Clique Clack Boo

So, yeah, I’m going to talk about the YA Mafia.

I don’t usually jump into the middle of these things, because I’m busy, I’m pregnant, and I’m generally late to the party and my hair’s a mess. And most of the time, I don’t have a lot to say that someone else has said better already.

First off, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll sum up. There’s a bunch of talk rolling around the blogosphere and Twitter that cover a few different things. First, that there are killer cliques of YA authors who band together to smite aspiring authors. There’s also some talk about book reviewers getting blacklisted by YA authors and agents for things they’ve posted on the internet.

Here are some links, if you want to read what other people have said (or just to get a feel for the story).

Holly Black: YA Mafia and the Ruination of Careers

Justine Larbalestier: YA Mafias & Other Things You Don’t Need to Worry About

YA Highway: Field Trip Friday Special Edition: The YA Mafia

Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier are great writers, and both those blogs are worth reading, for more than just the YA Mafia stuff. I also enjoy the YA Highway blog, so check it out, too, if you’ve got time.

Here’s some irony for you: when I first heard the term “YA Mafia,” I thought it was a new blog or something. Seriously, I thought, that sounds like a cool group name.

A lot of these posts and blogs talk about whether there is such a thing, whether there are YA cliques, whether powerful authors have the ability to blacklist authors, whether YA writers really do band together and talk smack about the little people. A lot of talk. Really.

Here’s my talk: who cares?

Ten years ago, I learned a fantastic piece of advice that has become my mantra. Sure, I learned it from a woman who was addicted to prescription painkillers who later accused me of sleeping with her husband in a stall in a horse barn, but don’t let that take away from the absolute power of her statement:

You can’t change others. You can only change yourself.Β 

Let me tell you, this is my go-to mantra. If I have a problem with people, I say it to myself. I might actually mutter it through clenched teeth while my fingernails are digging into my palms, but I say it. And it helps.

First off, I learned really early that there will always be cliques. Always. What can you do about it? Nothing. When you’re outside the clique (especially a clique you want to be in), it’s really easy to feel hurt and disgusted and imagine that the people in that group are all mean and hateful and devoting their time toward your personal ruination.

Guess what? They’re probably not.

You know what else? When people fail at something, a lot of times, we want to look for excuses. It’s a hell of a lot easier to say we were blacklisted by a big agent than to think, “Hey, maybe I should take a look at my writing.”

Or to think, “Hey, maybe I failed.”

Here’s the thing: you can’t stop YA writers (or anyone else) from making friends. Sure, I see authors sharing private cover art on Twitter, or talking sorta secretly about inside information, and I immediately get that little gut clench that says, “I wanna know! I wanna be in your circle!”

But then I realize that I have conversations on Twitter all the time with Sarah Maas, and people are probably thinking the same thing about us.

Actually, considering our last Twitter conversation involved Sarah taking my eyeballs and keeping them in a jar on her desk, people are likely thinking we’re disgusting.

ANYWAY. I digress.

There’s also some talk about a book blogger who was forced to take down her blog, because she’d heard that it was going to hurt her potential for finding an agent or selling a novel. I feel badly that she felt the need to do that, but she made the choice to do it. No one forced her to. She couldn’t change the way other people were treating her, so she changed her blog and stopped reviewing books.

Look, people, from a mother, here’s another mantra: Life is full of choices, and sometimes they’re hard.

Sometimes I want to blog about something that happened at work. I’m deathly terrified that I’ll lose my job, so I don’t. (Buy lots of copies of ELEMENTAL in 2012, and maybe I can quit my job. Then I’ll share all the stories you want.) Sometimes I want to blog about my family, but I don’t want to put my husband in a compromising position, so I don’t. (My mother, however, is fair game.)

Sometimes I read a book that sucks, and I don’t talk about it.

The only person who can make or break you is you.

Here’s a little story. I once saw this guy on the news, crying about the fact that he was losing his home and his business. The government was seizing everything he had, and he didn’t know how he was going to provide for his family. A family who was used to high-end cars, a personal maid and butler, a huge mansion of a house. The poor, persecuted man. The big, bad government was after him.

Because he didn’t pay his taxes.

I didn’t feel any pity for that guy. He didn’t pay his taxes! I mean, come on! You can’t complain about someone coming after you, if you do something wrong in the first place.

I hope I’m drawing a parallel here, but just in case: if you openly trash people online, and they turn around and refuse to support you (or even actively bash you in return), well, you can’t really point any fingers, can you? I’m not saying it’s mature, I’m just saying you can’t be surprised when it happens.

Remember: you can’t change others, you can only change yourself.

You can’t stop the YA Mafia (seriously, I love the name. I want to join.) if it even exists. You can’t stop cliques. You can’t stop people from being friends. As my husband likes to say, you make your own stress. If you don’t like seeing authors interact on Twitter, stop following them. No, even better, go make your own friends and talk to them.

I have a three-year-old son, and I’m constantly telling him, “Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. Worry about what you are doing.” I used to teach riding lessons, and I would say it all the time to those teenagers, too. “But, Miss Brigid!” they would cry. “So-and-so is jumping three feet! Why can’t I jump three feet??” Then they’d make snarky remarks about the other girl. She’s nasty. She abuses her horse. Her parents buy her everything. She thinks she’s so much better than everyone.

Yeah, because being a bitch is going to get you to jump three feet.

Wrong. Riding better is going to get you to jump three feet.

When I sold my book to K Teen, I immediately went to see what other authors had been acquired by my editor for the same line. Did I look at their badass cover art and squish up my mouth and talk smack about them? Hell, no. I sent Erica O’Rourke an email and said, “We need to be friends.”

(And people, you need to put her book on your to-read list ASAP. It sounds insanely hot. One of the love interests is the main character’s bodyguard. I actually might need to break into Erica’s house and steal the page proofs.)

(Don’t tell her I said that. Just in case someone actually, you know, breaks into her house and steals page proofs.)

I know I’m dissolving into rambles. I just hate when people get fired up and get their feelings hurt online. Take a step back. Repeat that first mantra to yourself.

I can’t change others. I can only change myself.

It’s powerful. It helps.

Now go out there and make some friends of your own.


P.S. – I’m on twitter and Facebook. I’d love to be your friend. We can talk about extricating eyeballs all day.

11 thoughts on “Clique Clack Boo

  1. Excellent post! If there is a YA mafia, they’re working to help new authors launch careers, not to hurt us. I can’t tell you in a reasonable amount of space how many authors have volunteered all kinds of help with my debut novel, ASHFALL.

  2. I remember a very low point in my life when you came to my aid. We became friends and you took me out to give me a boost when I needed it. You will forever be near and dear to my heart for those acts. But what touched my soul was this mantra that you shared with me then. I immediately wrote it on sticky note and put it on my computer monitor. I looks me in the face everyday to remind me that I AM in control of me!!! The words Thank You do not seem to be adequate to express my gratitude to you for sharing this mantra with me. It has changed my life!!!

  3. This post is all kinds of awesome and made me laugh quite a few times, all while making some very good points. Sometimes I think all this social media stuff takes people straight back to high school. It’s just part of our nature, wanting to be included, feeling sad (or mad) when we aren’t. With the extra buffer the computer streen provides, some people also don’t take the time to filter what they’re saying like they would if they were speaking to someone in person. But ultimately, YES, each of us is entirely responsible for our own behavior, and there is ALWAYS a choice about what to say and how to respond to people. Fantastic post.

  4. This is so, so true. Whether or not a YA Mafia exists — and I don’t believe that it does — there eight frillion things in publishing that an author cannot control. The only thing they CAN control is the quality of their writing and how they behave publicly. Authors would do better to focus on that than some industry cabal. (And this is from someone who writes about the actual Mob.)

    On a separate note, you’re too late! The page proofs have been sent back, so all you would find at my house now is a bunch of half-empty mugs of tea and wadded up tissues, as I am sick, sick, sick!

    PS: I was SO HAPPY to get your email, B!

  5. Great post! You are hilarious by the way. Really enjoy reading your blog. Looking forward to reading your book. Okay back to the post, I totally agree that we are responsible for what we do and cannot control what others do. If someone doesn’t want to include you, then find someone who does (who wants to be a part of something that doesn’t want them in the first place).

  6. Wow, guys, thank you for all the awesome comments! I hate that I can’t respond from work (blogger is blocked), but I really appreciate everyone stopping by. We YA writers need to stick together. πŸ™‚

  7. Well, I write scathing reviews and no one cares. Apparently, I’m not important enough. Oh well.
    This is also why my name and my school don’t appear on my blog. I can be honest in my book reviews. After all, I’m only a would-be author, but I AM a well-seasoned veteran English teacher. It is the teacher capacity wherein I reserve the right to review books. No one’s paying me to do it, but a fair amount of English teachers read my blog to find out what they might want to teach or suggest to their students. (They tend to be about 2 years behind me. Right now, my most popular book reviews are on Schooled and Beastly, which are far from current books– even if the movie on Beastly is current.)
    Of course, if I ever do get published, I’ll have to start a separate blog as an author. Oh well. That’s the price I’ll have to pay for freedom of speech now.

  8. Yo, I totally want there to be a YA mafia! We’d be this killer group of YA writers who meet regularly to eat cupcakes and spread glitter. Mwahaha.
    Oooh! And I horseback ride, too! ‘Xcept I’m not good enough to jump yet. πŸ™

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