Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Grateful Author Story #6: Stranded on a Panel

From author and artist Jennifer Macaire, who lives in France:

Here's why I'll always be grateful to Marianne Mancusi and Cheyenne McCray.

I showed up at my first Romantic Times convention full of anticipation. After all, they were spotlighting young adult books and had chosen my book, SECRET OF SHABAZ, which was launching a YA line at Medallion Press, to put on the cover of RT magazine.

I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to meet readers. I was chosen to be on a panel for YA writers. Since this was, after all, Romantic Times, the subject we were debating was, "How much sex is too much sex in a YA book?" I sent in my application for the panel and was accepted. There were to be five of us on it, including the moderator.

I flew to St. Louis from Paris. My luggage actually arrived with me--an auspicious start, I thought. The panel was the next day. I was thrilled. There were so many people! And the panels were chock-full of famous authors!

I arrived early and sat through a first YA panel, with an editor and four authors. The panel host hadn't shown up, so I volunteered to ask questions for them. There was a nice crowd and the half-hour passed quickly. The panelists left.

Then it was my turn. I had been anxiously scanning the crowd looking for my fellow panelists. I took my place behind the huge table. And waited. No one joined me. I stood up and asked, "Is anyone from the second panel here?" Silence. Some people got up and left the room. I started to panic.

Marianne Manacusi must have seen the panic on my face. She jumped up and said, "I'll sit in on this panel too!" And Cheyenne McCray, who had just been about to leave, said, "I'll be the monitor and ask questions for you." Thank you, Chey, and thank you, Marianne!

And to answer your question: "How much sex is too much for a YA novel?"

Well, I asked my mother, who has taught English all her life. She said, "If you can imagine yourself reading the scene aloud for an 11th-grade class and not feeling that it is innapropriate, then it's all right. If it's making you squirm, then you know it's too much sex for a YA novel."

Thanks, Mom!

[I disagree, but unlike Jennifer's mother, I'm not teaching young men--many of them sex offenders--in a maximum-security juvenile prison. Context is everything.]

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