Maria Andreu, author of The Secret Side of Empty (July 2015), explores the meaning behind ‘#QuietYA’ and the motivations driving (surely) every writer. It’s such a pleasure to host this piece on my blog as part of the Quiet YA tour (is that the right word?), anyway I read this and was like ‘yep, this is one cool lady’.
The hashtag #QuietYA first came to my attention when someone tweeted the title of my book with it attached a few weeks back. Was my book quiet, I wondered? Full of stuff like a slow-speed chase, the fireworks of first love and a protagonist who finds a way to give voice to the secrets she thinks stain and define her, it’s not the first word I’d use to describe it.
I dug a little deeper and found I wasn’t the only one wondering what #QuietYA meant. Laurie Halse Anderson, the grand lady of beautiful YA prose (although the qualifier “YA” feels unnecessary in that sentence) also posted the question a few months ago. It was in the Twitter responses to her inquiry that I found the answer. #QuietYA is a term coined for books “that aren’t best sellers, award winners and/or adapted into movies and are only YA.” Under that definition, my book, THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY, does mostly qualify as #QuietYA. It has won a couple of smaller awards, but not the kind that get end-cap placement at chain stores or fancy gold stickers on the cover, (although I was humbled and honored to learn of the recognition it did get, so I’m in no way discounting it). But, in fact, it didn’t make best sellers’ lists or thrust its author into the limelight.
Does that matter?’
Here I am reminded of the old tree falling in the forest with nobody there to hear. Most every writer would be lying if she said that she gave no thought to whether her book finds readers. With truly no attachment to “success,” nearly all motivation to publish and promote a book is gone. If what we truly care about is just telling a great story, why go through the swamp of revisions, football-sized fields of rejection and the winds of a mercurial publishing business? Why not just sit around the fire pit and tell your kids your stories? Of course the act of writing something down assumes (or at least gives rise to the hope for) a reader. A book is a conversation you have through time with people you don’t know about what’s really in your heart.
And, yet, retaining sanity and productivity as a writer requires letting go of those hopes. Not permanently – impossible – and not just once, but over and over again, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly. You can’t write to the ghostly crowd, or even to the one true love you hope will come across your words one day. You must only give voice to a truth, then another, and another, until you have (you hope!) a story worth telling. And reading.
So, if a book falls in a forest of other books and it doesn’t make any best sellers’ lists, win any of the big awards or have Hollywood knocking at your door, is it a book that matters? The obvious answer for the author of what can be defined as a “quiet book,” is yes, of course. Although I’d be lying if hearing it for the first time didn’t feel a bit like being the plainer girl at the prom being told that she looks really nice and everyone is special in her own way while the girl with the bounciest, golden curls and the Neiman Marcus dress gets named prom queen. It was like knowing you weren’t the prettiest girl there but hoping no one had noticed, only to have someone come up and say that pretty isn’t everything.
But, of course, the thinking behind the #QuietYA hashtag is that it’s important to look beyond the surface of what seems to be doing well in YA to discover the books that may surprise you. The things that often catch our eye and put a book on our radar – flashy bookstore placement, big name blurbs – can sometimes have less to do with merit and more to do with marketing budget and connections. Which is not to say that books that get the attention don’t deserve it. (My heart swells with the beautiful words and stories we have available to us today). It’s only to say that they’re not the only ones.
And because we’re making big noise about ‘quiet’ YA, here’s the details of the giveaway (US only, soz). I’ve jumbled together a mosaic of the covers of the books up for grabs, just CLICK HERE to be sent through to the Rafflecopter page. Win! Win! Win!