in dreams.

| Thursday, December 31, 2009
Mood music: Connect / Disconnect

I had a ridiculous dream the other night that I felt the need to transcribe, because sometimes I don't know where my brain goes when I'm unconscious. It's a bizarre and occasionally creeptown place, I know that for sure.

I'm walking through a great, dark city. A lot like, y'know, Dark City. My cat is walking with me. The buildings seem more like cutouts than brick and morter, but they're solid enough. Everything is steeped in grays, blues or blacks. Sinister, as though we're being watched.

The streets are deserted, but I'm on my guard. Something's coming. Without warning, a young man is in front of me, wide-eyed but not afraid. He's telling me to run, and I do, my cat on my heels as we bolt down alleys and deserted streets. The kid follows, and soon there is a thing chasing us - shapeless, dark and nameless. When our lungs start to burn, he turns and calls out a name to the black mass headed our way. The entire length of it changes, becoming something slow, soft, harmless and... pink. He changed his world by renaming it. He looks at me, and then he's gone.

The dream shifts, and I'm somewhere else. I'm reminded of Vatican City - all bright colors and skillfully built arches. I'm standing on a patch of green grass, my cat still by my side. As opposed to the deserted city, this place has people bustling everywhere. I begin to make my way off the grass, wanting to explore the plaza. My cat calls out a warning. I take it to mean "Don't go over there, Food Lady Mom!" Though it was in Cat, so it came out more like, "Mrowr meep mew mew meep MROWR!"

I'm confused over her reaction, and I keep walking. She turns and scampers off. Continuing into the plaza, I find I'm surrounded by women. They all stop dead in their tracks. They're dressed all in black. They pull out umbrellas, opening them in unison and slowly revolving into the air, a la Evil Mary Poppins. Well, I guess that depends on whether you consider regular old Mary Poppins to be evil. Then they'd just be like Mary Poppins.

AND THEN I WOKE UP. And kitty was sleeping next to my head. I'm thinking she osmosis'd into my brain.

This wasn't even a weird night for me. I really need to start keeping a dream journal. Some of this stuff might be worth remembering.

jabbering about books.

| Monday, December 28, 2009
Weirdest thing... I get into my car today with the intent of picking up foodstuffs for my lunch break, and Reel Big Fish is playing on the radio. 1.) I work in a podunk country-lovin' town and I could swear no one here listens to RBF, 2.) it's a non-station that fades in and out depending on where I am in town, and 3.) LOL Reel Big Fish, I haven't heard you since the 90's, whut. Why oh why did third-wave ska have to die. If only it had been followed by The Aquabats, my day would have been complete. Seriously, I actually checked the FM transmitter on my iPod to make sure I hadn't left it turned on by mistake. Nope.

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. I sure did, though coming back to several inches of snow on a 17-degree blustery night was rough after spending several days with palm trees and Killer Crab Claws in California.

I have yet to get back into my writing routine (New Year's Resolution: KNOCK IT OFF WITH THE SLACKING), but I have been reading quite a bit, which has been awesomesauce. I've been inhaling all the books I've been meaning to read for the past few years, and even picking up a few new ones. Most recently...

Leviathan, Scott Westerfield - Fun fun fun. Yay alternate history steampunk with giant whale ships (literally, ships that are whales) and crazy gadgets. Plus a pair of rad female characters that are each awesome and kick-ass in their own way without being all OMGLOL STEREOTYPES ARE HILARIOUS. I approve. The male characters were win on many levels as well, of course, but seriously Deryn/Dylan makes me super happy. Plus I am a total geek for sci-fi alternate history, so.

, Pam Bachorz - I enjoyed it. A believable male protagonist, an anti-utopia, rebelling against THE MAN (who also happens to be your dad), mind controlling music, and graffiti. I look forward to more by Ms. Bachorz.

If I Stay, Gayle Foreman - Holy crap, this book. Emotional rollercoaster central, right from the get-go. It's short, but packs such a punch. It takes a special kind of talent to make people care so deeply about characters in so little space.

The Hunger Games
& Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins - Really interesting premise in these. The protagonist has a voice that I really liked, though at times she can be really stand-offish and calculating. It comes off to me as a self-preservation thing (she can't care too much or it will tear her apart), but I know some readers view her as cold. I have a thing for dystopian/anti-utopian/alternate world novels, so I knew these were a good bet. The first was very action-packed and visceral, but I was less blown away by the second. A lot of the second book felt like I'd already done it before. It was still enjoyable, but admittedly I felt a little cheated. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to the next.

Wings, Aprilynne Pike - I will admit that I went into this one with some trepidation. Not sure why, but something put me off and made me think I wouldn't like it , but I ended up finding it pretty enjoyable. I liked her twist on faeries. The plot moved a little slowly for my liking, but it didn't drag too much, and the characters were pretty likable. Though I'm wary of the set-up for a love triangle, but we'll see how that goes.

Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr - Another that I was skeptical of but ended up liking okay. Maybe I'm just biased against faerie stories? I don't know. I am a sucker for tattoos, though. I really liked the theme of choice throughout the novel, because if there's one thing that does a story in for me, it's that pre-destined "we're just meant to beeeee" crap. Haaaaate. But Marr didn't go that way, and I give her massive credit for it.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak - This one has (obviously) been receiving accolades for a while, and I've been intending to read it for a long time. I'm 2/3 of the way through, and I can already tell that this is one that will stay with me. Zusak's prose is incredible - every passage is deliberate, every metaphor rich. The characters are real and rough and so very human. The narration is gripping. Everything totally wows me. This one is a must-read for every lover of literature.

Whew. I think I'll wrap up here for tonight :)

in which I ramble about stuff.

| Monday, December 21, 2009
Happy Holidays! Already had or to be had, I hope you enjoy(ed) them completely :)

I've been writing a whole mess of posts about my thoughts on writing, reading and literature, but I realize I haven't posted much about what I'm actually writing. Mainly because I haven't been writing much of anything - my current project is still 2/3 of the way through the first draft. I haven't had much time or (more importantly) motivation to write this month, which bums me out. I'm hoping that I can get out of my funk soon. I may have to force myself forward, but it'll happen eventually.

I honestly didn't expect to get into this project as much as I have, and I definitely didn't expect it to come together at all. I really thought it would be a bunch of mish-mashed gibberish, since I started it as a NaNo project. The seed of this story was planted sometime in August of this year, and I jotted a few notes and thought I'd make a short story out of it. In October when I decided I wanted to take a crack at NaNo again, I started taking more notes and brainstorming the general plot, and it turned into something more. Still, when I started typing on November 1st, I had no idea whether or not the entire idea would fall flat and end up in the practice heap.

I started out with a lot of over-description and blathering, being as sure as I was that I'd need the padding to make it to 50,000. However, as the story started taking off, I realized that I DIDN'T need the padding. The story was doing just fine on its own, which surprised me in a good way. My main character had an attitude I hadn't planned for her, the secondary characters came totally naturally, and the plot chugged along.

This was a real wake-up call, because I've had other ideas that I've been playing with, plotting and replotting out for years now, but this was the idea that actually flowed out with barely a hitch. This idea that dropped into my head one afternoon on my lunch break was the one I actually wrote, and it didn't suck. Not only that, but it made me turn a critical eye on a years-of-dedication story idea I have and realize... it's not that good. At the very least, it needs a MAJOR overhaul.

That hurt, because I love those characters. I CARE about those characters. But I couldn't write them. I've tried, but they wouldn't be coaxed out in the story I was going for. They didn't fit. I think I've just recently experienced "kill your darlings" firsthand. It sucks, but it's eye-opening as well.

My current project works because the characters fit effortlessly into the world I've made for them. I'm not trying to jam square pegs into round holes. It took me putting aside an old idea and starting something new and different to see it. Something I thought I wouldn't be invested in. I'm sure it's been said hundreds of times, but maybe being too invested in our characters hinders more than it helps. Maybe we need to let them go for a while until they wander back on their own, and in the meantime, let new characters in to do what they want to do.

And just in case anyone was curious: the current project is called The Tick-Tock Hearts, and it's Clara's story. Clara is a 16-year old girl in Victorian-era Chicago who is trying to make sense of her father's murder, support her grieving family, and delve deep into the mystery surrounding an underground group looking to achieve immortality. Lots of snooty aristocrats, the beginnings of jazz, pyrotechnics, and cybernetics. Like, duh.

broken families.

| Thursday, December 17, 2009
Hm, I like the theme music idea from my last post. I might make a habit of that from now on. Just pop 'er open in a new window while you read, and there ya go! The trick will be hoping there are enough videos out there to cover my very extensive and very wackadoodle musical tastes.

Oh, who am I kidding. Everything's on YouTube.

Today I wanted to wax on a bit about a topic that is close to me: broken and dysfunctional families. I'm the product of one, like so many millions before and after me. They appear fairly often in film and literature, and with good reason - they're pretty common. Stories in which the hero or heroine is dealing with dead/absent/oblivious/abusive family members speak to me. Not that I had absent or abusive parents - not at all - but there is a little glimmer of connection with characters that come from non-nuclear families.

I do hate the term "broken family." I get that it's referring to a family that's been (in theory) split apart, but what a pejorative term. Bleh. My parents may have divorced, and it may have been super hard and caused a lot of bad feelings all around, but we weren't broken people. True, our polished four-person family image was gone forever, but the sense of family didn't go away. It only changed, along with my perception of what "family" meant.

I admit that my own experience and perception of family largely colors how I read and write about families. I don't dislike stories where the parents are still together and actually get along, or the siblings aren't at each others' throats. I do find them more difficult to relate to, though. I never had a squeaky-clean everybody-gets-along kind of family. Nor did I have a horribly screwball family. We had our ups and downs, our struggles and falling outs, our tears and support. There were times I thought my family members did some messed up crap (still do, sometimes), but at the end of it all, we were good people and we loved each other. Not everyone can say the same.

I always enjoy books that play with the idea of family and make us question our perceptions. Why is an awful, abusive, cold person you happen to be blood-related to more "family" than someone that doesn't share your DNA, but truly loves and supports you? Are these bonds psychological, biological, societal, or all of the above? Can we break them? Why is it so difficult for us to sever ties with a toxic person when said toxic person is our mother, our brother, our cousin?

What gets me is the idea that any family that isn't comprised of one happily married couple with X number of biological children is an "atypical" family. Personally, I consider them all just families. Nothing normal about being a certain way or abnormal about being another, not when the variety is so myriad. Maybe this is why it seems like there are so many "unusual" family situations in fiction, when in reality they're no more unusual than the ideal. Family is what we make it, in life, fiction, or otherwise.

happiness writes white.

| Tuesday, December 15, 2009
First, some theme music.

There's an article that was floating around for a little while stating happy writers are crappy writers, which is a topic I always find interesting. It's not a new idea - the concept that "happiness writes white" (loosely speaking, happiness leaves a blank page while suffering/sadness brings great art) has been around for centuries. Here's another article from a few years back discussing this very topic in relation to great classical poets, composers and artists.

While I'm very hesitant to say that being a happy person automatically means you can't be a great artist, the idea does have some merit. The first article I posted states that a mild sad mood (mild, not severe) sharpens our critical thinking and makes us more persuasive writers. This seems to pertain more to persuasive essay-type writing, as opposed to fiction, but the stretch can be made. It's difficult to write a heartrending scene when we're feeling mega-chipper.

Suffering is a huge part of what shapes us. How could we know happiness if we did not suffer? Is happiness merely the absence of suffering? I don't think so. It's much like the general bad/good dichotomy - if there were no bad, the term "good" would be meaningless. It would just be. Perhaps it is so much more common to hear about suffering because everyone suffers in some way at some point in their existence. True, we put different values on suffering, (I've suffered so much more than X has!), but it's suffering nonetheless. We can all relate.

The beauty of fiction is that it's almost like acting - when writing a scene, we can place ourselves in the shoes of our character. We can create this immense obstacle for them to overcome, and then sit first-row to their emotional fallout. And there must be obstacles. That's what a story is, after all. You can't very well have a happy character wandering happily through their happy life where nothing ever comes up to challenge their happiness and expect the story to be interesting or relateable. So we give our characters obstacles, and stay with them every step of the way.

There is an almost romanticized image of the tortured, depressed, substance-abusing author/artist which I do feel has its faults and can be dangerous to us. I do not believe for one moment that artists must be self-destructive addicts in order to be great. However, there's no denying that people as a whole seem to value artists, at least in part, based on their suffering. What do we do when we hear about an author/musician who just sort of stumbled into their art and met little to no opposition along the way? We scoff. TSK, can you BELIEVE this person? They don't DESERVE what they have. This other person I know is SO MUCH BETTER than they are, and they've been struggling for YEARS to get published. They fought in a war. They lost a child. They stubbed their toe SUPER HARD the other day.

It's an interesting value judgment to make, I think. There is certainly an overwhelming sentiment that you will never appreciate something that came to you easily as much as you appreciate a difficult journey to your goal. That the true greats are the ones who lived tortured lives and died tragically and never knew the impact of their work. That sucks, frankly. I am all for creating beauty from tragedy, letting our pain bleed out onto the page as a sort of therapy, but heck if I'm going to abuse my body and psyche to obtain some abstract ideal of the tragic artist. No thank you.

Harnessing our emotions to make our writing gripping and complex is a great goal, and one I aim for. But I will not sacrifice my joys for my sorrows. They both shape my writing, not one alone. What use is trudging through the Swamps of Sadness if there's no Ivory Tower in the distance?

this old story.

| Sunday, December 13, 2009
The other day, I got to thinking about retellings of classic (or sometimes not-so-classic) stories. There are all sorts of them, with more coming out all the time - a reworking of a fairy tale, a new perspective on an old story, using a familiar plot in an unfamiliar way. I love retellings, though I think they can be abused. If we're not careful, they can seem an awful lot like a crutch, and if the story isn't fresh enough, we risk the reader becoming bored and thinking, "I know how this ends, I've read it a million times."

But, really, I'll be honest. I wanted to write about new twists on old stories because I wanted to post this clip from O Brother, Where Art Thou?. And this one. Aaaaaand this one. Because I love that movie super hard. In case you were unaware, it's a retelling of Homer's Odyssey, and a really fun and well-done one at that.

I'm especially fond of reading stories from the perspective of a party we never heard in the original tale - the evil step-mother from Snow White, the Wicked Witch of the West, the Big Bad Wolf. It's a relatively straightforward way to make the story fresh, and plays into the old adage "the truth is in the eye of the beholder." It makes the audience view the tale in a new light, and twists their mind around a little bit. I love that.

There does seem to be quite a bit of balance between infusing enough of the author's voice, new twists and story elements while maintaining the original "feel" of the story. If the story follows too closely to the original, that's when it starts to feel like a crutch. If the story is absolutely nothing like the tale it's supposedly based on, it seems like the author is banking on the familiarity of X story to get people to read theirs. I tend to cringe when I see stories referred to as a "modern day Romeo & Juliet" or what have you, only to read it and find a typical romance where they're married and happily-ever-after at the end. Having a disapproving daddy does not Romeo & Juliet make. I'M LOOKING AT YOU, TAYLOR SWIFT.

When story retellings are done well, they rock. When they're done poorly, they fall really, really flat. They even risk being yawn-worthy. We definitely don't want that! It's hard enough to write a new story, let alone writing an old one and trying to weave in a new element that will keep our audience interested. They must be treated with care.

Do you have a favorite old-story-made-new?

wordle wordle!

| Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Oh hey, Wordle of my NaNo project, right. It's not done yet, but here we go so far. Hoo boy, am I going to have to edit this thing like woah when I'm done. CLARA CLARA HEY DID I MENTION CLARA THIS BOOK IS ABOUT A GIRL NAMED CLARA. CLARA.

but that was my idea!

maybegenius has died.

Not really, but the past two months are making me feel that way, for sure. Gack.

I feel like my posts recently have been limited to heavy territory, so I thought today I'd lighten up a bit. I'm going to talk about ideas. Namely, feeling like you have no new ones.

I imagine I'm not the only one who gets overwhelmed when attempting to flesh out a new idea, or who has suffered punched-in-the-gut syndrome when they think of something TOTALLY COOL AND AMAZING only to find out someone else got there first. It's incredibly disheartening, and makes you feel like a hack. How original can we possibly be if another writer/screenwriter came up with it first? I know that inner monologue all too well.

"Oh wow, that dream I just had was incredible. That would make a great story! I could just add... no, that was in an episode of Doctor Who. But what about making the character into a... Gah, no, the Roswell High series did that years ago. I could make a distop- Wait, that's way too 1984. Maybe I could just make the city of Atlantis into an alien space hub! What? WHAT DO YOU MEAN THAT'S BEEN DONE ELEVENTY-BILLION TIMES?! Holy crap, is there a SINGLE original bone in my body? Okay, that was weird phrasing, but you know what I mean."

Are there any original stories left? That's a subject of wide debate. Some say that at the core of storytelling, there are only a finite number to tell. Five, six, eight... depends on the person you talk to. Boy loves girl. Girl goes on journey. Stranger comes to town. Royal outcast attempts to regain kingdom. People rebel against oppressive ruler/government. Et cetera.

I'm still not sure where I stand on the idea, but I think it has merit. If we distill our favorite stories down to their bare bones, we get love stories, journey stories, overcoming the obstacle stories, whatever stories. I don't think there are as few as six or whatever arbitrary number someone picks out of a hat, but we can strip them all down. What makes ours different?

Ideas. Ideas can be unique, or they can at least stray from the norm. Our ideas are what shape an old story into something just a little different - like refurbishing an antique dresser into something new in our own personal style. Maybe you'll paint it purple. Maybe I'll hollow the thing out and turn it into a bookshelf. Maybe Joe down the way will demolish it and light it on fire. Who knows.

We just need one. Even if it's one that seems to have been done a million times, maybe we can twist it it yet another new way. Maybe our idea is our voice, or our characters. They might shine through and breathe life into a story that people would otherwise find eyeroll-inducing.

If we sit around stewing and struggling to pluck a 100% brand spanking new story out of our brain, we're going to be sitting there forever. We have to work with what we've got - telling the stories we know in our own voice and with our own ideas. Sure, 8000 people before me have told a story about a girl who learns she's special and has to save the world. But that story speaks to me, and I'm going to want to write it again and again. One of these days, that story WILL be woven into something only I could tell.

Granted, that doesn't mean it'll be any good. Maybe it won't even be readable. But it will be mine. All we can ever hope for is that someone else likes our ideas. And if they don't... ces't la vie. Let's face it, there are thousands - HUNDREDS of thousands - of writers and filmmakers out there that we haven't even heard of who have already come up with ideas similar to our own. No one is as original as they think they are. What can we do? We can only keep writing, attempting to cut our own path.

boys can read about girls. it's okay.

| Saturday, December 5, 2009
I'm going to keep on keepin' on with my theme from Thursday, only this time, I hope to actually focus on the gender dynamic in YA lit.

I feel like I read a decent amount of YA literature. Not as much as I'd like to, being not only broke, but working super weird hours that take up the majority of my daytime. I'm not a romance/angst fan. I just can't get into stories that are romance-driven. That's not to say that I don't love books with a romantic element, I just tend to get bleary-eyed if it's the central plot point. Not my cup o'tea, as it were. As such, I tend to read more of the story-driven and character development sort of stories. With those, I'm all over the map.

What does that have to do with anything? It has to do with the idea that YA is largely focused on angst and romance. I don't really find that to be true. There's absolutely a chunk of the market dedicated to it, no doubt about that. But when I hear that pre-teen and teenage boys have "exhausted" the books in YA that are "suitable" to them, it makes me wonder. What am I missing here? I can walk into a bookstore and find any number of books at the YA and similar adult level that don't completely revolve around 1.) "girl stuff," hurr hurr, 2.) romance, or 3.) angst.

This makes me wonder if this is just a perception, and that boys (or worse... people assuming FOR boys) are skeptical of picking up YA because it's got an overwhelmingly female vibe. And it does - it is largely written by women, featuring female protagonists, and pitched toward girls/women. However, I'm still uncertain why this automatically seems to stretch to the idea that boys are uninterested in the stories. Reading books by male authors and featuring male protagonists doesn't deter girls, so why should the opposite deter boys? Why is there the assumption that they cannot connect with a more female-centric story?

My feminist spidey-sense is of course telling me that this is because our culture STILL lessens the feminine as unworthy of attention (note: just because it's less blatant now doesn't mean it no longer happens, and oftentimes it's totally unintentional). Maleness is viewed as interesting and important, while female stories tend to be lobbed more into the area of silly or vapid, even when they aren't. Of course, anyone who reads a lot knows this is goofy. Stories by and about boys can be silly and vapid, and female-centric stories can be powerful and moving. It's the insidious assumption that does it in.

Back to romance: I am in no way trying to lessen romance-centric stories. They are directed more toward the female sphere, and have an air of femaleness about them, and so perpetuate the assumption that males won't/can't enjoy them. They are centered more in emotion - that to which women are expected to aspire and men are expected to deny. This is also goofy. Romance involves males as much as females. But our culture pushes men toward viewing romance/emotion as something that weakens them, or something they must do only to woo a woman because that's "what women expect." Personal preference is one thing (like my own - I just don't prefer romance), but a blanket assumption is ridiculous. Yet it is the continued belief that men don't dig romance, and if they do, their manhood is questioned. Perhaps not by everyone, but especially in teen boys, the underlying pressure to "be a GUY" is there.

On top of this, there's the idea that certain topics aren't suitable to boys - pregnancy, rape, abusive relationships, etc. These topics are (duh) primarily focused around women, as women are the vast (and in the case of physical pregnancy, only) majority that are affected. I fail to see how this means that boys and men can't read and be moved by these topics. We read about the trials of others all the time - things we've never experienced and will never experience. Yet we relate; we are moved. I will (probably) never be a victim of genocide, or forced servitude, but I read stories about these topics. This idea that female issues are separate from male is harmful in general - these topics and others DO involve men. Indirectly or directly. We exist in the same world, and these issues are not something to be swept away and attributed fully to women.

To be less serious, even topics as common as puberty, the changing female body, dating, breaking up, being jilted by friends... these can be relateable to teenage boys. Instead, we perpetuate the idea that men and women are practically separate species, and that there's no way a male can "get" the female body and mind, so we don't try. No, a boy cannot understand what it's REALLY like to menstruate, but he can relate to feeling like an alien in his own body.

It never ceases to amaze me how few men really understand how the female cycle and menstruation works. It's something so deeply a part of our biology and existence, but they literally have no clue. They don't understand what "PMS" really means (it's just when a girl is acting like a super B, right? hurr hurr), or how sex can be physically painful for us during certain days of the month, or any of that. Of course the opposite is true - girls aren't really encouraged to understand the male body, either. Similar mistruths abound, and it all comes back to the idea that OMG the opposite sex is just WEIRD, okay?

Er, now that that's out of my system. I hope what I'm trying to get at is coming across, anyway. At the end of it, I'm not sure how to leap this hurdle - how to make it "okay" for boys to read more female-centric stories. Other than altering how society as a whole views gender, that is. I suppose I hope that if we know any young men that are struggling to find books to read, that we're not afraid to tell them it's okay to read a book about a pregnant girl, or a girl who breaks up with her boyfriend and moves to Ireland, or whatever. They might even like them.

boys and books.

| Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mmmk. I was of course reading Natalie Whipple's most recent entry, and I started commenting and had to cut my comment short because I got carried away >.>

I thought I'd continue here.

So. Boys and reading. MEN and reading. What's the deal? They supposedly stop doing it, that's what the deal is. Actually, it's not really a "supposedly..." statistics back it up. I'm way too lazy to use my Google-Fu to find you concrete data right now, but it's the truth. At my job, we print a yearly report of the school performance of boys and girls, and every year I look at the stats and I get a little wigged out. Early on in their education (ages 5-9, roughly) boys and girls perform at more or less the same level across the board. Math, English, everything. Around age 10, however, the boys start to decline in their English skills and the girls start to decline in math. BUT, the boys decline MORE in English than the girls do in math.

Hm. Hmmm. I do not for one second believe that kids start out performing on even ground, but then hit a wall where one gender is miraculously better at X subject than the other. No way. So what's going on? A combination of a dozen or more factors, I'm sure, but I'd put a shiny new nickel down on gender conformity and social pressure. As a woman, I'm sure I'm not alone in dealing with stereotypes when I was in school - everything from people being astounded that I was interested in (and good at!) science, to immediately hearing, "Oh, so you're going to be a teacher!" when I decided to major in English in college. And my male counterparts were hearing, "Dude, why are you in English? What are you going to DO?" Gosh, I dunno, contemplate my navel all day? Yeesh.

Back to boys and reading. Why do they stop? DO they really stop, or is it assumed they're no longer interested and/or they're pressured to no longer be interested? Lack of books, what? I have my theories, the first being yes, I do think that, to an extent, males in our society are pushed away from reading. Among other things. From a young age, boys are pushed toward the external, and girls are pushed toward the internal. It's not always blatant, but it is always there. Boys are "supposed" to like the physical - science, war games, sports, first-person shooters. Girls are "supposed" to like the domestic - playing with makeup, talking on the phone, dolls, quiet activities. Expanding on this, boys are encouraged to be good at concrete and physical subjects, and girls are directed toward the more contemplative and quiet. So, boys are supposed to excel in math, science, physical education. Girls are encouraged in art, English, languages.

Now, obviously there are boys and girls that break the mold - boys who make pottery, girls who love soccer. In fact, I'd go so far as to say MOST of us break the mold in one way or another. I was on the swim team, loved science class, and haaaaated playing dress-up. My youngest brother used to write. Poetry and everything; really clever stuff. Then he just... stopped. And I don't think it was because he woke up one day and found it too difficult or boring. I think it's because he, like so many other kids reaching their pre-teen years, met with opposition. I did, too. Before age 10, my outspoken answers and large vocabulary were applauded. Then we reached that age where some people were cool, and some weren't. My two best friends at the time let me know that if I didn't stop "talking like a dictionary" and learn to dumb myself down, no one would like me. Horrors!

My brother experienced something similar, I'm sure. Why write? Why read? That's something nerds and girls in the library do. He was supposed to skateboard and junk now (he couldn't, not for the life of him).

Ack, got sidetracked again. Right, reading. Reading is an internal, contemplative activity. You sit, you take in the words, you think about them. One of those activities that is so encouraged in girls - sit, be quiet, use your imagination. Boys don't get that. They get: go out, be with your friends, play something. Again, this isn't all-inclusive, this is just the general feel I get.

As for YA literature. It's no secret that it's largely written and read by females. It's marketed that way. However, I think the assumption that YA is all about angsty romance with female protagonists is a misconception. Yes, a lot of them are. But there are a lot of stories about friends, and adventure, and drug abuse, and murder, and intrigue, and even about just being a teen. Books that would surely speak to boys as much as they do to girls. Yet there's this overhanging idea that boys don't want to read books (period), or at least don't want to read books by women and featuring female protagonists. How awful is that? I know most women won't pause for a second before picking up a book with a male protagonist or written by a man, and there's no assumption that we won't be able to relate to it because the gender is not our own.

Is this really what boys feel? Or is this what people ASSUME they feel? If pre-teen and teenage boys do feel this way, WHY? What is with the lessening of the female? Boys and men are interesting enough to read about, but women aren't. Books featuring female protagonists must be centered around a romance, and they can't relate. Female authors probably don't write anything boys want to read. How much of this is reality, and how much imposed?

I've totally lost my train of thought now, so I'll have to come back to this another time. Bleh to late nights, I say. Bleh!

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