My First Experience with Real Readers

Today I met with the Once Upon a YA Book Club in Hazel Green. It’s October, and the members wore costumes for this month’s meeting. I joined the fun, dressing as Eleanor from Rainbow Rowell’s “Eleanor & Park.” I happened to have a spare Sony Walkman stashed away as a prop because I am a child of the 80s after all.

The group chose to read my first novel, “Straight A’s.” It was an extremely odd experience to participate in a group discussion with questions like “what was your favorite and least favorite part about the book?” and “did you like the book?” One of the questions was “what is one thing you would add to the book?” The moderator pointed at me first for that one.

Me? I wrote the book. I thought it was fine the way it is.

Humor. That was the answer I came up with—and only after several other people answered first. You can never go wrong with adding more humor, especially to a dark subject like academic pressure, depression, and suicide.

This was my first in-depth experience meeting real live readers. Writers often spend lots of time in the company of other writers, talking about writerly things and maybe even talking about our readers. But this was special. This was an opportunity to spend time with the target audience for my books. The teens surprised me in so many dimensions: what they liked and didn’t like, who they were, how old they were (or seemed to be), and what their world was like.

When I write my next book, I now have faces and names to think about for my audience. Will she be able to relate to this character and situation? Will he think I added enough detail there? Should someone have a tattoo?

These are things that matter to my readers.