I think we can all recall that one horrific moment in middle school (if you're lucky you only had one) that still haunts you well into your adulthood. Mine happened in the fall of 6th grade. Let me just start by saying I was the youngest in my class (read: every girl had a bra but me.) But none of that mattered because Travis Reeves--aka cutest boy in 6th grade, aka rich kid, aka bad boy--sat by me at the front of the class. I mean hello, Travis. Reeves...his name is even hot, right? All during class Mr. Naughty wanted to pass me notes, try to hold my hand or scoot his chair uncomfortably close. I was all a dither.
And what do you know, the same week I got an invitation to Kelly Forgot-her-last-name-but-coolest-girl-in-school's 12th birthday party. (Why the heck are all the cool girls named Kelly? My next novel, Kelly will be the popular girl/evil bitch....sorry, to anyone named Kelly :D ) But before I tell you the nightmare, you have to know that my family was considered middle class and Kelly Forgot-her-last-name-but-coolest-girl-in-school's family lived in the sweet new rich neighborhood. I think my mother wanted to impress her parents, so when my mother told me we could go out and buy a new outfit for the party,I freaked out! Yes yes yes!
Now comes the nightmare. While everyone else was wearing a cool t-shirt and jeans to the party (and cool white sneakers,) my mother MADE me where this horrible outfit. I cried my heart out, begging her to NOT make me wear it. It was bad. It was horrible. It was so bad, that when I arrived at the party, EVERYBODY...even Travis Reeves, gave me that pitiful look that said "That's so freaking sad that that girl's mother still dresses her." Humiliating! I'm still pretty pissed off at my mother to this day about that.
What was the outfit you ask? Do you remember knickerbockers? Yeah, I said knickerbockers. (For those who need an education on kickerbockers: slightly baggie pants that snapped tight around the knee.) Diarrhea shit brown to be exact. The top, a long sleeve blouse of red and brown plaid with two giant ruffles down the sides of the buttons. The blouse buttoned all the way up to your neck, chocking the social life out of me. Oh, lest I forget the matching shit brown knee socks and the shoes...oh, the shoes, thick black Mary Jane's that looked like something a six year old little girl would wear to church. To this day, I hate Mary Jane's.
What's my point to all this? As horrific as that outfit was and feeling like a pathetic loser, I am the only one who remembers that outfit to this day. My own mother has NO memory of this horrific abuse. Oh, I'm sure there's evidence still around. Kelly Forgot-her-last-name-but-coolest-girl-in-school might have pictures from her 12th birthday buried in some falling apart, acid-full paper photo album up in her parents attic. I can't remember for certain, but I'm fairly sure I would have hidden behind people when/if her parents whipped the camera out.
But it doesn't matter no one remembers but me. It's still just as scarring almost 30 years later. And it's memories like that, that makes my writing real. As writers we have to tap into those feelings and emotions and inject them into our characters and scenes to make our stories come alive, believable. It's those emotions we have experienced first hand that we must weave into our words. So when you doubt that someone of your age can write a MG or YA story, remember those impressionable moments and use them to benefit you now, in your writing.
How about you, do you have a MG or YA personal experience that you've used in your stories?