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As you may know, I’ve spent the fall semester working on an independent study for my MFA in Children’s Literature. The focus of my work? Comparing and contrasting early YA titles with early NA titles. I started the semester with nine titles and a few hypothesis born from my own writing. Overall, the close readings and writings I’ve done for this class have reinforced some of my initial intuitive beliefs about YA and NA: I believe that YA and NA might be considered siblings, and that NA will likely follow a similar growth trajectory into subgenres that YA went through, although I think NA will move faster simply because of the way publishing and reading have changed over the years. I also believe that there’s more to NA than just sex, just as I believe that a YA title doesn’t have to be completely devoid of sex to still fit in the genre.

As both a writer and a reader of YA and NA, this work was really fascinating for me; when I started writing YA years ago, it was with a pretty good academic grounding in what the genre was (hooray all those “extra” English classes in college, plus my years as a middle school teacher, librarian, and book reviewer), and I think my earlier scholarship gave me some interesting tools as I made the shift into writing as well as reading. But with NA, I hadn’t had the chance to do a lot of deep study (considering that the genre is so new), so even though I’d read NA titles before I started writing in the genre, I hadn’t really taken the time to clarify where my works fit in the wider scope.

This independent study gave me that opportunity, and as I’m working on edits for the NA Contemporary series I’ve got coming out from Bloomsbury Spark next summer, I find myself making decisions from not only the gut place of my writing self, but from the quieter, more analytical part of my scholar self…and it’s a wonderful feeling. One of the reasons I’m pursuing this MFA in the first place is to find ways to more fully integrate my nerdy, academic, teaching self with my wild, creative writing self, and so far, four classes in, I’m finding it happening all the time.

As the semester wraps up, I’ve written two conference-length papers for this independent study (a close, feminist reading of an NA title I particularly enjoy, and a broader compare/contrast paper on NA and YA), read nine novels, one sampler, and lots of articles, and written over sixteen pages worth of reading logs. Whew; it’s been a lot, but I’ve loved it, and I feel more solidly rooted in both my genres now as I move forward. Reading is always a great way to enhance writing, but reading with specific scholarly intent can, in my experience, be one of the best ways to go deeper in your chosen genres.

If you want to read my responses to the books I read, they can be found under the tag “reading log”.

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