Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Way to Make Me Feel Old, Dudes

I was on the bus yesterday afternoon when a bunch of high school boys got on. From their conversation, I gathered they'd just finished an exam. Media Studies, I think. What is Media Studies? It didn't exist in my day. Well, it seems that Media Studies is the study of films and television.

These kids started talking about the films they'd been studying and I was gob-smacked to hear them refer to Pulp Fiction as a classic. It's a good film, but a classic? It's only... well...okay, I guess it is almost 20 years old. It struck me as being really strange that something released in my lifetime can be called a classic, but I guess my lifetime is a fair expanse of time now. Ouch!

Then they went on to talk about the cartoons they used to watch when they were kids. Double ouch. I was too old for cartoons by the time these shows came out and what they were saying just sounded like gibberish to me. It was like sitting next to a bunch of aliens.

These kids are the age I write for. Sitting there, completely lost by their references, I began to wonder if I'm at all qualified to write for today's teenagers. Clearly there is a lot going on in their world that I haven't a clue about.

Do you ever feel too old to write YA?


  1. Oh man, don't remind me! I can't believe they think Pulp Fiction is a classic. I think I fall into the "old" category too. At least I'm feeling that way right now. Still this is a fun post and an eye opener too. Don't worry, you are not the only one who feels this way.

  2. Just because you aren't aware of some of some of the boys' references doesn't mean that you can't write a novel that teens connect to. Those base desires and needs--love, acceptance, freedom, empathy, etc--those are what drive a novel, not knowing a cartoon character.

    And really--we all have different childhood experiences depending on our demographics and what not. But just because my childhood might have been different than yours doesn't mean that we can't connect to the same novels.

    I totally get what you are saying, but don't--even for a second--think that you are unqualified.

  3. I hate it when that happens. Back when I was teaching, I had a student obsessed with Madonna, especially (as he kept calling it), Old Madonna, meaning Like a Virgin and Lucky Star and all the songs that I remember being new.

    As I recall, I ate a lot of cake that week.

  4. Phew... Most of the time I don't feel old. My staff are mostly in their '20s, so they keep me young and hip (yeah, and delusional) but these guys just baffled me...

  5. I've been listening to Dick Bartley's weekend radio show since February 1993, when I was thirteen years old, and in the last year or so, he's started including a lot of songs from the later Seventies and Eighties. On a show that's supposed to showcase rock and roll's greatest hits, as in songs from the oldies and classic rock era, not the MTV era! I feel so old when he spotlights bands from the Eighties, and also knowing a lot of the popular bands from my childhood are now eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    Thankfully, I've always written historical fiction YA, so at least I don't have to worry about not knowing modern fads and references.

  6. All. The. Time. I feel like I've stepped out of an alternate dimension when I talk to people about cartoons I used to watch when I was a kid, and they give me this look like I've just kicked their dog.

  7. I'm with the teens A LOT. So, once in a while I don't get it. But mostly I do. I do feel old a LOT.

  8. I get that too. The Classic Hit radio station that plays the songs I used to dance to at school dances.... They're not classics people. The Beach Boys are classics. The Beatles. Not WHAM.