Saturday, November 9, 2013

YA Age

Age- My first Author Blog

Several others at my publishing house have suggested that I start blogging about being a writer- particularly a writer who is also a high school teacher.  Since I have taken my new job as a full-time high school drama teacher, one thing I've been noticing a lot of is the difference between physical and emotional ages.

As a drama teacher, I undoubtedly see more "drama" (the bad kind) than many academic teachers.  I ask kids to constantly push their boundaries, and sometimes this results in me seeing sides to them I wouldn't necessarily choose to see.  While any dedicated teacher will acknowledge that there is a certain level of counseling, as well as a certain level of parenting, involved with teaching- something about being in a windowless building for over ten hours a day, five days a week, with several of my more dedicated students, brings their "ages" into a very sharp focus.

I saw a play Friday that featured a 13-year-old character unwittingly seeing a photo of lynching victims and not knowing what they were.  Even after looking them up on the internet, she had no clue what the pictures were in reference to.  To me, this was an unbelievable act.  Kids are smart.  Even my less-than stellar students, who struggle with some basic knowledge,are able to find information on the internet in minutes, and analyze and understand almost anything thrown at them.  What kids really lack, in many instances, is not knowledge, but emotional maturity.

I have one senior who is incredibly mature.  She is able to complete any task I give her, and then on her own come up with literally dozens more to do.  She is a natural leader and manages others well.  I was shocked to learn that she is only 16 years old.  On the other hand, I have 18-year-olds who have less maturity than the middle schoolers I use to teach.  Three of my senior girls, each 18 years old, had successive meltdowns, one meltdown a week, earlier this year.  These meltdowns were triggered by things such as claiming to have too much homework.  Without emotional maturity, little issues get blown into crises of phenomenal size, and there is no avoiding the snowball of a crisis once it's begun.  Girls tend to be more visibly mature or immature, whereas boys tend to act less mature than they are to attract girls' attention.  Ironically, the more attention sought in high school, the less mature the behavior

I am not a psychologist or even a counselor.  Yet as an author and observer, I feel it is important to think about the emotional age of a character.  My protagonist is 13.  She is smart, but as the novel progresses, her emotional maturity is constantly tested, and as a result she "ages" quickly.  I wrote my novel before teaching full-time, and as I have been working I've been thinking more about Suzie (my protagonist).  Are her actions believable?  Although physically 13, what is her "emotional age"?  These are questions I continue to ponder throughout the editing phase.  


  1. Great debut "author post!" As a mother of three boys, ages 10 - 13, I totally get what you mean about the difference between physical and emotional maturity. My two older boys both look older than they are and (for the most part!) act quite mature. But, inside, they're still my little boys. :)
    Best of luck with your upcoming release!

  2. If your writing skills are half as good as your observation skills, your book is going to be terrific. Welcome to the world of published authors and MuseItUp Publishing!!

  3. The play you saw is a great example of writers not doing their homework, and outsiders looking in. I'm eager to read your posts for their authentic glimpse into the teen experience.
    Thanks and good luck!
    p.s. From my experience, emotional maturity varies greatly by culture. Even within the same culture, children who hold more responsibilities than their peers are usually more mature.

    1. I agree that culture often plays a significant role. Many of my immigrant students have much higher levels of maturity, often because they've had to deal with moving countries, learning languages, and in many cases taking on responsibilities for their whole families. Oftentimes these are my most polite and hardworking students as well.

  4. Your observation about emotional and mental maturity really hit home with me. My debut novel, The Freedom Thief, was released by Muse on Nov.8. It is an historical adventure, and the MC is a boy of 13. The manuscript was rejected at first by the editors at Muse, and their main complaint was that my MC was too mature for 13, and he talked and acted mroe like an adult. But in the era of the 1800s, children grew up much faster than kids today. They took on responsibilities as adults when often they were only 10 or 11 years old, so it was only natural that their actions and dialogue were more mature. We finally got that point taken care of, and Muse accepted my story on the 2nd sub. The point is, emotional and mental maturity vaires in all children by experience and culture, even in today's world. Your observations are very keen, and right on. I wish you the very best with your book, and I'm sure it will be very successful! As a PS, I was also a teacher in my past life, only with university students. And even there, at ages 20 and up, there were many differences in their emotional and mental maturity.

  5. Hey, Christopher. In a former life, I too was a theatre arts teacher. What joys, challenges, and rewarding times they were. You are so correct about the maturity level. It varies with all of those things you mentioned. I got to see my first class from freshmen to graduation their senior year before moving on to an administration position in another district. One of freshman girls was amazingly mature. She took care of me. She'd say, "Mrs. West." With one eye brow raised, she'd peruse my desk."It's time to clean up." She'd pick up every scrap of paper and make me decide what to do with it. She went on to become a theatre arts teacher herself. I bet her desk is never messy. I sure could use her now. LOL
    Congrats on joining the MIU family. This is a very exciting time.
    Congrats on your first post. Nice. I have a friend who has a great blog and she shared some pointers about what a good blog should look like. Two things come to mind. Use pictures and make more white space (well, in your case black space.) I think you can find her if you google Jo-Ann Carson. The more white space is tough for me. I tend to be fairly wordy. I'm sure you're surprised. LOL The third thing is to pick a time and be regular with your posts. People begin to expect them.