Tuesday, February 18, 2014

We're All in This Together

The lovely Michelle (Blogger in Transit) is hosting a blog hop this week. The theme? Ubuntu. What is Ubuntu?

Good question. I had to Wikipedia the word myself!

Michelle describes Ubuntu as, "the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievement of others."

It's all about people. The concept is that society itself gives us our humanity. We're surrounded by human beings, which makes us more human.

My first thought was of a blog I'd read only last week from writer S.P Bowers. She mentions a quote from Dale Carnegie about novelists that says that if an author doesn't like people, readers won't like that author's stories. We, as writers, MUST like people.

Fiction writers are expected to strike a delicate balance between being reclusive and being social. We need to be able to spend hours alone with nothing for company but a computer and the characters we're creating. But we also need to be able to head out into society and interact with other human beings.

I'm now in my fifth month as a full-time freelancer. Because much of my work involves writing articles and blogs for a variety of clients, I do have regular interactions with people, primarily through e-mail. However, none of these interactions inspires me to write middle grade fiction. To be fair, though, my day job working with adults between the ages of 30 and 70 didn't go very far in inspiring middle grade fiction, either.

For middle grade authors, it's important to spend time around tweens. Since most tweens want little to do with grown-ups, this remains a challenge. Teachers, parents of teens, librarians...we're all just grown-ups. We aren't in their world. We can do school visits, but we're still just visiting authors. We'll never be one of them.

We can still observe them, though--and that gives us a great excuse to hang out at the mall. Any excuse will do, right?

This is the first day of Michelle's blog hop, so feel free to join in. The rules are here. And while you're there, read the other blogs participating!


  1. This was inspiring Stephanie. Yes, I believe the best writers know how to hang out with people as well as observing them.

  2. Hanging out with people is overrated

  3. Thanks for the link. It is a difficult balance. I hadn't thought of the difficulties of being around your target audience for MG writers. It could be hard to do without parents or others thinking you're creepy for hanging out with tweens and occasionally writing their conversations down in your notebook. Good luck finding that balance. Maybe you could volunteer to teach that age group at church if you belong to one?

  4. My stepdaughter is 14, S.P., so I get a little inspiration there, but she won't be 14 forever. I'm getting that following the crowd is a top priority at that age. Heaven forbid you stand out in any way. Volunteering is a great idea.

  5. I'm signed up. Glad you better explained what the word means...I'd have been up googling Thursday night when I write the post!

    I think writing kids would be hard. Teens change their lingo and trends so fast it makes my head spin!

  6. I'm sure I simplified the concept, Elizabeth, but I had a hard time understanding it, too! The thing about teens/tweens is that they think they invented everything, but the only thing that changes are the trends and fashions. At the heart of it, it's still all the same. Each generation thinks the generations that came before and after aren't nearly as important and relevant as they are... Luckily, we grow out of that and realize previous generations are pretty darn smart!

  7. Stephanie, thank you for this thought-provoking post.
    The word Ubuntu, in it's simplest form, is human-ness/human kindness. As you mentioned, it's all about people. And you were right.

    The tween phase is challenging, for sure. They're not kids but neither are they teenagers... difficult and awkward...
    And as writers, we DO need to be able to reach out to others... you never know how a simple comment may be just what the person needed at that moment. It can lift somebody's flagging spirit... brighten their day... be the reason s/he decides to forge ahead, instead of throwing in the towel...
    Thank you for reaching out in the spirit of Ubuntu to participate in the Bloghop!
    Writer In Transit

  8. Great point about how writers actually have to "like" people. That's an important factor that applies to all levels. Of course, the problems begin with tweens, and sometimes carry on into their early twenties.


  9. I love observing tweens/teens. Tho sometimes I wonder to myself 'did I act like that?' And I'm sure I did sometimes! =) Oh, youth!

  10. Oh, Leandra, I ask myself that every time my stepdaughter is around! I wasn't one of the popular kids, though, and she is. I don't think I realized the pressure those popular girls were under. One wrong pair of shoes and it's social clique suicide. It definitely has inspired some books...although it's hard to make popular girls sympathetic, especially if you're trying to sell readers on the fact that they have problems, too!

  11. "We are all in this together." That is such a great way to sum up the philosophy.

  12. Tweens are a special class of civilization (to use the term loosely). Smiles.

    Great to meet you, Stephanie.

    Be well.

  13. Great post to start the bloghop. Tweens are a difficult age because they're all over the place maturity wise, emotionally and physically. I admire writers trying to capture their attention.
    So true about liking people.

  14. Very interesting. I had not heard that word before either.

  15. This really struck a chord with me: "Fiction writers are expected to strike a delicate balance between being reclusive and being social."

    Oh, heck yes. And it can be hard! I don't often manage it gracefully; I think of it as an ongoing learning process :)

  16. Hi Stephanie .. coming over via Michelee's bloghop .. I think we learn an awful lot being on the net - and interacting across it ... we learn without judging ...

    I like the idea of volunteering though .. and always mix with people ...

    Cheers Hilary

  17. To live is to know how to write. =) I'm totally there with you. I hang out with one teen all day, and hearing his reactions to the world is eye opening.

  18. I had no idea what that word was--thanks for educating me Stephanie. I also learned what yarn bombing was today--so I am full of vocabulary.

  19. You can hang out with people and observe them at the same time.

    I read that same post from SP Bowers last week.

  20. Interesting and inspirational - Myself? People worry me for some reason. I'm always a little on edge in company and hate telephones. Unless I know them really well at least. I am only ever comfortable with one person, who happens to my husband. But then, I am an introvert with bipolar disorder, so ... :)


  21. Hi, Stephanie,

    Good observation. I guess that's why the smart folks among us encourage us to go out and live a little. You can't write about human interaction if you don't any, right?

  22. Finding the right balance is difficult. The trouble I have is hanging out too much in my own mind and not obseriving the real world enough. My head's in the clouds, what can I say. :)

  23. Interesting post - thanks for sharing.

    It makes me wonder about my YA books though - I don't hang out with many teens but I do remember being one. :P

  24. It is important to strike that balance isn't it? I've never been a people person - not that I dislike spending time with people. I am not a social butterfly though, but am more of a homebody, content to hang out with family and a few close friends. So I have to push myself out of my comfort zone sometimes. :)

  25. Interesting insight, Stephanie. And very true.

    Nice to meet you. Sorry it's taken me so long to drop by from Michelle's hop.

    Congrats on your new book coming out. You must be very excited.

    I admire your tenacity to "get the goods" for your middle grade work. It's a tough nut to crack for sure.

    All the best.