Linda Sue Park, the Newbery Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of so many wonderful books for young readers moderated a panel featuring four extraordinary authors: Elana K. Arnold, Brandy Colbert, Erin Estrada Kelly, and Carolyn Mackler.
We normally don't do a special blog post for the moderator, but Linda Sue is such a consistent source of insight and wisdom that we couldn't resist capturing what she said too.
The started by listing topics included in the books written by the authors on the panel:
Mental health problems. Body shaming. Racism. Bullying. Date rape. Unwanted pregnancy.
"These writers boldly go where parents fear to tread," Linda Sue said.
She told an anecdote about a librarian who gets many requests for sad books—there is an audience for heartbreak. It's worth keeping in mind as we write. For whatever reason, young readers often crave encountering pain on the page.
Linda asked the authors what the sources for the deeply sad scenes in their books were, which made me wonder what inspired the crushingly low moment in A Single Shard, which, if you haven't read it, is an extraordinary work. The panelists spoke about how real-life moments of heartbreak often informed their work, showing them how to find a way into darkness (that they could then leave behind).
She also asked how the authors responded to people who said their work was too dark. It's never teens who say this, apparently—it's adults. And the honesty of the books has served readers, the panelist said. They write to tell the authors this.
"Reading is the best place to practice life," Linda Sue said. This is what she thinks about resistant parents. "You don't want them to practice life?"