Writing YA brings back so many…memories of high school. I’m getting back into the swing of writing after my two month Southeast Asian travel extravaganza. After finishing up my novel set in Belfast, I’ve decided stick close to home for my new one. And by close to home, I mean exactly home. Rafa and Rose (title tentative) is set in my hometown and at my high school. I’m super-excited about it. First because I’ve been living in Singapore for the past year and I’m missing all things Wisconsin. Second because it gives me a chance to unpack and remember that part of my life in rural Wisconsin–setting, culture, and personal experiences. Not going to lie, I wish I would have thought to bring my yearbooks to Singapore haha.
So for this novel, instead of spending hours and days and weeks and months researching setting, dialect, history, culture, etc., I’m delving into my own brain. It’s an interesting psychological journey, traveling back to a place and people that I’ve left far, far, far behind. And not always pleasant. My fellow YA writers, I’m sure you also tap your own memories of experiences and emotions from that part of your lives, too.
All this has got me thinking…. If given the chance, would I subject myself to high school again? The peer pressure, paranoia, fear of rejection, lovesickness, anxiety over grades and ACTs and college admissions, the drama, self-consciousness, cliquiness. It’s such a strange microcosm of existence. And then biologically, if you look at what’s going in your brain with hormones and frontal lobe development and emotions.
On top of that, the American “high school experience” is glamorized, sensationalized, dramatized so much in the media; it sets these expectations of what it should be like. Just a recipe for disaster.
I wouldn’t do it again as the person I was then. If I had the confidence and extroversion I’ve sprouted since college, then I probably would be game. Lots of things I would have done differently.
Anyway next time I’m back in the good ol’ USA, I think I’ll swing by my high school hometown.
What about you? Would you do high school over again? What might you do differently?
If you write YA, how do you harness your experiences growing up when you write?