Sunday, November 4, 2012

Writing For Teen Publications

My next stop on my virtual book tour is at Cindy Vine's blog . Here, I talk about my decision to become a writer of Young Adult Fiction. As Cindy points out, there are dozens of genres that writers can choose from, from mystery to self-help. But I've always felt at home writing for and about teens. I explain why in detail in my entry.

What's interesting is that my love of YA literature extended to my journalism career. My original dream was to write for Seventeen Magazine or Sassy. I adored these publications when I was a kid and respected how they had typical fashion and celebrity pages, but also had serious articles. Seventeen didn't talk down to their audience; they embraced teens and presented many intelligent pieces. As I've said before, the teen years fascinate me because they're such an exciting and turbulent time. However, as a very young adult, I think that my interest came more from the fact that these were the magazines that were currently influencing me.

Though to be fair, I liked their fun pieces, too. I still have an issue of Seventeen that's from July, 1991. I specifically remember where I got it -- at the lodge at Yellowstone National Park. It was raining so we stayed in before dinner and I picked up the magazine in the gift store. It had an article about Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder's upcoming nuptials (talk about being dated!). It also had a quiz, "How much of a daredevil is your guy?" Said quiz was hilarious! A sample question: "What's the most daring thing he's ever done? a) Jump 10 garbage cans with his motorcycle b) take out his parents' car -- without permission c) put tinfoil in the microwave to watch it burn." I took it over and over again, answering for all of my male friends (Sorry Greg and Scott -- neither of you was very daring!) and crushes, and saved the mag as evidence of that fun and memorable rainy day. Of course, 1991 Johnny Depp aced the quiz! My husband, Jon, adds that he actually did take his parents' car without permission and was "somewhat daring" in his youth.

Anyway, when I entered college a couple of years later, I decided that I wanted to write for a teen magazine. I even did a report on Seventeen for one of my journalism classes; we had to dissect a magazine and explain how it was laid out and what made it so successful. Having such a specific goal helped me land an internship at Binghamton's daily newspaper, The Press & Sun Bulletin. Most students who'd applied wanted to cover hard-hitting news -- local elections, police beats, etc. I requested a position with the Features and Lifestyle sections -- and I got it. So for two years, I did everything from review local musical acts to interview local celebrities, and had six sectional cover stories published. I also helped edit their "Teens In The Tier" column, which was a section written for and by teens. It was very similar to Newsday's "Kidsday" section which I wrote for when I was in school, so The Press took advantage of my experience. I learned so much from my time there and appreciate the fact that they treated their student reporters like real staff writers.

I continued to write for teen publications after I graduated from college. The summer between my senior year and my year of grad school, I worked for Scholastic. I'd always associated the company with books, but they actually had a very large educational magazine division and I was assigned a position with the teen magazine Scope. Basically, it was your typical teen magazine -- there were movie reviews, interviews with teen stars ... only each article had an eductional angle. For instance, I interviewed the actor Richard Lee Jackson, who then starred on Saved By The Bell: The New Class (fun fact: His brother, Jonathan Jackson, played GENERAL HOSPITAL's Lucky). When I wrote out the story, though, I had to leave out certain words and place them in a vocabulary bank at the bottom of the page. Readers then had to choose the appropriate word to fill into each blank. Other stories I wrote came with a question and answer section; some came with ideas for reading comprehension essays.

It may sound like a dull way to put together a teen magazine, but it was so much fun and my editor Denise was the best. She trusted me and let me do whatever I wanted. She knew that I was an avid reader so she had me review scores of YA books. I'd sit in Scholastic's surprisingly lush library all day, just reading and taking notes, and looking out the large windows at bustling SoHo. She was also open to some of my more out-there ideas. After we received a letter from a kid in juvie, I suggested that I write an article about life in a juvenile detention center. She was all for it and the kid who wrote to us was all set to be interviewed ... but unfortunately, the center didn't want to be involved in the story. I made dozens of calls and appealed to several juvie halls, but none would bite. Oh, well. I still thought it was great that Denise had so much faith in me.

Once I landed the job at Soap Opera Digest, I put my teen magazine dreams on hold and fully embraced the soap world. However, a few years ago, our parent company had us put out a second magazine for teens called Pixie. I was finally getting to write for a YA publication! I should've been ecstatic, right? Only at this point, I was in my mid-30s and wasn't too thrilled about putting together four pages on Justin Bieber's hair (Yes, this was a real article that I was assigned to write). As Pixie found its voice, though, my editor gave me more freedom to write things other than celebrity puff pieces -- and I turned to my Scholastic and Press experiences for ideas. I composed an instructional piece on making jewelry, ran a regular feature on new bands that were worth checking out and even reviewed YA books. I was all set to do a teen travel feature, but alas, lost my job before I could make that happen. But during that time, I found that I still had a passion for writing for a younger audience.

I no longer have the platforms that I did when I wrote for magazines, but am thrilled to be gaining a new audience on my own. More importantly, I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to follow my passion in two different forms.

Please read and review my Young Adult novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD

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