Play Mad Dumb

It's not about the quality of the humor.

It's about the o-deee intention to play all the way to the o-zeee.

Ayo, so keep it mad dumb punchy with extra corn sauce. Facts. When you're young, there's no boundary between love, humor, flirtation, and physical pain. Just lift off, grab your gumption, and keep your elbows swinging. In every school hallway... love is a battlefield.


So, so tragic...

Our Species Needs Diverse Stories


diversityinya.tumblr.com

That's a great community and a great blog.

I sincerely believe that our species needs stories. I think we need to confront new paths, voices, settings, emotions, identities, possibilities, and thus new types of stories which can transform and transport our hearts. We need diversity for reflection and growth. Right?

And now for TWO random music videos...


(explicit lyrics below)



Meeting Authors/Signings, March 2013

Books of Wonder's fantastic MEGA-SUPER-MONSTER YA NO FOOLING FESTIVAL featured something like 45 authors.  Is there any other store in the USA that's this supportive of YA?  <3

I wish I had met them all.  It's exciting to meet authors and to get books personalized.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

If you've read my post re: Neil Gaiman in Feb, then you'll understand the chuckle I had returning to the same place to get this book signed by David Levithan:

Every Day by David Levithan


Music for Writing: Divergent & Convergent Creativity


I typically wake up around 4 AM.  I make coffee and put on headphones at my laptop.  The immediate goal is to fully absorb myself in the world of my characters.  This is a zen-like process, requiring me to let go of my worries and inner chatter.  I use background music.  Depending on my creative mode, I seek ambiance for either divergent or convergent creativity.

Cinematic Soundtracks for Divergent Creativity



Today's movies, TV shows, and video games are crafted with moody, melodic soundscapes that deserve more attention.  Some of it makes great background music for creative work.  The idea is to have stimulating instrumental music that doesn't capture your attention.  It's not there for your enjoyment.  It's for ambiance while you work, right?

Soundtracks range from dramatic scores to minimalist, acoustic sketches to pounding, post-industrial  landscapes.  When I'm in a "divergent" mindset, I'm not going to be bothered if a track's emotion and tempo doesn't align with what I'm working on.

Some example tracks with powerful mood and ambiance:

  • The Social Network by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Another Happy Day by Olafur Arnalds, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Jon Brion, Hero by Itzhak Perlman and Tan Dun, The Village by James Newton Howard, Kelebek by Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Syriana by Alexander Desplat, There Will Be Blood by Jonny Greenwood, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by Alberto Iglesias, Waltz with Bashir by Max Richter, Munich by John Williams, Hanna by Chemical Brothers, Gohatto by Ryuichi Sakamoto, The Fountain by Clint Mansel, Dark Void by Bear McCreary
In my writing playlists, I include a diverse range of music - not just movie soundtracks.  And I tend to cut any extremely dramatic orchestrations.

Ambiance for Focused, Convergent Creativity



Thunderstorms.  Waterfalls.  Ocean waves.  Jungles and rainforests.  For me, these soundscapes have nothing to do with "visualizing" myself within them.  It's entirely about a white-noise that perhaps triggers appropriate brain waves and relaxation.  Whatever is going on, it definitely helps me focus on the world of my characters.

Everybody is a little different.  I mostly rely on natural soundscapes, but other types of audio can work.

Less is more.


Examples to explore:
  • Dr Jeffrey Thomas (nature sounds), Sounds of Nature Relaxation
  • Music by Brian Eno, Harold Budd, Ruichi Sakamoto, Dustin O'Halloran, Phillip Glass, Michael Askill, Riley Lee, Erik Satie, Bill Evans, etc.
I suggest experimenting with routine sounds and longer tracks.  I would recommend avoiding "favorite songs" or anything with lyrics.  Don't try to "set a mood."  The music/audio is not there to be enjoyed, noticed, or visualized.  Aim for ambiance that helps to clear your head.  Calm soundscapes full of empty space that help you focus.  Right?

It's about getting absorbed into the characters and their world.  :)

I'm always eager to get music suggestions!

Books: The Human Connection

At a recent dinner party, I heard a compelling argument in the Ebook vs RealBook debates:  real books can connect humans (on subways).  People actually start conversations with strangers regarding books.  Covers add a layer of human play and interest to the fray of urban life.  And yesterday, this truth showed itself during my hours at Books of Wonder.

Neil Gaiman reading & book signing! 

Illustrator/Author duo of Chu's Day
The lines began.  The most considerate way to have used my waiting time?  Figuring out precisely what to say in 15 seconds about being inspired as teacher/writer, capped with a profound witticism.

Yes, I didn't do that.

Instead, I bought a copy of every day by David Levithan.

I read 35 pages as I shuffled in line.  The novel caused four spontaneous discussions with strangers.  Four.  Not only did this say volumes about this particular book/author, it reminded me (a Nook user) of the power of books to connect people.  And of the gravity of authors within an expanding universe.

A compelling YA novel (that stirs conversations with strangers)
Meanwhile, Neil Gaiman has very passionate fans.  The store was packed.  One older gent dressed up as Destiny from Sandman.  A toddler was dressed up as Chu (from Chu's Day).  Most fans had their picture taken with Neil (with several fan in tears of joy).  I suspect the lines continued late into the evening.  Neil himself seems a particularly down-to-earth guy, which made the spectacle rather warming for such a cold, rainy day in NYC.

Me?  My back & legs cramped, but I was enjoying my new book.  

The woman in front of me handed Neil and Adam Rex bottles of fine juice, which lifted spirits.  Then as I approached, the owner of Books of Wonder, Peter Glassman, initiated a conversation about the non-Neil book I was carrying: "That's a great book!"   So, I'm 10% blaming him for having nothing of import to offer Neil Gaiman when I stepped up.  I had no fine juice.  No personalized witticisms.

Only heavy admiration...

Sometimes words just suck.

As I watched him scribble "believe" in my book, I chuckled.  Someday I will buy him a fine beer, I promised myself.  Yes.  Authors matter.  Dead-tree-book-devices matter.

Whether they sleep inside dead trees, digital data, or our frayed neurons - stories, like the gods, need our warm blood & breath to live.  I think what matters most is whether they guide us to improve ourselves.  To be more human.

(this is not a YA text)
My rambling reflection is passive, cliche, & indulgent - yet embodied.  Sometimes words just suck...  :-)

(Re)Imagining Drones


(small drones such as these are available in many stores)

Awww... they are so adorable!  Right?

If somebody says "drone," our brains often leap to imagery of death-dealing monsters.  What else can we envision?  What do you imagine when you see a video like this:



A) FLYING DEATH-STARS OF TERROR & DYSTOPIAN SURVEILLANCE

or,

B) HOVERING BUDDIES THAT DO USEFUL THINGS & ENTERTAIN US

I suspect that this is a matter of mood & imagination...

Companies like Apple or Google aren't going to design a flying sphere just because it's cool, but I bet they have people trying to figure out ways a personal drone could improve our lives.  One guy already figured out how to use Siri voice control.  How long until it can order and then pickup my dinner?



This film festival is a significant attempt to intentionally push the public imagination, with drones being used as both a central subject and as a medium for story telling.  It shouldn't surprise us to see humanizing themes.  Enjoy.


"Samuel Eros Cupido" (Netherlands)



"The Flight of the Ninja" (Japan)



"What a Difference a Drone Makes" (England)


"Berlina" (Germany)



Goals & Hopes: #NY13SCBWI


I'm excited.  The upcoming conference is triggering the most embarrassing side of my inner-geek.  I'm tweaking my business cards (with QR tags)... and I'm twittering!

1. Preparations

Put aside teacher stress.  Put aside novel revisions.  Sleep.  Eat well.  Count my blessings.  Make time to review The Book.  Focus on the joy-and-wonder of it all.   My goal is to gain as much insight as I can about this story-craft field.

Overly complex QR tag.

2. Eye on Networking & Community

Experts emphasize the importance of personal relationships in the business.  My goal is to simply introduce myself to authors & industry people, with a humble eye on searching for a place in this art production community.  

3. Take-Aways

My hope is to come back to my revision process with sharper focus.  Another hope is to better understand this field in terms of the real people, so that I can better appreciate the business protocols and next steps.

Anyways, you will not regret watching this random dance/music video: 




Victory Gardens


We have been here before... and I'm imagining that we'll be here again.  When?  How?


During WWI & WWII, there was a national movement to grow food in yards and parks.  It was deemed a patriotic part of the war efforts.  I can imagine various ways our current agribusiness model might fail us as a society or become strained, returning us to a rather sudden demand for "victory gardens."


Over the last six years or so, I've seen how the South Bronx is increasingly embracing community and school gardens.  Of course, this city has a rich history with gardening and farmer's markets.  Meanwhile, our wider society is increasingly dependent on a centralized food industry where a handful of companies manage the entire production and distribution infrastructure.  Is our food system sustainable?

This question is compelling, for me, as both a citizen and as a fiction writer. 

Some historical links re: NYC's community gardens.


These two books appear packed with historical information: City Bountiful and Avant Gardening.

How resilient are we as a society?
And now for a not-so-random hippy music connection:


2013: new year, new stories (YA & Scifi)



Lists and lists of upcoming books.  Check out The Atlantic's Winter 2013 YA list.  See the Goodreads Lists of 2013, including a scifi/fantasy list and YA novels.  There's also TeenReads coming soon list and the TeenLitRocks Upcoming Books list.

Anyways, I'm particularly curious about the Marie Lu series, along with these other YA/Scifi novels.

Prodigy by Marie Lu

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Control by Lydia Kang

SIDEBAR:

Fantasy book about a girl = call it YA/Fantasy?
Fantasy book about a boy = call it SciFi?

Maybe it's just me?  :-)

Now for some random dance/music (Les Twins)


In fairness, those b-gals dish up quite a performance in the full video!

The Role of Concept Art & Visualization

Ryan Church is one of the most prolific concept artists of this era.
There's a whole field of brilliant visual artists who work with high-end movie and game developers to envision environments, characters, technology, and narrative moments.  My understanding is that many of today's top movies and games start with some type of visual concept art.  It may be tempting to call them "illustrators" instead of "artists."  But when somebody creates the visual motifs and designs of some of the most popular stories of our time, then what's the difference?

I just stumbled upon two images by Allesandro Taini that I think are pure-cool.

Trip's Room by A. Taini

Enslaved Mood by A. Taini


These are artists.  They envision narrative landscapes, characters, and moments.  

The Great Fire Zone, NYC by Gilles Beloeil (for the Assassin's Creed 3 game)
The above work likely helped the game developers envision their historical environment as well as the narrative action.  Art. History. Architecture. Character. Drama. Visual dynamics.  Beloeil illustrates a moment that brings them together into an artistic story.  I can see why artists get paid for this contribution. For the writers on that development team, I would assume having this kind of concept work is extremely inspiring and clarifying.  Whether the concept art is for movies or for games, it probably impacts the writing.

Did the Potter movies impact Rowling's writing as she finished the series?  How could it not?

With the growth of graphic novels and illustrated children's literature, perhaps we'll grow a broader dialogue about concept art for general storytelling?  




Sign Language in Classrooms & Communities

The coolest woman in NYC steals the show.
40 states recognize American Sign Language as an official second/"foreign" language for school instruction.  Can we imagine a movement into bilingual ASL-English schools?  There's also a growing movement that uses "baby signs" to teach pre-verbal infants to communicate with basic signs (i.e. giving them a way to communicate before they can actually talk).


Hungry babies aside, might we be witnessing something bigger?

I hope so, which is why I'm thrilled to learn about the Deaf Bilingual Coalition.

There are many human dimensions to this.  While bilingual immersion in schools is an fascinating idea, there are many teachers currently using limited forms of sign language with hearing-students to enhance learning and to manage classrooms.  There's so much to offer, for both community building and instruction.

Allison Bouffard has posted some great videos about using signs in her classroom.  I don't know when this all started, I've seen this implemented in quite a few classrooms over the years.  While this trend seems to be geared at early childhood activities and classroom management, I believe that ASL can be used just as effectively with older hearing kids and teens.  "Muscle memory" can enhance learning.



This 1-minute clip shows some of the management tricks in action with hearing youth.


It's cool.  It builds community.  It's non-verbal.  It engages multiple learning styles at the same time.  And perhaps it can bridge more hearing people with deaf culture?

Tripped the Bots Fantastic

This iphone-controlled hover-drone was for sale at a Barnes & Noble in Florida (July 2012).   It has a camera.

If you had asked my childhood-self what life would be like in 2013, I would have imagined a scene out of the Jetsons:  jetpacks, flying cars, sarcastic robots that clean my room.  Are we there yet? I wouldn't have been able to imagine Facebook and social networking.  I wouldn't have imagined a world where video games are a bigger industry than movies.

However... TacoCopter makes perfect sense!

Yes!  That's right, there is a business in San Francisco that will be delivering tacos using unmanned aerial drones.

Most of the media attention on drones involves military and police application, but how might the rest of us use it?  Imagine what farmers, scientists, and industries will be able to do with advanced UAVs.  Imagine what the medical and emergency response experts might do with this power.  Unfortunately, it's also not hard to imagine what the commercial media and paparazzi will do with drones.  We might expect years of legal and regulatory struggles ahead.  For now, the Federal policy is to keep commercial applications illegal.  Whether personal and commercial drone use evolves as illegal activity or as regulated activity, it's going to explode.

Hummingbird drones already exist.
What might this mean for our daily lives?  

How long until Siri can hover next to us?

Small, personal robots combined with increasingly networked, sophisticated lifestyle-oriented AI?  This is such a natural extension of today's technology that I believe it's only a matter of years before the air around us is buzzing with them.




I believe we're entering a new phase of lifestyle and entertainment technology that will evolve at the same pace as social networking and gamification.

What might the sidewalks of New York look like in 2050 or in 2100?  Today's engineers are doing truly inspiring things.  Who will make the first flying gaming console? (and if nobody thought of this yet, can you please cut me a check for coming up with the idea?)

Fascinated?  Follow groups like DIY drones and DronesForPeace.




MorpHex (imagine if this thing could also fly!)



Microdrones



Birds 




And now to share some random "background" music as I go back to writing... 



The Resilience of Play


Both in fiction and in reality, our stories often delve into recognizable themes of resilience.

The One World Futbol Project is sending indestructible soccer balls to children in the most dire situations around the planet.  It's not just an inspiring effort worthy of support, but it highlights the importance of play in the lives of all human beings.

This single effort plans to deliver 1.5 million soccer balls in the coming years.  Awesome!


Brooklyn Book Festival & Young Humans


The Brooklyn Book Festival is a 1 day event filled with 5 days of content.  Endless tents and happenings scattered around downtown Brooklyn.  From the BK Law School to the magnificent St. Ann's, you had to hustle for seats at the 180 panel discussions available throughout the day.  

These four books are going onto my Nook!

R.J. Palacio's Wonder.



Andrew Zolli's Resilience.



Isabel Wilkerson's Warmth of Other Suns.



And Karen Thompson Walker's Age of Miracles.



Does the YA genre provide a unique dynamic in terms of moral reflection?

This came up during a session.

Youth seem to internalize a society's moral yardsticks and then hold it directly against reality.  For me, the matter becomes whether YA authors are writing to the raw dreams/frustrations of young audiences - or whether we're only writing from the tempered sentiments of adult reflection.  Are we writing about youth or for youth?  YA is a genre.  It's also a market.  However, I never want to forget that it's primarily an audience that thirsts for stories.  Stories that resonate.  And maybe YA is primarily about stories that go straight to the raw roots of our conflicts, our dreams, and our human fears?

Perhaps we should rename Young Adult?  Let's call it Young Human.

Now for something completely random.


The Best Outdoor Reading Spots in NYC

Summer time!

What are some of your favorite outdoor #ReadingSpotsNYC?

In NYC, we're lucky enough to have incredible public transportation.  We can sit on our butts and travel around town while reading.  The journey can become the destination quite easily. 

The city is filled with parks and waterfronts.  The parks are filled with benches.  Let's go!


Prospect Park / Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Pavilion at the Japanese Garden
Annual membership to the BBG?  Prospect Park itself has wonderful places to read, but the BBG is a spectacular place.

Plenty of benches at the Overlook. Look down at the Cherry trees & Rose gardens.
Cherry Esplanade.

Coney Island/Brighten Beach, Brooklyn

Hey, guess what?  There's actually an ocean nearby!  If you like dawn adventures, go there early and enjoy a fantastic morning.  Crowds probably won't arrive until 10-11am.

Enjoy the OCEAN breeze on the historic pier (with Russian & Chinese retirees trying to catch fish).
Beach towel or not, there's plenty of ocean seating.    I enjoy the end of the pier.
You'll also find several pavilions along the beach.

Riverbank & Riverside, Manhattan

Riverside Park, Hudson River Park, and Riverbank State Park offer many places to sit and enjoy life with a book.  I personally love the uptown views of the George Washington Bridge and the Palisades.


Great benches and regular kite flying (attempts)!

Gantry Plaza State Park, Queens

Across from the United Nations is this park with spectacular views of Manhattan.  There's also the East River State Park in BK with a similar view.
Claim your seat under the willows!
From here, you gaze across waters at the UN and  Manhattan.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Ramble down romantic Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights to the promenade with its incredible views of Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty.  One of the greatest views on the planet.

These benches are prime real estate!

Central Park - Upper Half

The upper half of Central Park tends to be much more quiet and relaxed than the lower half.

Harlem Meer 
Off-hours, the benches around the meer make for a peaceful time. 

The Conservancy

There's a reason this garden is one of the top spots in the city for wedding photos (lol).  Nonetheless, you can find plenty of corners to read yourself into bliss.
One of the most romantic places in the city.

Shhhhhhhh....
The Pool & the North Woods Loch

The Pool always offers a fine reading getaway.  If you're really looking to escape, then explore the North Woods and the calming waterfalls hidden within!


Belvedere Castle, Turtle Pond, Shakespeare Garden

The castle makes for superb tourist watching.  Poke around the western side to find quiet corners and benches in the Shakespeare Garden.  Or go lay out on the great lawn above Turtle Pond!

You can find a quiet spot near the Castle or just sit on the vista.

Central Park - Lower Half

If you love the background energy and buzz of international tourists, then grab a bench on the Mall.
Explore the quiet brambles or just grab a bench somewhere.  Anywhere. :)


NY Botanical Gardens, Bronx 

Take the Metro-North Harlem line or cross over from Manhattan on the BX19 bus.  See their website for additional travel options.  It's a very large place with many spots to read.  A nearby zoo, too!

This place is massive with lots of spots to hide away.

Park on that bench under the bridge or wander over to the waterfall.
This may be the best argument for annual membership!


Morningside Park, Manhattan

Waterfall, ducks, and a looming Cathedral.

Inwood Hill Park - Where Eagles Roam

Did you know that bald eagles nest at the northern tip of Manhattan?  This park is a gem.  The northeastern section is great for plopping on a bench.  You may also want to adventure around (or over) the hill to the Hudson.
This quiet tip of Manhattan makes for a great escape.  Also investigate the local cafe.
The Hudson side of the park offers great views of the GWB and beyond.

Queens Botanical Gardens & Flushing Meadows

Grab the 7 train for a great adventure.  Hop off at Flushing Meadows or continue to the end, then walk down Main Street to the Botanical Gardens. Nearby zoo and museum.

The grounds of Flushing Meadows offer lots of benches and views.
The QBG offers quite a few enjoyable spots to sit.
I'm linking this image from gothamist.com
* Photos taken on an iPhone, sometimes using the Pro HDR and Pano apps.

Relatability? (a hard rain)

The photo above only shows a portion of the location.
I was walking by this massive community garden during a gentle drizzle.  In the distance, I heard acoustic music echoing over the neighborhood.  I loved the song.  The timing was sublime.
I saw a white ladder all covered with water.
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken.
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children.
The music was Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall'.   Can you envision this setting?  Can you smell the garden and the gentle drizzle?

Where was I?

The South Bronx.  Echoing from a tenement window was Dylan.  Not rap or bachata or salsa or r&b or merengue.   Dylan.  Is that "authentic"?  Expected?

Do we expect kids in the South Bronx or Harlem to know Metallica and Hannah Montana?  Or do we presume they only understand/relate to certain kinds of music and culture?

I think about the "urban youth" I've seen with their heads stuck inside Riordan and Rowling books.  Do we assume they'd rather read books about teens "like them"? What does it even mean to be "like them"?  Are they culturally situated (or segregated) first?  And then human youth second?
Teen Skater
I heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin'.
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin'.
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter.
Another time I walked by that garden and then up Westchester Avenue towards the bustling Southern Boulevard.  If I look carefully, I notice so many nuances.  So many shades and shapes.  Skaters.  Tilted hats.  Retro-punk.  Retro-preppy.  Nerd-styles with tats.  I even see a redheaded young gal in 80s swag.  And new styles yet unnamed.
I met a young woman whose body was burning.
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow.
I met one man who was wounded in love.
I met another man who was wounded in hatred

Do we presume a black or latino boy in the South Bronx cannot easily relate to the lead female character in The Hunger Games?  Do we truly believe they must prefer a book about a boy of color who loves basketball?  A boy who must grow up poor and struggle to avoid the complications of street life?  That may be very real for many, but is this the best basis for crafting stories and "relatability"?

Don't we risk reproducing the stereotypes that often frustrate youth and make them feel trapped? 

Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty.
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters.
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison.
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden.
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten.
Where black is the color, where none is the number.
And I'll tell and think it and speak it and breathe it.
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it.
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'.

Isn't it better to approach multicultural literature and story-telling with an eye on universal human themes that all adolescents tend to relate to?  Or do we think these children only watch TV and movies with characters of the same skin color and cultural background?  Do we think these children only listen to one kind of music in 2012?



Southern Boulevard.  Notice the 80s style on the hip redhead on the left.

If reading is about meeting new people and visiting new places, shouldn't we unshackle the teens of today and build them bridges upon broad human themes?  Even if we dig into matters of despair and poverty with diverse characters, how do we avoid typecasting based upon museum-style, static notions of culture?   Do today's kids even think about differences in the ways we believe?
If we can't envision settings and characters that break the typecasts and stereotypes, then we're in trouble as a species that needs stories for growth and reflection.
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Diary of Seamless Kid on Fire


Irreverent but necessary mash-up of Wimpy Kid and Hunger Games

When I was a goofy teenager back in the 80s, I did a lot of creative writing and journal-style reflection.   A lot.  I was just imagining how wonderful it would be to have all of those ramblings from my old Apple IIe.  How interesting it would be to dig right into those teen emotions and memories!
That's an antique called a "stereo" next to an Apple.
Yes, my parents had to deal with me covering my room in graffiti
.

Perhaps it's best to let some of the past become... a little blurry?

Today, many kids start with Facebook in elementary school.  Even before they've begun the complex adolescent journey of identity development and values discernment, they've started carefully counting their online friends.   By the end of middle school, many of today's youth have spent countless hours online chatting and managing e-friendship politics.   

Real life and online life are seamless for them.  That part I can get.   I think.

But the part my head definitely can't wrap around is that today's young children can remain in immediate contact with this social network for their entire lives.   Imagine all of those kids who moved away during your K-12 years.  Imagine those you left behind when you moved.  Now imagine having been on Facebook/Skype with all them for your entire life.   Conversely, imagine being unable to distance yourself.  Even if you unplug, the social network reality remains.  That bully or that enemy from middle school is going to continue popping up as "somebody you might know" because you share friends and data.   That argument you had in 9th grade on Facebook will always remain.  

The day will come when elementary school friends will die and still be on Facebook.  I can't get my head around this childhood-to-graveyard, seamless social reality.

I've lost touch with many childhood buddies.  Isn't that "natural"?
I moved quite a few times as a child and went to many different schools.   From the big city to a small one.   A central part of my adolescent development was about "getting out" of that small town life… about dreaming of new horizons.   Like many people, my life involves critical breaks from the past as I explored the world and essentially developed my identity.  How many of us had at least one time in their life where they just needed to break away?  Travel.  New friends.  New world.  It's one thing to reconnect with the past.  That is exciting.  It's entirely another matter to never disconnect.

Will today's youth ever be able to venture out "on their own" like youth of yesteryear?

As a writer, I find this question to be a powerful challenge.

Imagine if you could never truly break away?  Your elementary school, middle school, high school, and college "friends" are all right there on Facebook (or whatever)… for your entire life.   And there's no escaping mom and dad during college!  Now I respect that kids learn to negotiate and manage these online dynamics, sometimes purging "friends and family," but it still seems like a profoundly different developmental reality with this new type of social networking.   It isn't just a matter of privacy.

scene from The Hunger Games
Kids today seem pressured to think of themselves in terms of publicity and public relations on a level that we never had to worry about.   Remember being 14 and feeling like you were always on stage?  Even when alone, teens often feel that sense of eyes on them.  Do today's youth ever get to let go of that feeling?  Just think of all the news stories of online bullying, suicides, etc.  For them, there seems to be no sense of breaking free of the publicity and visibility (not the same thing as fame).  What does it mean to be "independent" in that panoptical context?  This seems like a great theme for YA writers to wrestle with.

Are we surprised that "unwanted publicity" themes explode in popular stories for youth?

scene from Harry Potter
I believe this theme is one of the reasons Hunger Games resonates so deeply.  The protagonist's life is at stake in how she manages unwanted, nearly seamless publicity.  This goes way beyond our worn discussions of reality television.  

However, I also wonder about the reverse side of this thematic coin.  

What will today's youth remember?  Will their life stories be too carefully managed and edited?  If you can never completely lose touch or distance yourself from it, then will you ever fully appreciate it?

Isn't the juicy stuff where our stories snap apart?

And in the fully-alive-but-blurry moments of complete privacy...  

"Don't it always seem to go...that you don't know what you've got till it's gone...
they paved paradise and put up a parking lot."