Friday, October 4, 2013

Real Teen Answers

Two weeks ago you asked the questions. And there were a LOT of great questions! Here's what our teens had to say in response… 

Has there been a school assignment that you enjoyed a lot, to the point that it stopped feeling like work? What was it?

LYNSAY: I think I've enjoyed assignments related to writing about myself or my family.  I've also done this really cool writing assignment where my English teacher told us the shell of a story, for example, she would say, "You're walking through a forest, describe the forest," and we had to fill in the blanks.  I've also done writing assignments like that that were supposed to tell you about yourself based on what you wrote.  I really enjoyed those because I feel like writing gets so strictly non-fiction after a certain age, and I miss creative writing, but I also really enjoy writing in general, so that's a personal thing for me.

RANDI: Well it wasn't so much an assignment as GETTING TO STUDY STAR WARS FOR A GRADE!!!!! I aced the lit test, needless to say. 

LISSA: Rarely does school work every feel like anything but school work - and often completely UNNECESSARY school work, but that's a story for another time. Um, I guess one project that was relatively enjoyable to work on was when I got the chance to write an essay - lol yes, an essay - on an impactful moment in Canadian history. I enjoy research projects, so it was actually a lot of fun for me to dive in biographies and journalism to finish the project. 

LEXIE: The only ones that really come to mind at the moment are a bit of a cheat--assignments I've had for creative writing classes.  Maybe I'd have a different perspective on assignments and school work in general if I was a wee bit less busy, but as is, there aren't many that I particularly enjoy.

GRACIE: Well, basically anything to do with creative writing, or creative stuff. Like I had to make a collage once, that was pretty fun. Easy, artsy assignments never felt like too much work to me. 

RIV: I wrote a couple of essays for a lit class last year that were kind of tolerable at certain points... But that happens pretty rarely. 

Who's your favorite teacher or class so far, and why?

RIV: Um. Lunchtime?

LEXIE: My favorite teacher (and class, for that matter) at the moment is my AP World History teacher.  He's really fantastic, because though he makes you work--and work a lot, at that--he makes you think, he makes you understand, and if you come out of a single one of his classes not having learned something new you were clearly not paying attention.  He's also just a very funny, exciting, intelligent person, and I love being in class with him. 

RANDI: Band. My band director is probably a wizard. 

LYNSAY: I tend to like really specific classes.  Since I've been in college, I've taken Human Interaction in the Galapagos Islands and a class that was on Journalism related to the Titanic, and I really enjoyed both of those; they were so interesting.  I also took a Gothic Literature class because I liked all the books, and they were things I probably wouldn't have found to read on my own. 

GRACIE: Probably English, although I'm also taking French which I really like. 

SKY: My favorite class is AP Human Geography and the teacher happens to be my favorite as well. Since it is an AP class is goes at a faster pace like college. I didn't even know what Human Geo was before (still really don't know now!) but it seems better than World History. Its really interesting because we learn general stuff like resource issues but connect it to present day things like the nuclear power plant in Japan and oil in Saudi Arabia. The teacher is very interesting because he is so laid back but has a way of making you remember the information. 

LISSA: I only really have 2 classes this semester as co-op takes up the space of my other two courses, but I do quite enjoy Law. I've always been interested in how people solidify the line between right and wrong, and the course I'm taking currently explores how the law can bring both justice and complications to the table. As a side note, I do like my teacher a lot - he always brings up questions that make me think, and actually sticks to the traditional teaching methods of note-taking, which I find refreshing and way more fun than activities. 

Do you like, or would you be interested in reading, books focused around a holiday (e.g., Christmas, Halloween, Passover)?

LEXIE:  I certainly wouldn't be opposed to them. I mean, it's not something I'm looking for, per se., but if I liked the characters and the plot, I'm sure I'd enjoy it. 

LISSA: I'm not really into holiday books, no, although I do like when books focus on a certain season because it makes the setting easier to visual and actually seems to set a theme for the novel - think BITTERSWEET by Sarah Ockler. 

GRACIE: Yes! Books about holidays are fine, and people always talk about "summer reads" or "winter reads" but I read stuff about different seasons/holidays throughout the year, as long as they're good books.

RANDI: Absolutely! I always read Phantom of the Opera around Halloween, but it'd be cool to see other books for different holidays. 

LYNSAY: I am a huge fan of seasonal books.  I like the Sweet Seasons Novels by Debbie Viguié.  I especially like Christmas novels.  One of my favorites is Ex-mas by Kate Brian. 

RIV: It depends. Is it about the holiday? Is it just the holiday season? Will the author get the traditions right? Will they just end up being super offensive to the religious groups in question? (I just finished Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, which is centered around Christmas time, and it was a really great setting.) 

Do you like it when there's supplemental material included with an e-book, such as deleted scenes, alternate endings, maps, recipes, and interviews? What kinds of extras do you like or want most? Would you like to see extras included with more print books?

RANDI: I've actually always gotten my best recipes out of the backs of ebooks. I love extras. I'd love to see authors casting actors to their characters. As a total movie buff, that kind of thing interests me. 

LISSA: I honestly could care less, although if I'm reading a fantasy novel, I really appreciate maps at the back of the book. The author interviews are interesting, and if a pivotal or funny "deleted scene" were to be involved, I'd probably read it. 

LEXIE:  I can't really give an opinion on the e-books, since I don't use an e-reader, but I'd certainly enjoy it if there were more of those in print books.  I like essentially all the ones listed except for alternate endings; I'm just not a fan, because it messes with my perception of what actually occurred.  The rest, though, I'd love to see included.

GRACIE: Yes, especially when they're after the book, because when you first finish a book you always want more. I especially like interviews talking about how the author came up with certain things in the story or their thoughts on certain issues brought up in the story. In the back of the Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson there's a really interesting interview with her about the development of the MC Elisa's character. 

LYNSAY If I really like a book, the more content the better. I usually like a preview of the next book if it's a series, a note from the author, or an alternate ending sounds really cool too, e-edition or print.

Do you feel a book should still be classified as YA if the main character(s) age over the story, like from 13 to 18 or 14 to 20? Do you mind a character aging over the course of the story, so long as s/he remains a young adult? 

LEXIE: I don't mind them aging, period.  I certainly don't think a novel should be excluded from the YA section simply because its character crosses the tentative age bracket at some point in the novel.  If it's a YA novel with YA themes, that's what it should be classified as. 

RIV: It's mostly important that it's done right. But I'm not usually going to pick up a story about 13-year-olds (or 20-year-olds, for that matter). 

LISSA: I don't really mind this, as long as the book is targetable towards young adults. For example, if you're going to call the first 2 Percy Jackson books YA, I truly think you've made a mistake in that classification.

RANDI: That's cool with me. Age rarely factors on whether or not  I read a story, which is probably why I read a lot of adult books too. 

GRACIE: Yes. I don't mind if characters age, how much or little depends on how effective it is for the story. But yes, the character I think should stay a young adult for the genre to be YA. Once you get into adult experiences, you lose teenagers' interest. 

SKY: Yes, it still should be classified as YA. I think a character aging over the story creates a whole new interesting aspect of changing views of life and love etc. They should remain the age of young adulthood or the book would venture into other topics not appropriate for the age group most likely reading it. 

LYNSAY I think it's fine to classify something like that as YA still.  I think the classification is more dependent on the content than the age. I mean real young adults grow up too, and it might appeal to more ages.

Do you prefer longer or shorter books? Does length or brevity preference depend on genre for you, like shorter contemporaries but longer fantasies? I've heard rather contradictory complaints about books both being too long and too short these days, along with many people who claim that most teens aren't interested in long books anymore.

LISSA: It just depends on the genre. For fantasy or historical fiction novels, I LOVE LENGTHY STORIES because more pages (generally) help me get more involved in the world. I dislike paranormal books that take over 400 pages to get the point across, mainly because by that point, I'm starting to care less about the world and the evil guy/forbidden love thing just gets old. For contemps, it really just depends on the story. 

SKY: I don't believe the length of the book matters. I'm a teen who has read Twilight and Harry Potter which was long and other shorter books like The Pearl (John Steinbeck) and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I would love to read a long contemporary but some genres, like fantasy, seem better equip to longer story lines. Its harder to write a long contemporary in my opinion since they are realistic and things don't last long. Just as it is harder to write a contemporary series. Most series I noticed are dystopian, fantasy etc, and feature 300-400 page books. I think its the writing and story that matters not the length. As long as I have an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution, I'm good. 

LEXIE: To be honest, I can't give a definitive opinion on  this, because for me, it really operates on a book-by-book basis.  I like when books are as long as they need be to tell the story they're meant to tell.  If that means they have to be 700-page epics, so be it.  If they only require 200 pages, awesome, that works too.  I just dislike if a plot feels needlessly extended or cut short.

GRACIE: I think this question has been asked before... but it's a good one. The length always depends on the book. Some books work really well long, others really well short. 

RANDI: Okay, the thing is, I've read Les Miserables (like the whole thing) and really enjoyed, but I also enjoy really short books and such too. If the book is good and has great characters and story, I'll read it. 

RIV:  It doesn't make a difference to me, as long as the book manages to stay interesting and keep my focus throughout. I know that agents, for example, are usually wary of longer contemporaries or shorter fantasies. I imagine that's because of the amount of world-building involved. I'm not usually going to avoid a book because of length (unless it's a tome worthy of JK Rowling or Christopher Paolini.) 

LYNSAY: Everyone has their preferences, but I think the real answer is going to depend less on the person and more on the book.  If something is good enough and has enough action or details or background story to keep going into a longer book, then that's what it needs to do, but I've read some stories that were short but still very complete and had enough of what they needed without adding anything else.   

What do you think of books where the first-person narrator's name is never given?

RIV: Is the narrator the main character? Because if I don't have a name I'll go crazy. Otherwise? I don't know, it depends how intrusive the narrator is in the story. I think that if the narrator is enough of a character to need a name, they should be named.

LYNSAY: I would be interested to see what the reason for that would be because it sounds like it could be a cool story.  I mean I don't think that would bother me or anything. 

LEXIE: Hard to pull off well, but very intriguing if done correctly. 

GRACIE: Not a huge fan. I'm sure it's been done brilliantly and effectively, but I think it makes it harder for the reader to get to know the narrator/MC without a name.
SKY: I think that is very interesting! It's like when you have no description of the characters' appearance; you get to make up your own vision in your mind. Same thing goes for the characters' name, you get to name them in your head based on plot and personality. 

RANDI: I'm alright with that. Especially if it works within the context of the material. 

LISSA: Hate it. Stop being mysterious and just give me the name. This ploy is as old as time and I hate it.

What would you do if you were me: a 13-year-old with an unexpected amount of business that has nothing to do with school? My mom thinks I might be starting to overwork myself online (I have a lot of writing gigs), but I don't want to cut any of it out! Other things that are consuming my time (but I can't cut) is school, violin lessons/practicing, and Tae Kwon Do. So . . . help?

RIV: Everything is about scheduling, moderation, and self-control. If you can get those three to work in tandem, you can balance quite a lot. 

LISSA: If you don't want to cut anything out, then you need to make a strict schedule so that you can accomplish everything and still have time for the necessities. Don't procrastinate on things, don't spend the time you've allocated towards a specific task to listening music/eating/watching TV - you say you're multitasking and you're really not, simply wasting time. Also, you need a break, hon; you've got plenty of time to get writing gigs and you'll burn out before you get anywhere! Go hang out with your friends and make memories! You don't want to work your youth away, because it's really the only time you'll have hours to spare!  

LEXIE: There isn't an easy answer to this, quite frankly.  There isn't a magical solution.  You just have to learn how to manage your time.  It's tough, but it's something you have to develop eventually (and don't worry, you'll get loads of practice once you hit high school).  If you find  yourself lagging in school, or lessons, or Tae Kwon Do because of the writing gigs and you can't manage to turn things around, you might have to consider lessening your load, however loathe you may be to do so.  

SKY: Well first of all you have to put school, violin and Tae Kwon Do first since those are your priorities. The best way to do everything to do everything is plan and manage your time correctly. I would try to save all online stuff for weekends and after school after all other work is done. Try getting as much school work done during study hall (If you're a freshman) or whenever you have free time during school. As for tae kwon do that's a bit harder, but since you have to fit it in, try taking a class immediately after school. I find practicing instruments very soothing so if you want you can do it after online stuff during the week, right before bedtime (which should be the same time everyday!). 
GRACIE: My advice? Maybe cut back a bit on the writing gigs. You're 13, take time to be young, you can worry about having jobs later. Have fun with your writing and maybe do stuff every so often but don't overwork or pressure yourself into doing lots to prove yourself! Seriously, it's fun just to mess around with your writing without having to be serious and business-y about it. The business part of writing can come later, there's no rush. Best of luck! :) 

LYNSAY Well in my opinion, school comes first, so if your grades are being affected, you should probably cut back.  On another note, I also think spending time with your friends and hanging out is important too.  I know the feeling when your life gets so filled up, and you feel like you can't take any time for yourself, but sometimes you just need to do nothing or watch a movie or go to bed early.  I would just say manage your time and don't be afraid to cut something out.  I know it seems like you don't want to lose anything, but you don't want to miss out on the other things life has to offer either or affect your health due to stress or lack of sleep.

RANDI: Never feel bad about pulling out of an online community, and remember that a lot of people really don't mind you taking a short hiatus to focus on other things. The online community, while sometimes harsh, can also be forgiving at times. Hope everything works out! 

Great answers, right?! Thanks to all our teens for their insightful answers and to you for all the awesome questions! I'll be back in a few weeks with a call for first pages! Stay tuned!




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