Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Future of YA

Several days ago I went to our first TeenReaderCon, an event put on by our local school district in conjunction with BOCES.  What I saw firsthand was The Future of Young Adult Literature.

Of course a big part of this future is the writers. Six renowned young adult authors—Patricia McCormick, Jay Asher, Eric Devine, Joesph Bruchac, Jackie Morse Kessler and Steve Sheinkin—appeared at this event. They did two group panels, along with several individual presentations. I saw four of the individual sessions (Kessler, Devine, McCormick and Asher) and they were all outstanding. These are exceptionally talented, respected authors, many of whom have best- selling YA novels published. The authors all seemed thrilled to be there, interacting with the people who read their books. Their fans, in fact.

But the more impressive part of the event, to my way of thinking, was the large group of young people who showed up. On a Saturday morning, when they could have been doing a myriad of other things, the high school auditorium was filled to near capacity with excited, chattering happy kids. All of whom were there not to see film stars or pop stars or cultural icons, but to see, of all things, writers

 These young people were engaged. They interacted with the authors. They asked intelligent questions. They fan-geeked over favorite characters. They discussed the writing process. They discussed their own favorite books, and sometimes turned the authors on to a new series. They wondered aloud about the authors’ next books. 

And they bought books. My word, did they buy books. No stats, but I saw countless young people with bags chock full of books they’d just purchased. And they stood in lines so they could get those books signed, and talk to their favorite authors one-on-one.

Disclaimer: I don’t write YA. I don’t generally even read YA. But what I saw at this event convinced me of several vitally important things. 

First--there are some excellent YA writers out there whose books I’ll be loading onto the Nook soon. YA is alive and well and producing some great books.

Second—despite all the moaning and wailing about the supplanting of books by electronic media (i.e. movies, video games and social media), the kids I saw were indeed the future of YA. They hungered for the written word. They longed to be taken to new worlds, to meet new people, and to garner new ideas, courtesy of the writers who hold the keys to those worlds. And they longed to see their own generation reflected in those same books. To know that in what they are experiencing as young adults, they are not alone. That someone understands. And that there is hope. 

Third—All those young people who are reading YA now? Guess what? In five or ten years, they’re all going to be grown up. And hopefully still hungering for those written words. And they will be the audience that will read my books. And your books, if you write for adults. 

They are the future. And to me, it looks pretty bright. 

Keith W. Willis



Julie Eberhart Painter said...

This is thrilling news for this old gal to hear. And, I might add, it's delightful to see an example of your writing here in this new-for-your venue.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Julie! I was really impressed with how many kids showed up, and how engaged and excited they were to be there with writers. Definitely makes me hopeful for the future... And I'm delighted to make my debut here.

January Bain said...

Excellent to hear, Keith! And welcome aboard if I'm correct about this being your first post on Writers Vineyard? Your post gives me a lot to think about, thanks! And have a great day. Best, January

Liz Fountain said...

How exciting! I'm starting to write for this audience, and it is a real challenge to keep up with their intelligence, and with the quality of work being produced for them. And let me add to the welcome, Keith - great to have you here!


Unknown said...

Thanks, January & Liz for your nice comments. I'm delighted to be here. Liz, I think the YA audience is extremely demanding in their desire for voice and relevancy. Good luck with your project!

Olga Godim said...

Keith, thanks so much for your wonderful post. It gives hope!

Anonymous said...

Welcome aboard, Keith. New blood is always good.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)