2014’s National Novel Writing Month was another successful one for me. My YA novel (tentatively titled Artifacts of a Teenage Life; Update: It’s now titled Artifacts From Mars) and I skidded across the finish line with a little more than the 50,000-word goal. I still have about 20,000 more words to write before I hit The End, but I have a really good idea of how I’m going to get there, baring any detours my main characters Claire and Peter may take me on. And my daughter joined me for the first time in 2014, finishing out the month with nearly 11,000 words. Awesome job for her first long-form piece!
It was my day job at a Fortune 500 company that inspired to write this contemporary, realistic YA novel. Strange, huh?
I work with employees who have serious medical conditions and/or disabilities. I’ve been in this field for seven years, and for some reason this year it’s affected me like never before. A sense of empathy and curiosity has grown in me, demanding that I sit the hell down and tell this story.
So, I listened.
I started researching how much of the YA market features teens/young adults with disabilities (or any sort of diversity for that matter) and I hate to say this, but it’s dismal, folks. This population is embarrassingly underrepresented.
Luckily there are some really good champions for diversity in YA that have sprung up over the past few years. A few of my favorites are Diversity in YA, DiversifYA and Disability in KidLit. They have been great resources and ones I’ll turn to many times over the course of the drafting and revision process.
If you’re interested in reading more about diversity (or the lack thereof) in YA literature, check out the following:
Why we want to see good stories with disabled characters, on Kaleidoscope
Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? by Walter Dean Myers
Why is There Not More Diversity in Young Adult Fiction? by Dennis Abrams
Lack of Diversity in Young Adult Fiction by Laura Costello
Great Characters With Disabilities In YA and MG (YA Highway guest post by Sarah Heacox)
Embracing Diversity in YA Lit by Shelley Diaz (with tons of diversity-related resources and links)
The prototype cover is courtesy of my talented (and modest) husband and illustrator/artist, Chris Roberts.
As I write this, it’s now almost half way into November 2015, and I’m that much closer to actually finishing this baby. I luckily got an inspirational kick in the pants when I interviewed an amazing woman who had a very similar experience to my main character Claire—she was also paralyzed from the waist down due to a motor vehicle indecent while in her last year of high school.
This woman took time out of her very busy life (which includes raising the cutest four-year-old redheaded daughter ever, who was also sporting a bunch of temporary tattoos from Halloween all over her belly) to talk to me in detail about her experience. After sitting with her, I realized I had only known Claire in a peripheral way up to that point. My earlier research served me well, but it was the conversation with this inspiring woman who added a depth to Claire that I believe only could have come from listening to this woman graciously share her story with me.
I’m taking the week of Thanksgiving and the following Monday off work, and am confident I will be able to type “The End” by November 30th.
December 2015 Update:
I typed “The End” on Artifacts From Mars! It took me about 14,000 new words to get to that point, about a third of which came on the last day when I hit my highest single-day word count: 5,602. Not too shabby.
I’m going to spend some more time with the woman I mentioned in my previous update—she remembered additional details she thought would be helpful, and I’ll accept more help any day.
I’m taking December off, setting the book aside, and working on a revision plan. While I’m very comfortable with revising and editing my long-form, creative nonfiction pieces and blog posts (which I tend to do obsessively), I’ve never tackled a fully completed novel. It’s a tad bit overwhelming, to be honest. I tend to work best with a plan, and revising Artifacts From Mars will be no different.