Saturday, November 27, 2010

Excerpt - Youth Group

The title 'Youth Group' is merely a working title. I'm hit or miss with titles for my own work. Sometimes the title comes to me at the initial stages when I'm plotting out the character and storyline. Sometimes I just title it with something so when I save the document it's got a decent file name. In this instance I hadn't really given it any thought because the entire book was unplanned. Initially I wanted to write a specific character. I just had this girl in my head and she needed to get out. One thing led to another and 'Youth Group' unfolded as a collection of short stories with each chapter following a different teenager. Their connecting factor is the youth group they attend.

I began writing the piece when I was a facilitator at such a youth group. I have always written for the Young Adult genre, primarily because reading such books was an important escape for me. As a victim of bullying I sought out friendships in the literature I consumed and it became clear to me that a lot of what is out there is written by adults who have forgotten what it's like to be a teenager. I feel that credit should be given to the reader and talking down to them through your characters accomplishes nothing. The best books I've read for young adults have been the ones written with the understanding that the reader, whilst confused and probably struggling with an array of emotions they find overwhelming, does have a brain. They are capable of making decisions and often have to make more adult decisions than their parents and teachers give them credit for. The most difficult challenge for teenagers is finding and expressing their identity. When your identity is seen as 'abnormal' or 'different' the challenges can be all the more difficult. Standing up for who you are, what you believe in and how you want to live your life is a great challenge and one we start in adolescence and, in the world as we know it, continues until the day we die.

This collection is a testimony to the bravery of young people who not only have to struggle with their inner emotions, but also face a world that tells them how they should act or who they should be.

This excerpt is from the chapter that follows Cynthia, a young girl not yet comfortable labelling her own sexual orientation despite her peer's decision to do so.


Of course, there was Prism. Cynthia discovered the rainbow postcard while waiting to be seated at a restaurant. She slipped it into her pocket while her parents weren’t paying attention, which was easy since they barely seemed to notice her. She hadn’t been yet, only looked at the number and thought of going. She didn’t know if she would be able to do it. How could she explain to her parents? She would need a ride, which was hard to get, and then she’d need some explanation as to why she was going there. She thought of saying it was a social justice club or something, but she knew that her mother wouldn’t understand. She would probably wonder why Cynthia would go to this group outside of school, but wouldn’t join any clubs that the school offered. So she kept putting it off, waiting for the right moment, and pondering if it was even worth it. She avoided thinking about it until one Thursday after school. She stepped out into the snowy weather. It was cold and bitter. The snow came down slowly, mere ice crystals dancing in the light.

She hadn’t gone more than three steps when a snarky voice called out from behind her, “Hey Cynthia, where’re you going dyke?”

Cynthia flinched at the hateful words. She didn’t turn around, but her step faltered. The owner of the voice obviously noticed because there was laughter and then, “Going to meet your girlfriend?”

Cynthia stopped and slowly turned around. It was a girl in her grade who took two classes with her. Two other girls stood nearby. Her boyfriend stood with his arm slung across her shoulder. Cynthia didn’t know the girl's name, or who the other girls were, but she knew the boyfriend. His name was Joel and he had lived on her block when they were little. She remembered they used to play together sometimes, but then he’d moved away and she hadn’t seen much of him after that. When she’d started high school she’d seen him walking down the hall and had gone to talk to him. It had been brief and he’d seemed in a hurry to get away. That was before anyone had started rumors about her. He simply didn’t have time. Now he leered nastily as the girls giggled and his girlfriend said, “Why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer and then I wouldn’t have to endure you stripping me with your eyes.”

Cynthia blinked back tears. Her throat ached and she wanted so badly to scream at them to shut up and leave her alone. She knew she wouldn't though because she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She knew whatever she said would come out wrong and only give them ammunition. Instead she turned and walked away, their screeching giggles following after her.

“She just needs to get laid,” she heard Joel say before she was out of ear shot.

She hated it and wanted to make them shut up. Her stomach hurt from thinking about it. She didn’t know if she was a lesbian, or whatever, but she hated that everyone else had decided she was and that it was so completely wrong. But it couldn’t be wrong because it felt so normal to her. Unless she was abnormal, which she questioned every day.


Do use the comments below to let me know what you think.

1 comment:

  1. Kait, That is a great start to your book. I know that when you're done, there will be lots of youth that will identify with it. So proud of you, and I know of a certain youth group that would love it, and when you come back, I would love it if you'd promote it to them.


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