Friday, September 08, 2006

Writing & reading

Since leaving Austin, I've really missed the SCBWI group there. Here, the only thing I could find for children's writers was one critique group that met at a time when I couldn't go. There, I was used to large monthly meetings, many critique groups to choose from, and a couple of conferences or retreats per year. Here, the only conferences are in other parts of the state. In general, I've felt pretty cut off from the writing world since I've been here, apart from the Internet, though much of that is my own fault for not settling in more quickly or sitting down to write! But anyway...I'm going back, with a new appreciation of everything offered for writers in Austin. And since I'm having a baby soon, which will probably put me out of commission for a while (at least in terms of attending events), I decided that, income or no income, I'm going to the Austin SCBWI conference in October. It's just a one-day thing, but I expect it to be a breath of fresh air for my writing! I sent off my registration form last week.

Speaking of writing, I've read some this week. On the way back from Orlando on Tuesday, I started reading a novel called The Boy I Loved Before by Jenny Colgan. It's a British, chick-lit type thing, not something I'd normally read, but it has kind of a YA element, as the protagonist is a 32-year-old woman who wishes she were 16 again, and then magically is. (A bit like 13 Going On 30 in reverse.) But instead of going back in time to when she was 16, as she expected, she becomes 16 in the present day. It's a bit odd, since her parents also become younger, but no one else changes, and her old self no longer exists for most people, but several people she was close to still remember her the way she was.

At any rate, I read a few chapters of that, and then when we got home, I found in the mail an old YA book I'd ordered from an Amazon reseller--The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations, by Ellen Conford. It's from 1976 and I remembered reading and liking it as a teen in the early 80s. I sat down and read it through immediately! I still enjoyed it quite a bit. It turned out to be episodic, with each chapter based on one idea or theme from the school handbook, rather than having one plotline running all the way through. But for a 30-year-old novel, I was surprised how modern it still seemed. I'd think any YA reader today could relate to most of it (and to my surprise, there was even foul language--mainly the "s" word!).

After I finished that, I went back to the first book and read until I finished that one, too! So, two books in one evening. The Colgan book was a fun read, and I was surprised that there were actually several points of overlap between the 1976 YA book I had just read and the 2004 adult novel. There were a few similar characters and situations, and just general riffing on the mindsets of idealistic young people.

The Colgan book ended up similar to Back to the Future, in that the protagonist, once restored to her regular age, finds she has changed the timeline in such a way that her whole new history is different (an accountant at the beginning, she discovers at the end that she's now a teacher), and of course everyone around her has a newly happy ending. I have some trouble with this. Yes, it's happy that she now has a life she likes better than her old one, and seems to be ending up with the guy she really wanted, blah blah blah, but wouldn't it be a little freakish not to know your own history, and for everyone else in your family and circle of friends to have a different memory of your life and theirs than you did? I'm not sure I could accept that so complacently!

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