this dream come from? I have no idea. Maybe it's all this Young Adult lit talk blending with the musical impulses in me (random fact: at one point I thought of becoming a theatre major). Maybe it's that magical world breaking through again where anything from this to my longstanding dream of a zombie musical (it's going to be big, man) is possible.

Whatever it is, I don't plan to let it go. I plan to feed it, and watch it grow.

Your Turn

How do the worlds of make-believe and possibility break through the walls of your "grown up" world? Do you ever find yourself longing for the days of dress up games? How do you find ways to play? 

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

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10 comments:

  1. I've found a couple of YA books that helped me with adult projects. One is "Tear Soup" by Pat Schwiebert. I referenced it the last time I facilitated a discussion with my grief support group. The other is "Nevermore-A Photo Biography of Edgar Allen Poe" by Karen E. Lange. I'm using it as I prepare to attend a discussion on Poe this Sunday.

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    1. That's great, Michelle! "Tear Soup" sounds like a beautiful read, and judging from some of the reviews I read deeply meaningful to those who have come across it. I look forward to checking out both books further!

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  2. "Child of the Morning" by Pauline Gedge was the first book to win the Alberta YA first novel award.(I can't remember the year but a long time ago.) It's a fictionalized story about Queen Hatshepsut, one of Egypt's few female Pharaohs - for some reason I fell in love with this queen, identified with her deeply and easily and any time I feel the need to slip into another persona, someone regal, someone strong - I become this woman pretending to be a man who was so amazing...yeah - she's one. I also could be Anne Shirley in a heartbeat also, or any of the Little Women (but of course, mostly Jo) - I rarely become anyone that's not real but with my grandsons leaning toward the magical, I expect that's about to change.

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    1. I love the way you've described your engagement with these books and characters, Sharon! And just so you know, "becoming" someone imaginary is so many levels of fun, whether it's falling into the shoes of an imaginary character in a book (I spent many a night as Addy from the American Girl series!) ... or a self-created character to "play" alongside an imaginary character (I'll keep the legacy of those to myself, ha-ha)! :D

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  3. I think you're right about the way YA acts as a bridge between complexity and wonder. Frankly, I can't keep the world of make-believe out - and like you, I never want to! It's what draws me towards being a fantasy writer; magic and heroes and the like have always caught my imagination and I suppose they always will. They're with me every day.

    One of the things that fuels that passion and inspiration the most is tapletop rpgs - D&D is the most well-known (and my favorite) but there are a couple of others I play with my friends. Being immersed in a cooperative story that is structured but still leaves room for the spontaneous and silly is just so incredibly rejuvenating and, well, *fun.* :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Nykii ... You've given me yet another reason to get over my pseudo-fear of rpgs. I'm always convinced I'll become *too* immersed in them (if you see my above comment to Sharon, you'll see I have spent a LOT of time in imaginary-land, ha-ha). But they are such a wonderful way to experience, as you said, a "cooperative story"!

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  4. I'm a bit of a stranger when it comes to YA fiction, and your post has definitely made me want to read more now, not just remember the thrill of it at the time. It's hard to jump out of the adult mode I find , but inside I can feel that playful mischievous soul screaming to get out. Not sure why it's so scary. It's not like anyone's watching, if you know what I mean. Thank you for the prompt.

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    1. Thank you, A.K.! Let that mischievous soul run free! :)

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  5. Find myself longing to be in the YA fictional world? All. the. time. But now, I find myself longing to create that fictional world. One where girls can battle the dragons and save the prince. Maybe that's why I wrote a modern take on a fairy tale for the 3-day novel context. When I read Hunger Games, I realized not only how much I missed reading good YA, which never existing when I was little (Sweet Valley High at 8 is confusing and VC Andrews at 12 is just dangerous), but also how much I loved dystopia, and wanted to go back and reread the Chrysalids. Then I wrote an adult dystopia. It's really infectious and inspiring.

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    1. That sounds awesome, Heather! And I think you're on to something ... part of what I've found in my writing recently is that same draw to fantasy and dystopian fiction. Maybe it's the grown up version of that young-adult and children's fantasy world!

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Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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