So way back in August of 2012 – doesn't that feel like a long time ago? – Luke Reynolds asked me if I was interested in contributing to an anthology of essays by children's writers about breaking rules. Ummm…yeah. Even only knowing that much I was in.
The book was to be a compilation of rules – societal, parental, peer – that are so familiar we forget to question them; rules that require closer examination. Rules like: Never Be Alone. Don't Quit. Don't Tell Lies. Go to College After High School. Don't Let the New World Change You. Luke came to me because he wanted an essay that focused on nature; one that maybe asked teens to contemplate what nature could teach them about themselves. Would I like to contribute an essay about the power of landscape? This time there was no Ummm. Just yeah. Oh yeah!
And now, just over a year later, I am proud to say that the anthology, Break These Rules: 35 YA Writers on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself has been born!
Here's how to publisher describes the book:
Wrong, say 35 leading middle grade and young adult authors. Growing up is challenging enough; it doesn't have to be complicated by convoluted, outdated, or even cruel rules, both spoken and unspoken. Parents, peers, teachers, the media, and the rest of society sometimes have impossible expectations of teenagers. These restrictions can limit creativity, break spirits, and demand that teens sacrifice personality for popularity.
In these personal, funny, moving, and poignant essays, [these authors] share anecdotes and lessons learned from their own lives in order to show you that some rules just beg to be broken.
There are some amazing writers between the covers of this book. A.S. King, Gary D. Schmidt, Sara Zarr, Kathryn Erskine, Chris Lynch, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovitch, Natalie Dias Lorenzi, Mitali Perkins, Sayantani DasGupta, Mike Jung…the list goes on and on.
I am so ridiculously humbled to be part of such a group.
|A candleholder made by Nate, taken from his website.|
I'll leave you with an excerpt from my essay:
We all internalize the directions that are laid out in front of us. The ones our parents give us, the ones our teachers give us, the ones our peers give us. We internalize them, and they become a part of us. We don't even notice them. They are an endless, flat landscape inside our bodies. They just are. This – this incredible process of finding even one of your own loose parts – brings pieces of yourself into relief so that they pop up like little hills. This is the nature – no pun intended – of the truth, especially the truth about you. It sweeps in and stirs up the earth. It brings contrast and clarity. Those are my stepfather's directions. They are more about him than me. I don't believe in them. But I do believe in these leaves and patterns and art. This is what began to happen for Nate. Those girls live by those directions. I don't feel good when I try to live by them too. I do feel good when I follow a trail and imagine the stories that are lingering here and go home and write about them. This is what began to happen for me.
Learning the art of do-not-follow-the-directions was my pathway and Nate's pathway to salvation – or perhaps, more aptly, selfation.