Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Secret of Eternal Youth

Yes, I’m seriously going to tell you what the secret of eternal youth is in this very post.

And, no, I don’t just mean the key to feeling young. Who cares about that? I’m talking about looking the same age for your entire adult life without resorting to plastic surgery.

First, however, a digressive writerly discussion. Because we all love those.

So, here it is. I recently forced myself to read a “grown-up” novel. It’s been, gosh, I don’t even know how long since I read something that did not fall into the category of YA. 

It was good to stretch ye olde grey matter a bit – which is not to knock young adult fiction at all -- it’s just that I realized how important it is not to read too much of one kind of thing. After all, isn’t this the advice we get all the time? More importantly, isn’t this the advice we give to young people who aspire to be authors themselves one day?

If you want to write, you need to read. And read widely. Read everything. From cereal boxes to instruction manuals to translated Canadian poetry.

And why is it again that we recommend this to young people? Can anyone tell me?




Yes. You there in the third row. Why do we recommend that young people read widely?

Um, 'cuz we’re obviously big meanies who have no idea how much time and effort texting our friends takes up on a daily basis?

No! Of course not! (And please put the phone away now before I confiscate it.)

It's because we recognize that there’s so much wonderful stuff out there, and you never know when you’re going to find something that will a) really light up your imagination or b) change the way you think forever. And you never know what category or genre that book will come from.

As a writer for young people I now realize that the other benefit to engaging with new and challenging material is that it keeps you a little off-balance intellectually. And anything that helps you maintain a sense of wonder at all the many things you still don’t know puts you in the right frame of mind for writing books young people can relate to. If you want to feel like a newbie forever, it's pretty easy. Just read widely.

But perhaps you’re thinking, yeah, yeah, yeah. Enough with the metaphorically youthful business. Get to the part where you tell us how to LOOK young forever.

OK, I shall keep you waiting no more. The real secret of eternal youth is....

Full-face make-up. 

Like, you know, what Gene Simmons and those guys in KISS wear. You put that stuff on, no one knows how the heck old you are. Those KISS guys are now, like, what? 70 or something? I have no idea. Because they look exactly the same now as they did 30 years ago, and it’s all thanks to full-face make-up.

Of course, you had to have started wearing it when you were in your twenties. So, you know, admittedly that’s a problem if you’re already older than that now.

Sooooooo. Yeah.

Anyway, have you been consistently reading outside the genre you write? If so, what?