Grumpy Old Man

My back hurts and I really need the kids to get off of my lawn.

Not really. My back rarely, if ever, hurts and I don’t care if you’re on my lawn–as long as you don’t bother me.

But seriously, who wants kids on their lawn? Well, kids that don’t belong to them, I mean.

Actually, I don’t mind kids on my lawn. My husband has a different opinion, but I love seeing kids being kids and playing outside. Hopefully, that doesn’t make me sound creepy.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my decision to mostly leave the young adult world behind. Maybe part of my decision to walk away was the feeling that maybe I’ve “aged out” of writing about the teen experience?

I’m thirty. Do I remember and understand what it was like to be a teenager still? Have I gotten old and jaded and focused on matters of more importance? Have I forgotten what it was like to experience first love, first infatuation, the longing for more to life that only youth can rile up in a person’s gut?

I don’t think so, but that’s neither here nor there.

I feel that I’m still closely connected to that youthful part of me that reminds me of how exciting life can be. Each morning I wake up wondering what the day will bring.

In an exciting way. Not with dread.

Each day I still feel the wonder of how amazing life can be. How we can begin in one place and end up in a totally different, unexpected place. I still get excited each morning, wondering if I’ll try new food, make a new friend, or have a new experience.

Life is beautiful and amazing and exciting and confusing and sad and happy and…everything.

Life is everything.

Every day is a new possibility–a surprise waiting around each corner. One event after another, waiting for you to show up and discover and participate.

I love life. Maybe more than when I was a teenager. Actually, definitely more than when I was a teenager.

However, one thing I have to admit as an adult–and looking back on my teen years–is that nothing is as important as we think it is when we are young. Neither is it not as important as we think it is when we are young.

Everything is a major event when you are young and new to the world. Every little thing is earth-shattering when you’re a kid.

When we become adults, we tend to mock this phenomenon.

Kids are so dramatic.

You don’t know real struggle, kid!

THAT THING THAT HAPPENS TO YOU WON’T MATTER WHEN YOU GET OLDER!

But…it does matter. Everything that happens to us when we are kids is important.

One of the ways that I think a lot of writers fail to fully capture the child/teen experience is that they write them as frivolous, overly dramatic, overly emotional…titbags?

That’s how we treat teens. Like titbags.

While it’s true that people tend to be more emotional and feel things more deeply–express themselves more effusively–when they are young, it doesn’t mean those feelings aren’t valid. Or genuine. Or that they don’t matter.

When you’re a kid, being a kid is your job. It’s your life. Why wouldn’t the things that happen to us carry a grave weight?

Presently–and for many years–the world has been coming to terms more with how the things that happen to children have a significant impact on their adult life. The traumas, the successes and failures, the happiness, the stability, sexual awakening, friendships–it all matters greatly in our journey towards adulthood. It informs what our entire adulthood might be.

When writing about it, a bit of gravitas is important.

Writing flippantly about what it’s like to be a teen is a trap into which many a writer falls. Portraying teenagers as whiny titbags who get upset over “the tiniest little thing” is how many writers like to portray these smaller, younger humans. Writers tend to be grumpy old men, even if they exclusively write young adult.

You know, maybe it wasn’t earth-shattering that when I was a teenager we couldn’t afford to go see a movie 99% of the time. Or at times that a full plate of food was like Christmas and my birthday wrapped into one.

Maybe it didn’t matter to anyone except me that a certain boy in my classes was the cutest, nicest person ever and I wanted to hold his hand (among other things).

However, it meant something to me. It was my life. It was my world.

It deserves dignity and reverence. Because it was part of my human experience.

Even when writing about people who do not exist, the experiences written about deserve the same. Because someone reading about those experiences might (probably) be experiencing the same things.

They deserve to have dignity. They deserve to have their human experience treated with reverence.

So…I think that is something I can still do. I know I can.

But I don’t want to do it anymore. I’ve told those stories. And I think–regardless of what people might think of the stories as a whole–it can’t be said that I didn’t treat my characters with respect, dignity, or that I didn’t have reverence for them and their human experience.

I wish more writers understood that teenagers are adults with rawer emotions. They feel deeply. They care deeply. They love profoundly. They hate irrationally. They obsess to no end.

But it all matters. It’s all genuine. It’s all human.

The age of the character shouldn’t change how we treat them with our written words.

Treat your young characters how you would want someone to write about your younger self.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

It’s Time To Celebrate!

Releasing a book, finally publishing a story you’ve worked on forever, comes with baggage. Emotional baggage.

There’s relief and fear and happiness and longing and grief and…everything. Your book is finally out in the world and in the hands of readers, but you have no control over what happens next.

Fear.

You are no longer spending time with the characters you’ve spent day after day with for God knows how long.

Longing and grief.

You accomplished something on your publishing journey and you are now an author.

Happiness.

Publishing can be bittersweet. It can be joyous. It’s almost always scary. It can be a lot of things. Just as a person has no control over how something makes them feel, an author also has no control over what happens next.

People will love your work and you’ll sell tons of copies…or people will not give a shit about it or hate it. Maybe it’ll just be “okay” to them.

The quality of your writing doesn’t matter often–a story either connects with readers or it doesn’t. An author truly has no control over the life of their book once it’s published.

You can run a brilliant marketing campaign, make promo appearances, run ads, network, network, network…only to have it all fall apart at the finish line.

It’s the nature of the beast.

This phenomenon is why I have a ritual I’ve been observing after every book I’ve published for the last couple of years. Even if nothing goes as planned after a book is released, there is one thing I can control.

I can celebrate achieving my goal.

Not to blow smoke up my own sphincter, but writing and publishing a book is an incredible feat. It takes hard work, discipline, creativity, nerves of steel, and a willingness to be torn to shreds by reviewers.

So, why not do something nice for yourself?

For a few years now, on the release day of a book, I treat myself to something. It’s rarely anything big–and is almost always food–but I do something to commemorate the accomplishment.

To give you all an idea of my “ritual,” here is what I did to mark the special day for a handful of my books:

WHEN WORDS GROW FANGS – I had a big Italian food dinner with my husband. Pasta, Caprese salad, and a big bowl of gelato. YUM!

SENDING LOVE LETTERS TO ANIMALS… – Lomo Saltado and Ramune while watching movies with my husband.

JACOB MICHAELS IS DEAD – We spent the day and night in the hospital for my husband’s (we weren’t married then, though) emergency appendectomy. I had to include this one because it’s funny.

BETWEEN ENZO & THE UNIVERSE – I went out to a big dinner and stayed up until the donut shops opened so I could have donuts fresh out of the fryer.

POSSIBLY TEXAS – I treated my husband and me to blueberry muffins and coffee from a shop instead of something we made at home.

None of these things were incredibly expensive or all that impressive to anyone else. However, they all have something to do with the book that was released. They had significance for me.

This ritual allowed me to control something about the book’s release and celebrate it. It’s a small ritual that means only something to me, but that’s what makes it so special.

If you’re a writer or an author, and you’re about to release a book, plan something special for yourself. Find some way that is affordable and meaningful to celebrate your accomplishment.

In life, though it may feel otherwise at times, we rarely are in control of much. However, we are in charge of how we celebrate our victories; how we commemorate the meaningful milestones in our journey.

And, if you’re like me, maybe take some pictures of the special event and save them. Make a scrapbook.

One day, you’ll look back, and even the difficult moments will be softened by the lens of time. And you’ll look back with warm feelings at what were truly some of the most meaningful moments of your life.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase