Tuesday, August 2, 2011

So, what is YA fiction?

There are a couple more weeks until the deadline for submitting young adult fiction to be considered for the Tomo anthology to benefit teens in areas affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. I have received many great story submissions; however, now and then I receive a story that is clearly not YA, so I thought I’d try to clarify--what, exactly, is YA fiction?

Stories for Tomo must be YA fiction with a protagonist aged 13 to 17. Also, like the best YA stories, submissions should have a unique and powerful voice; be an emotional/funny/surprising/moving read; be fast paced, not be bogged down with description; and be exquisitely crafted. These are basic requirements for YA literature.

So why do I seek stories with protagonists age 13-17? And why not a main character age 11 or age 21? Or why not an adult looking back nostalgically on teen years?  

Editor Cheryl Klein has an excellent blog post in which she defines young adult fiction--Theory: A Definition of YA Literature. As Klein points out YA novels have teen protagonists because YA novels focus on that unique period of time in life--adolescence. The Tomo stories, too, are meant to focus on adolescence and to be told with all the adolescent sensibilities and all the multiple vantage points from within that complicated phase of life. 

I hope that Tomo will be enjoyed by readers age 12 and up. I hope this anthology will be in schools and libraries for years to come. I hope that these stories will be read again and again. I love YA fiction, and it is my aim to create a rich, varied and dynamic collection of Japan-related YA fiction. 

Klein also offers another critical point at the end of her post, that a YA novel should end with some form of hope or promise, even if it is just a glimmer or possibility. I am holding tight to this requirement given the purpose of this anthology--a means of offering hope to those teens who are are coping within communities and landscapes so profoundly and painfully altered by the tsunami.

So please send me only YA stories. Some non-YA stories I have received have been wonderful, and they are difficult to turn down. There is, of course, some wiggle room, but a story for an adult or middle-grade audience generally does not belong in a YA collection. 

So please send me stories that fit these guidelines. I am committed to creating an anthology of Japan-related YA stories, and I know from all the tales that have been filling the Tomo inbox, that I will have plenty of compelling YA stories to choose from. Keep them coming for the next two weeks!

Holly Thompson
Editor, Tomo Anthology

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