Sunday, December 20, 2009

If Santa wrote YA

Santa Claus is a busy guy. Every December, he makes mounds of toys and delivers them on a tight schedule to children all over the world. It’s a multi-tasking feat that only the most dedicated (read: craziest) of people could pull off. And for a YA author, it's a required skill.

As writers, we, like Santa, are often trying to finish projects on deadline even as we are marketing previous work and thinking about the next book. Some of us still have “day jobs,” as well. So why do we do it? Because we love it. Writing is part of who we are, just as generosity is the essence of Santa Claus.

Which leads me into the issue of family and friends. Santa couldn’t pull off his amazing feats of festivity without an amazing “inner circle”. Mrs. Claus, surely, knows that sometimes Santa’s going to be too busy to hang out with her, and other times, he’s going to be so weary that he needs nothing more than a shoulder to lean on. But she’s okay with that, because she loves him, and she honors his work. Lucky Santa already has the sympathetic support system an author needs.

Santa’s got the perfect space for writing, too. He’s way up North, where door-to-door salespeople don’t bother to stop, and he can’t sneak off to the local coffee shop “for a couple of minutes”. He’s got breathtaking scenery for inspirational walks, but it never gets so warm outside that he ends up lazing the day away in the backyard by the pool. Instead, he can set himself up by a cozy fire, with a mug of homemade hot chocolate (‘cuz we all need a little sugar and caffeine to keep us going).

And it won’t be a problem if that mug of hot chocolate needs a cookie – or twelve – to dunk in it. As an author, working from home, stress-eating happens (in my case, at a rate of about .1 pounds per page). Especially if an editor is seeking many, many new chapters, ASAP. But Santa’s comfortable with his body image. He’ll be okay if his inspiration shows up on a plate (and around his middle) in the form of Peppermint Cocoa Marshmallow Perfection.

Santa’s not really one to seek the limelight anyway. Sure, he gets invited to a lot of parades and holiday parties, and he’s happy to go, but only because it makes his fans happy. He doesn’t do it for the personal accolades. Just as an author sends her work out into the world, hoping it speaks to someone, and stands on its own, so does Santa toil quietly, often in isolation, hoping his work makes people happy.

And boy – does he know how to make people happy! Santa makes the kind of happy that people remember for the rest of their lives. (A feat every author dreams of). How hard could it actually be for him, if he took up writing, to please his editor, publisher, audience and critics alike? He’s already been giving the perfect gifts to the pickiest of people for centuries. Santa knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good – so surely, he knows what adolescents would like to read.

Which, when it comes right down to it, is the ultimate reason Santa why should write YA. Nobody understands children the way Santa does. And as children become young adults, and begin to question everything around them – including the future, their own self worth and (gasp!) the very existence of the magic that is Santa Claus, they need quality literature. Santa makes us want to believe, even as we question. Great YA authors do it, too.