Saturday, May 13, 2023

Are you there God? It's me, Jamie.


New American Library published my first novel, Over the Hill at Fourteen way back in 1982. On the day of its release I rushed out to Dalton's Bookstore on Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street and I found my book on the second floor (where they kept the children and young adult books) and there I was--Jamie Callan--nestled between Judy Bloom on my left and Robert Cormier on my right.

That's how I thought of having a book in a bookstore. It was me, Jamie, on the bookshelf, sharing sacred space (along with my secrets) with literary luminaries. In 1982, I was brand new to this world, a little shy. And even embarrassed. And yes, I felt like an imposter.

In fact, I turned the cover of my book around so that it was not facing out for all the world to see.

Back then, YA was a newly invented category and young adult books were not cool. My writer friends and I wanted to be like J.D. Salinger and Philip Roth, and even Ernest Hemingway. We wanted to join the Literary Lions—the grownups who were traipsing around war-torn Europe, running with the bulls, getting drunk, getting into fist fights and ultimately publishing Pulitzer Prize winning books about their thrilling lives!

But, I was decidedly young adult.

Are you there, God? It's me--Jamie.

Do you suppose I could join the grown-up table now? 

But seriously? Would I really want to get into fist fights and run with the bulls? I think not. Nowadays, I just want to be fully myself--even if that means I am sitting at the children's table. There are days when I think this might be where I belong, but I honestly don’t know if I belong in this category or in a category that’s yet to be invented.

Creative friends, your assignment for this week is to throw out the idea of category or genre or group. Think of your creative life as the table at a party where you get hold court, tell great jokes, and serve up all your favorite stories. Take this opportunity to do something unexpected. Invent a new genre. Cross fertilize. Trespass into places where you’ve been told you don’t belong. Flip the categories, throw them up in the air, watch them spin and then see what lands in front of you. Allow yourself to be thoroughly surprised.

Basically, have fun.

And Margaret, how’s that for an answer from the Almighty?


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