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While driving to yoga this morning, I caught part of the TED Radio hour on NPR. Although I usually like NPR shows, this is one I don’t often listen to, but before I could skip to another station, I realized that today’s show was devoted to…

millennials.

What, pray tell, is a “millennial”?  The rough definition I heard this morning is anyone born between 1981 and 2000. That not only qualifies me as a millennial, but that means the folks I write for (both NA and YA) are in this broad category, too.

That got me thinking…why do I write the kind of stories I write?

First, a brief definition. NA (New Adult) is an emerging genre with a fuzzy definition in the industry, but when I call a manuscript I’ve written NA, I mean a few things. In my NA, you will see:

  • Characters who are generally in their twenties or early thirties
  • Characters who haven’t quite figured their lives out (I love versions of the “quarter life crisis”, maybe because I lived it so keenly myself!)
  • Characters who are trying to balance love, work, and passion with their childhood selves and values
  • Characters who are trying to determine what it means to grow up in a complex, shifting society

For me, the difference between YA and NA comes down to the character’s choices and lives.  YA (Young Adult) is much more widely defined; my YA books include:

  • Characters who are flexing their muscles and finding their voices
  • Characters who aren’t quite adults, but are beginning to make adult choices
  • Characters who are focused on figuring out who they are

Simply put, my YA stories focus on characters who are getting their first taste of freedom, and my NA stories focus on characters who are faced with their first taste of adulthood.  Both genres target basic questions about growing up, adult choices, and identity, and I love telling these kind of stories.

But why? Why do I write NA and YA?

The radio program today offered some interesting pieces of insight. One of the speakers talked about your twenties being a time of frightening possibility, a time where it is possible to re-invent yourself.  There’s a lot of that same frightening possibility about being a teenager; I used to teach middle school, and I saw it every day. You can reinvent yourself a thousand times if you want, and that’s wonderful and scary at the same time.

I think for many of us, we once thought that reinvention should stop after high school, but that’s not the case.  Another segment of the TED hour today featured a young man in his twenties who felt disenchanted when he realized that doing what he’d been told hadn’t landed him the results he expected, so he made his own way.  Even though he developed some unique opportunities for himself, and other people praised his gumption, he confessed that he sometimes felt like a failure.

It’s terrifying to reinvent yourself, no matter what age you are, but the fact that so many people in my generation (and the bigger umbrella of the “Millennials”) are facing that fear head on and daring to think outside the box is incredibly exciting and inspiring.

That’s why I write the stories I write. I love liminal space, times of change and great possibility, and I write stories about making tough choices. There are infinite ways to come of age in our world, whether you’re switching careers, straying from the beaten path, or having your first make-out session in the back of your date’s car.

I write YA and NA because I love the possibilities.

True, we Millennials have inherited a host of global and economic problems, but we’ve also inherited centuries’ worth of ingenuity.  What possibilities will you make for yourself?

*Make sure you check out the full TED Radio Hour program on THE NEXT GREATEST GENERATION? here.

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