Saturday, March 08, 2008

Don't Forget to Write! -- Jay

This post, I hope, will give encouragement to other apprehensive writers out there to write as honestly as possible. As most of you know, Thirteen Reasons Why deals with some very serious issues that way too many teens deal with in real life. While I was writing it, I had to constantly ignore the inner-person I refer to as Insecure Jay.

I.J. knew there would be people who didn’t approve of the way certain issues were dealt with in the book…or that those issues were dealt with at all. As someone who tries really hard to avoid conflict and hates tense relationships, I.J. constantly considered watering down certain scenes to avoid such problems. But C&H (Confident & Honest) Jay knew that was the wrong way to go because he hates reading watered down scenes in other books. It always weakens the emotional truth of a story.

For some reason, I’ve recently found myself discussing this issue with other authors working on edgy teen novels. (By the way, I’ve decided “edgy” simply means “someone’s gonna disagree with what you have to say.”) I know I would've had a much easier time comforting Insecure Jay if I’d been able to hear what actual teens thought about some of my favorite edgy books.

So…here ya go!

I received permission from two teens who sent messages to my MySpace account to reprint their words on this blog. In exchange, I’m sending each of them a signed audiobook of Thirteen Reasons Why. These messages represent two types of people who seem to really be latching on to my book. I chose them because they arrived close in time to each other (two days apart) and…well…because I love the honesty in their voices. It probably took a lot of guts to write what they did, and I appreciate it.

(To maintain the integrity of these messages, I didn’t change a thing…other than deleting their names.)

Female; 16 years old
Hi there =) My name's (-----). I just wanted to let you know that Thirteen Reasons Why made a big impact on my life. For the past couple years I have actually been struggling with the thought of suicide, and everything you mentioned and portrayed were so accurate; the rumors, the boys, the drama, everything. And it makes me feel so much better knowing that someone understands. Hannah really reminds me of myself. When i read the poem that she wrote that was studied in her class, it really affected me because I wrote a poem very similar to that, prior to reading the book. It's almost eerie how much the book resembles my life. i just wanted to let you know that your book gave me hope. It made me realize that no matter how much you think no one is there, they might be the person you least expect. And i want to thank you for helping make a difference in my life =) I read it in one day. I couldn'y put it down. Please keep the novels coming =) I love your work. Take care, and thanks again.

Male; 19 years old
Dear Jay Asher, Yes your book was amazing and i bet you get that alot. From reading this book i have changed alot. I use to be someone that would be very mean and would be a dick to people. Since your book I have changed from listening to people and being more curtious. I know you have probley all ready thought about this but i think you should make a movie out of this book. Thank you for reading this and i hope to talk to later.

- Jay

22 comments:

Wild About Words said...

Jay,

Those letters are what it's all about. You've touched hearts. You've made a difference.
No matter what kind of accolades you receive, what kind of awards and recognition, it is letters like those that matter most.

Congrats,
Donna

Emily Marshall said...

What great, amazing comments. Congrats on writing such a book to touch so many lives, and especially when you kept having to deal with I.J.

Anonymous said...

Wow...after reading the book, I assumed that you'd get responses like the girl's...but I was most impressed with that boy's email. You are making changes in both directions.

very cool.

Emma G.

Colorado Writer said...

Hey Jay,
It's all about the fans. The kids. The peeps who read your words and are changed by them.

Also, you touch lives by just being you. (ie. I Want Mermaid Money contest)

You are the best, dude.

Stephanie

Lisa Marnell said...

Hi Jay,

Thank you for sharing those comments from teens. When I interviewed you, you mentioned you had received this type of feedback. It's a delight to read letters from actual teens.

Edgy, like yours, is brilliant and clearly extremely helpful to teens. But edgy, I have sadly seen, can mean SHOCK VALUE which, of course, teens/people can be drawn to. This ?literature? may not provide a teen with comfort/support/answers. It is all an interesting question. It makes my head spin the same way it used to when my older brother told me the universe is infinite and that Big Foot really exists.

BTW, we got terrific traffic when we posted your interview on our writer's group blog on Monday! In my post tomorrow I will link to this post of yours. It's all food for thought!

Okay, I gotta finish my summary for the SCBWI WIP grant I'm applying for since you inspired me.

Later,

Lisa

seaheidi said...

What wonderful letters--thanks for printing them and your readers for writing them.

Melissa Walker said...

Great letters, and fantastic advice for authors too. Thanks, Jay!

PS-Quite a few teens always mention your book when I ask them about their favorite recently read title.

Disco Mermaids said...

Truly, hearing from teens has been the most rewarding aspect of having a book published.

Every day, I receive a new jolt of inspiration from them. Thank you, MySpace!!!

- Jay

Therese said...

Hi Jay--Lisa at The Writers Group blog talked about this post today.

I write in an entirely different genre ("women's fiction") but in many ways your words here could be mine.

My new novel tackles some "edgy" subjects too. And like you, I'm hearing from readers whose outlooks have improved because of the book. It's incredibly humbling, and affirming.

Keep up the good work. :)

Brooke Taylor said...

Wow--teen readers are the best. As a teen, and now, I've always appreciated honesty. So I'm glad that C&H J stepped up.

Today I received my very first teen reader email and it was THE BEST part of becoming an author.

Natalie said...

Wow. Just...wow.

LindaBudz said...

Congrats, Jay. And thanks for the inspiration. That digging deep stuff is hard, but man, who wouldn't want to make a difference in a kid's life?

Angela said...

I think you hit the nail on the head about being honest and writing the true story instead of watering things down to please people. The best books come when a writer takes a risk to refine the story into what it is meant to be, rather than caving to the pressure of marketability, catering to a certain audience, avoiding taboos, etc.

Comments like these are the real reward, and what makes all the effort worthwhile. Congrats Jay--you deserve every success that comes your way!

Yee-Lum said...

Pfft. Watering down is for babies.

Which is why I'm extremely proud of you, Jay, for stepping up and refusing to let I.J. take over and mess up your book. Thirteen Reasons Why is really a book that strikes home, and the reason, I think, why so many people like it is that the emotions aren't fake or too soft. They're just like they are in our lives, gut-wrenching and heartbreaking and beautiful. It's all very real and all very true, and that's what makes an excellent book an excellent book.

And thank God you were honest, or the galley group over here wouldn't have a collective favorite book. We'd still be arguing about which one was the best. =]

Well done, C&H Jay!

Sunshine said...

Thirteen Reasons Why is a powerful book. And that's why I think it stands out the most from my own personal book collection. The wonderful thing about it is it's true for most of teenagers. Honestly I went through the same thing Hannah went through in High School. Jay you brought to life stories of teens who struggled with suicidal thoughts, and depression. I couldn't even thank you enough for writting Thirteen Reasons Why. You're one of my many inspirations and I look forward to more books to come.



ALways,
Cl0udN!ne

Sarah Beth Durst said...

Wow! So very cool!

~Mrs. Stu said...

Sometimes, Jay, when we choose to "touch" upon the "touchiest" subjects, we find that what we actually do is "touch" lives.

Bravo. :)

cynjay said...

I hope you showed IJ the emails and then kicked his butt to the curb.

I always refer to 13RW when I'm wondering why we do this and you've answered that question with this post. We should all be so lucky to connect with our audience.

Jen Robinson said...

That is so great, Jay! Great for you, to get this kind of feedback, and wonderful inspiration for other writers, too.

ChristineEldin said...

I'm over from Stephanie's blog.

I haven't read 13 Reasons yet, but it's definitely on my list.

Those letters literally gave me chills-in a good way. There's no higher compliment than to be called authentic. Nicely done.

FrecklesandDeb said...

Jay,
I've talked to several teens who have read 13 Reasons Why and have uttered similar emotional responses to the characters and events. While none of them has indicated that they were on the brink of suicide and the book saved them from going over, they have said that it helped them understand better how their actions could be misconstrued by others.

I'm so glad you listened to Confident & Honest Jay and wrote a book that touched so many teens. They need some guidance to compassion in this world that seems to constantly bombard them with slick media images telling them that it is okay to be mean to our fellow human beings.
Deb

elsha said...

Jay,
You've made a difference writing this book and well it made a difference in my life this book makes me feel closer to my aunt than ever before and these are pretty much the same things that happened in her life i love this book i just wish that on most days... Okay every day i want to learn and see why my aunt killed herself or ask her if there was any way to help but i relize now that she had a hard life and that she might have thought we hated her, but we didnt sometimes ya because she was always drunk just trying to ease the pain but no one and i mean no one can bring back or give back what her dad did and i mean no one when i say it, she was beat and raped and that might have been her problem but you know not much we could do, or so i thought... i really like this book i wish i had it at my house so i could read it whenever but i dont untill i search my little heart out till i do find it thank you for making this book thank you ALOT and i mean ALOT.
sincerely,
elsha stewart