Saturday, April 26, 2014

What do the kids say?

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at a high-school career day to an audience of young, aspiring writers. My sons are 31 and 28 and so I felt there was a gulf of experience between me and these kids that I had to explore. I addressed eighteen students, seven boys and eleven girls. I wasn't certain what they expected to hear from me. I sought to be lively and engaging and provide what I thought was meaningful advice. What I got back were mostly blank stares. I tried humor to break the ice, but it was like dropping rocks down a well. Finding common ground with these high schoolers was tough. They brightened a little when I told them I wrote vampire novels. I asked what they liked to write. Lots of poetry. Apparently, they have their hearts set on the big money in literature. As for prose, most of them, even the boys, said they were writing paranormal romance. They actually said, "paranormal romance," which meant they had more knowledge of genre than most wannabe adult writers. They preferred to shop at Barnes & Noble for books instead of Amazon and the reasons were that they didn't own Kindles and didn't have credit cards to make online purchases. They were also aware that in recent years, Barnes & Noble had devoted a large section of floor space for young adult titles, and most of those were paranormal romance. A few of the girls said they were interested in straight romance. On that, I asked about their favorite books and authors. All of the kids had read Fifty Shades of Grey, none were impressed, and their comments about the book echoed what I have heard from adult readers. Their favorite characters to read and write about were dragons, witches, and zombies. They also liked ghosts and horses and the one excited conversation involved the possibility of horse-ghosts. Noir and the hard-boiled were also preferred types of stories. They all wrote their first drafts longhand in journals and then transcribed their work on personal laptops or school computers. All of the kids except one had a cell phone, which were smart phones of one brand or another. The lone holdout had been forbidden by her mom to own a phone. I asked about social media. None had Tumblr, Twitter, or Instagram accounts. The few who were on Facebook only did so to communicate with their older relatives, those dinosaurs. This revelation ran counter to my expectation that these kids would be all over cyberspace, hooking up like free-radical molecules. I asked who they connected with and it was with friends they knew personally. They guarded their phone numbers and were well-aware of the need for vigilance. The one venue for social media was Wattpad and several of the kids had accounts. They used Wattpad to publish stories and engage with other writers. Again, they were well aware of trolls. I told them I was jealous they had such a venue. In my youth, when we published stories we collected them in fanzines that we photocopied, stapled together, and then mailed out. The kids looked at me in astonishment. I expected them to ask if we had fire back then.


LD Masterson said...

Interesting. I'm not surprised that they're all about vampires and zombies but all the teens I know (my grandkids and their friends) are on Facebook.

Mario Acevedo said...

LD, thanks for posting. I was also surprised that the students weren't that active on social media.

Charlotte Hinger said...

I think a lot of them use Twitter and texting rather than emails too.