–From my new favorite column, DEAR SUGAR
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 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.
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.
When I was in my early twenties, I met a woman who was pretty much a whack job. We quickly became friends. She was very beautiful, obviously nuts, and ended our friendship when she accused me of wanting to sleep with her husband. Her basis? Someone spotted us cleaning stalls in the barn at the same time.
I’m telling you, nothing brings a man and a woman closer than the smell of manure.
But I digress.
She told me that her first marriage was a disaster. She’d gotten married at seventeen, and the guy basically neglected her, and she was miserable. Suicidal, miserable. She finally went to see a doctor, who suggested she go on Prozac. I vividly remember her telling me that when the doctor said that, she knew she had to get out of her marriage. That if she had to be medicated to stay with a man, something was wrong with her relationship. (Maybe she wasn’t completely nuts after all.)
When she told me this story, she finished it up by saying, “I had to change my life. Because you can’t change others, you can only change yourself.”
It immediately became one of my mantras, and it’s helped me through numerous personal conflicts. It’s so true — if someone is being a jerk, you can’t change that. You can only change how you react to it.
Michael just finished reading a book called QBQ, and he mentioned a passage in which they said, “You create your own stress.” That’s so true. Other people aren’t making us stressed out. It’s our reaction — nothing more. We have the power to release all that stress and anxiety by bringing it back to what we, personally, can focus on.
I don’t mean this post to sound like an ad for a motivational speaker. I have my miserable days just like everyone else. But when things suck, when people are coming at me from all sides, I have to remind myself that there’s only one thing I can change.