Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Child at Heart -- Eve

I think there are three fundamental reasons people choose to write for children. 1) They had wonderful childhoods, and strive to recapture the magic of that time (Me). 2) They truly love being around children (Robin). Or, 3) No matter how hard they try, they just can’t stomach the idea of making grown-up decisions and plans, and therefore, still think and act like a juvenile (Jay). Okay, that last one wasn’t fair, because it clearly describes me. Sorry, Jay! You’re way more of a grown-up than I am. Of course, one could argue that a fourth reason would be that some people suffer traumatic childhoods and therefore want to either cathartically process those memories, or escape them by creating make-believe childhoods through their books, a la J.M. Barrie, Hans Christian Andersen, and Margaret Wise Brown. But I guess that’s a whole 'nother post!

This past week I visited my parents back east, and although they’ve moved from the house in which I grew up (in So Cal), my bedroom in this new house looks and feels exactly the same as my old one. I love returning to my yellow and green flowered bedspread, my small, dark furniture filled with books I collected as a kid, and my closet of puzzles and games like Candyland, Operation, and Hungry Hungry Hippos. Whenever I visit, I spend hours sifting through the time capsule of memories that is my bedroom. Just sitting there in the space brings me back to elementary school (like the time K.K. and her evil crew of 5th grade cronies followed me around the playground accusing me of stuffing my bra), junior high (like the time I got busted for arguing with the principal over why it was unfair and ludicrous to ban wearing bandanas when his necktie clearly posed the same threat of being used as a strangulation weapon), and high school (like the time I got my heart broken by B.S. and subsequently cried for an entire year). Ahh, good times!

Despite those three traumas, I always loved school. I know people generally look back at high school and recount the bullying and the wicked hierarchical caste system of adolescence, but I loved it so much that I actually miss it! Yes, I loved high school. There. I said it.

Somehow, I miraculously escaped my teen years without experiencing any angst. Of course, I was very involved in activities, had tons of friends, and was generally oblivious to the cliques or the gossip mill.

There are even times, like when I find old funny notes or sketches that my friends Maril and Kelly passed me in class, or I come across a prom picture of my wonderful senior year sweetheart and me, that I truly wish I could go back. It really was the best time of my life. I tell you what, if there was a magic potion I could drink that would take me back to high school forever, I’d hook up my beer bong and chug it right now. No joke!

- Eve


cynjay said...

I'm still stuck on the fact that your parents built an exact replica of your old bedroom in their new house. Maybe it's just me, but right after my senior year in high school, my mother moved to a two bedroom, got rid of everything that was mine, and I had to sleep on the sofabed when I came home for the holidays.

No old pile of momentos, no old bedspreads, no cute notes to sift through. My childhood memories have been distilled down into one small Rubbermaid box that has some old yearbooks and a teddy bear that I made in fourth grade.

Maybe I did have a traumatic childhood, but didn't realize it. Or maybe your mom and dad just love you more ;)

Jen said...

Eve, I'm right there with you. I, too, loved childhood and for the most part, high school. (I've also avoided a lot of typically grown-up decisions.)

Do you ever wonder if this is a disadvantage to your writing? So many YA and MG books are based on serious problems, traumas, and angst. Happy books with well-adjusted MCs seem pretty uncommon. So what do you write about?

Disco Mermaids said...

CJ, I think my parents are just as nostalgic as I am for the "good old days" so maybe they're hoping that if they keep my room the same, one day I'll come back and stay there forever. We have a very tight-knit family, obviously. I'm lucky, I know.

It's funny, Jen. I get asked that question A LOT. My MCs seem to always be happy, well-adjusted teens who have never had problems until page one of my books. Then I throw them into a strange situation that they have to navigate while trying to stay happy and well-adjusted. It seems to work for me!

BTW, Jen, your website and blog are so impressive! I'm envious of your world travels. :)


Anonymous said...

Dude, your "new" bedroom is not exactly the same as the old one. First, the bed is across from the window instead of under it. Second, Mom got new pillows to plump (though they look the same!). And, finally, there are pictures of your nephew in this bedroom. O.k., since those were the only differences I found, maybe it is a little weird. Hey, why didn't they make a replica of my bedroom? They even gave away my furniture. Lamy

Laini Taylor said...

Wow, Eve, sounds like a blessed highschool experience! You know MY highschool (F.V.) and I didn't love it. It wasn't golden, but it wasn't traumatic either. Maybe the murky dullness of my memories of those years are part of the reason I don't write mainstream/contemp. fiction -- I can barely remember my OWN high school years, let alone imagine what it's like now! Or, I just don't got there much in my imagination. I don't know. Interesting thought. For me, the magic years were middle school and upper elementary, when we lived overseas. I do toy with the idea of fictionalizing those years, but not too seriously. Maybe some day.

I also think it's awesome you still have a kid room at home. My parents moved so much over the years that is long past. I think I would love it though, if such a room existed!

Oh, and [long comment!] I've blogged before about happy childhoods and how so many writers keep them a kind of shameful secret, like writers are supposed to be forged by misery. I took a writing workshop with Anne Lamott and when she asked the class to raise their hands if they had a happy childhood, I was the ONLY one that did!!!

Lisa S. said...

I loved high school too. I loved the fact that the only goal most of the time was to have fun. And boy did we have FUN!

Disco Mermaids said...

High school sucked.

Maybe it was because I grew an inch every minute and couldn't buy enough pants to keep up with my quickly lenthening legs, and I couldn't date anyone in my grade because the only guy taller than me was Hottie McHottie Eddie Moore and he was only dating adorable, petite girls who wore pants that actually fit. The jerk. Not that I'm bitter.

(Excuse me while I go burn my yearbook.)


Disco Mermaids said...

Ha! Robin, you kill me.

Yay, Lisa S. for admitting to loving high school too!

And, Laini, we've discussed this before, but what is up with American teenagers having negative adolescent experiences? Maybe kids are nicer to each other in other countries. I think we're the only country with a serious bully/clique problem. Don't quote me on that. Just my observation.


Stephanie Roth said...

I went out to dinner with some writers about 2 months ago (at the LA conference) and one of them said that she has a voice that she writes from that is her favorite age from when she was a kid. We went around the table and gave our age that we create from. Not one person had a moment of hesitation in answering- not one. Mine is age 6.

Anonymous said...

Hi Eve. I loved seeing you a few weeks back at the local conference. You looked like a teen standing in the classroom and so did Robin. How do you two do it? I loved what Steph said about the age of our inner child. Somedays I'm 3, somedays I'm 12, somedays I'm that awkward miserable age of 15,sporting that oopsy haircut with those one-inch bangs. But guess what, I'm never, not ever, my chronicle age. My mom can't figure out how I just never grow up. Maybe that's why she's still trying to raise me. Of course she's 87 and I'm 60.
I hope all our inner kids never grow up. Sorry Mom's everywhere.

Cynthia Bates

See you tomorrow at Val's workshop.

Natalie said...

Hi Eve,

What an interesting discussion this has sparked! I've been thinking about your question about American teens vs. teens from other countries. Here in Italy, kids don't have lunch at school--they get out of school at 1:00 each day (including Saturdays), so they have lunch at home. And their parents are home, as well, since all the shops close for lunch. I've noticed that there aren't many babysitters here and no child care centers...well, there are, they're called "grandparents," ;-)so kids don't come home to an empty house. Not having the whole school cafeteria scene cuts down on a lot of angst, imo...there's no "cool crowd" lunch table, no one sits alone, etc. And if you come home from school upset about something, there'll be someone home who will likely notice.

Also, there's a real emphasis in the U.S. on teens being "well-rounded," especially to get into college--it's not enough to have good grades, you have to volunteer to help puppies with cancer, be president of the chess club and play the tuba. Italian teens don't have afterschool clubs--they do have sports activities, but they're city-wide (it would sort of be like signing up for soccer at the local YMCA instead of at your high school). So there's another big missing chunk of high school football games, no cheerleaders, etc.

And if you can believe it, Italian teens don't even have a prom...instead, they usually have a class dinner at the end of the year where they invite their teachers!

One last point (sorry this is such a long post!)...the schools that kids attend isn't necessarily the ones that are closest to home. When teens enter high school, they choose a school according to what they want to study (Math and Science, Languages, etc.), so although you might know some people from your middle school, everyone pretty much starts fresh with a whole new crowd one they hit high school.

I'm not saying that Italian kids are never bullied, and I certainly see cliques hanging out on their motorscooters outside of coffee shops, but it's a whole different experience from what American teens experience. That said, I have to say that I did like high school, and can't imagine it without the football games, cafeteria, etc.

Thanks for bringing this topic up!

Disco Mermaids said...

Hi Cynthia and Stephanie! Generally, I'm 14 most of the time. I think my development was arrested there because I loved that age so much. Once I began driving, working, etc, adult responsibilities seemed to creep up too quickly.

And,! Such great information. It's so fascinating that Italian schools don't revolve around sports and social activities the way ours do. In my high school (and college) sports were so important that great athletes could get away with murder (okay, not murder, but close!) because they were considered so important to the identity of the school.

Then, of course, most cliques spawn from sports, clubs, student government, etc. Then the whole pressure to be "well-rounded" complicates the angst and adds to competition among teens. I don't know what it is, but the teens I know from other countries (Europe mainly) don't seem to go through the same "too cool" phase that American teens do. Maybe the Italians have it all figured out!


Greg said...

Now, in regards to the game Operation, for some reason I always went for the Wrenched Funny Bone first. Seems kind of prophetic...


Jen said...

I'm impressed and flattered, Eve, that you got all the way to my *other* blog. And I'll be impressed if you find this comment--ha! Unless you have Blogger set to send you emails when someone comments.