Part of writing is reading. "Read what you write," is the saying among authors. I've heard it and read it hundreds of times. This is okay with me, since I thoroughly enjoy kid lit.
My first, as yet unpublished novel, is a middle grade fantasy adventure for girls, so I read a lot of middle grade fantasies. The book I am now working on is quite different. It's for older teens, and it's not a fantasy. It's a story about grief, pain, and relationships. Over the past year, I've followed the writers' rule. I've been reading teen fiction that covers the same theme.
I've learned a few things from the books I've read, but I've also been disappointed. Sickened may actually be a better choice of words to accurately describe it. What I didn't know, and what I'm pretty sure most parents don't know, is that some of these seemingly innocent books have graphically detailed sex scenes in them.
It's made me think about my responsibility as a writer. Do I even have a responsibility or should I simply write what will sell? That's a question each writer has to ask his/herself, but personally, I've come to the conclusion that I'm okay if I don't hit the bestseller list. I have a social conscience. I care about the kids for whom I'm writing. I'm not writing just to sell. I'm writing to encourage another generation. I'm writing to give them hope. I'm writing to tell them that they are stronger than they think, braver than they know. They can stand up against the tide and be who they were created to be.
I may not ever hit the New York Times' Bestseller list, and that's okay with me as long as my words bring hope, encouragement, and strength to someone in the next generation.