You SEND Me, Honest You Do
Posted November 19, 2010on:
A few weeks ago, Twitter sister Jeannie Moon, who works as a school librarian by day, asked me if I’d be interested in letting a few of her students have a go at my YA manuscript, SEND. I leaped at the opportunity to get feedback from my target audience and happily sent SEND (ha).
Jeannie arranged for several students and teachers to assemble in the school library Thursday after class. I took the day off and arrived shortly before two PM, hanging out in her office until the students arrived. I’d been too excited to sleep the night before and found it hard to sit still. When a student poked her head into Jeannie’s office and asked, “Oh, are you The Author?”, I lit up like a Broadway marquee.
My God, are there any more thrilling words? Okay, I suppose The Lottery Winner might be one. And the time Jeff Somers called me Genius was pretty cool, too. But this… well, nothing compares. I tingled for the rest of the afternoon.
In total, I met four students and two teachers who read or are reading SEND. And they didn’t just read, they highlighted and circled and underlined and flagged and wrote lengthy notes. But this exuberance and enthusiasm paled beside their intelligence. What a bright group of young people. I am beyond impressed.
One of my biggest concerns while writing SEND was whether I’d done enough to ensure Dan sounded like an eighteen-year-old guy and not his forty-five-year-old female creator. The group enjoyed Dan’s voice but dinged me in a few places where “Patty” spoke. “No guy uses the word bliss,” said the only boy on our panel. And the girls all said, “More cursing!” This thrilled me, as Dan, my MC, speaks almost entirely in F-bombs in my head but I’d sanitized this draft because I thought the language might be considered too offensive for my YA audience. One of the teachers suggested peppering my dialogue with a lot of “likes” for more realism. As our discussion progressed, everyone began counting how many times we used “like” in a sentence. I think the record was three in one sentence. The kids even recommended titles I should read for good examples of a strong male teen voice. I dutifully took copius notes.
The kids were extremely complimentary. I think they needed to warm up a bit to make sure I wasn’t going to burst into tears if they said something bad. Interestingly enough, the group was split on my use of chapter titles: the adults loved them, the kids HATED THEM. I’m not exaggerating. This was the note on the manuscript: “HATE THESE.” The same distribution occurred regarding my use of an Epilogue. They weren’t thrilled with the dual voice technique I use, either, but I think I may have sold them on it after our discussion. We even talked about changing a character’s name, and adding more “horror” and “angst.”
I love how honest the kids were with their feedback. They told me what scenes they adored, showed me what scenes created confusion and even the ones that I now know can come out.
But the bestest of the best part? When I heard this:
“I fell in love with Julie and Dan.”
“I want to set my daughter up with Dan.”
I am so proud of how SEND turned out and thanks to Jeannie, her students and teachers, I can now make it even better.