In each installment of "Three Questions With," we get to know a different PJ Library celebrity by asking three questions about their work, their process, and interests. Today we're talking to Sarah Darer Littman, author of Confessions of a Closet Catholic, a PJ Our Way Selection.
You tackle some really big topics in your books – death of a loved one, eating disorders, identity, faith – why is it important to talk about these from the perspective of a teen or tween?
Literature is such a wonderful way to start conversations about difficult topics and to be able to tackle them in a safe way. One of the biggest mistakes adults make is to underestimate teens and tweens and the things that they think about. It’s so easy for grownups to stereotype young people--particularly young girls--as being obsessed with trivial, superficial things, but that’s not true. I think one of the reasons adults do this is more for their own protection than for teens - they don’t want to have to talk about these difficult topics with their kids, or conceive in their own minds that their kids might face these issues. It's easier for them to take the denial route.
But I know from my own experience that it is far more frightening and confusing to face issues without full, truthful age-appropriate information because you end up coming to your own conclusions based on half-truths gleaned and all too often that ends up being the worst-case scenario, and it ends up creating much more anxiety and stress than the full honest, age-appropriate truth would have been in the first place. Denial is the enemy, and it does untold damage under the guise of “protection.”
Is there any advice you would give to your teenage self?
Stop wasting so much time hating your body. Spend more time developing your ability to stick up for yourself and speak out, instead of stepping on a scale and obsessing about weight. Despite all the messages you’re being bombarded with, who you are is much more important to your happiness, purpose, and contentment in life than how you look.
What’s the most important skill for an aspiring author to develop?
Curiosity. The best authors are the incessantly curious. They want to know things, and they will not stop until they figure out the answers. Curiosity is what sparks ideas for novels, curiosity drives research for novels, curiosity helps drive plot of novels.
ABC - Always be curious!
If I can cheat and give a second skill, it’s to be able to give and receive effective critique. You will write badly - even once you’re published. So you need to be able to receive feedback and you also need to be able to be a good community member and know how to give good critique. Helping to critique the work of others actually improves your own work over time.
Sarah Darer Littman is the critically acclaimed author of young adult novels In Case You Missed It, Backlash; Want to Go Private?; Life, After; Purge; and middle grade novels Charmed, I’m Sure, Fairest of them All, and Confessions of a Closet Catholic, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award. Her next YA novel will be published by Scholastic Press in Fall 2018. Visit her online at sarahdarerlittman.com and @sarahdarerlitt
PJ Our Way lets tweens pick their own free Jewish chapter books and graphic novels each month. Sign your 9-11 year old up at pjourway.org.
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September 22, 2017