My Writing Tool Kit

Final Project 2 for SNHU English 510

Learning to read like a writer has changed the way I view literature. Learning the craft of writing has changed the way I analyze literature. Learning how to open myself to new possibilities has changed the way I write. By utilizing the techniques learned in English 510, I plan on taking my writing further by making it more powerful, rich, detailed, and difficult for the reader to put down.

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND THE TARGET AUDIENCE

Young Adult fiction is an important step towards a lifetime love of reading. The role of the Young Adult writer is to create a story that reflects who teens are, what they are craving, what they fear, and what they dream about. The writer must listen to what the characters say, and how they say it.  I aim to continue listening to the hopes and dreams of teens. This is easy for me to accomplish, I have teenagers in my house, I teach teens, almost every aspect of my life includes teens. The main thing that I have to remember is to listen.  If I ever decide to change genres, I would make sure to do the same thing with my next demographic What do the readers in that specific genre want? What do they expect? What are the literary conventions that should be ascribed to?  

 

CREATIVE WRITING STYLES AND TECHNIQUES

Listening is extremely important, however there are also many creative writing styles and techniques that can be employed. The following is a list that I intend to employ in my writing:

 

  • Setting: One of the main things I’ve learned is that setting can make a huge difference in your writing. No story shows this more than The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The setting has its own personality as evidenced here: “I don’t like to look out of the windows even–there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did?” (Gilman) While most writing does not include a setting that comes alive, a setting cannot only add color and vibrancy, but it can also add to the story telling, in that it can remind the reader of what has passed (flashback), or show what’s to come (for-shadow).

 

    • Literary Themes and Conventions:  I need to think more in depth about the themes I am presenting while writing. In my own writing, theme has been subject I scarcely think of. Abandonment, fear, loathing, and heartbreak are all topics a novel can be built around, making them themes. Conventions are something that must be acknowledged when writing for specific audiences. Conventions are what readers expect to see in certain books. In mysteries they expect the detective to find the criminal. In romance, the two lovers realize their love, and live happily ever after. In Young Adult literature a main character that is a teen is expected to face angst, societal norms, and have inner turmoil. I plan on embracing this and using it to the fullest in my writing for teens. One can clearly see the angst in The Catcher in the Rye, in the following quote: “One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all. They were coming in the goddam window. For instance, they had this headmaster, Mr. Haas, that was the phoniest bastard I ever met in my life.” (Salinger, 17)

 

  • Style: Every writer has their own personal style. This is powerful as it’s something that your readers will grow to love and look forward to. Personally, I enjoy reading works that feel as if you are in a conversation with the characters. This is why The Catcher in the Rye and The Secrets of Being a Wallflower were so effective. David William uses the illustration of a symphony to help the new writer understand what good style is in his article entitled What’s Your Writing Style? Do You Even Have One? “…good rhythm” as being “ like a perfect symphony orchestra where all the different instruments in the orchestra blend together beautifully to create sweet, soothing and enjoyable music.” (William) Every writer needs to find their perfect symphony in their writing.
  • Figurative Language: Symbolism is important to bring layers to a written piece. It can help the reader see an added aspect in the main character without telling them outright, it can even help in foreshadowing future events. Figurative language can include metaphors, similes, foreshadowing, symbolism, personification, and hyperbole. Figurative language gives more meaning than just the words written on the page, it gives the brain something to wrestle with, and adds a dimension that otherwise wouldn’t be evident. This is clearly shown in the imagery of the tunnel in The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “But mostly, I was crying because I was suddenly very aware of the fact that it was me standing up in that tunnel with the wind over my face. Not caring if I was downtown. Not even thinking about it. Because I was standing in the tunnel. And I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite.” (Chbosky, 213)

 

TARGET AUDIENCE

Knowing your target audience is not only extremely important in marketing your work, but also in writing it.  While writing, it’s important to think about who will be reading your work. A 19 year old female would gravitate to different literature than a 50 year old woman. Tone, pacing, dialogue length, and chapter length must all be considered, as well as cover design and marketing materials. The conventions you choose must also equate to who you are writing for, if the writer is targeting teens, a teen main character, with first person point of view is what should be considered.

The target audience of my writing is specifically teen girls. Teens often feel that their problems are larger than anyone else’s, I aim to write in a way to let them know they are not alone. I plan to write about topics that teen girls are thinking about, topics they have questions about, issues they are scared of, whether they see it around them, or have struggled with the very issue themselves.  I must write about these issues in their voice, showing their concerns and having my characters work through them in a healthy manner, with realistic pitfalls along the way.

CREATIVE WRITING APPROACH

Writing is a series of choices an author makes. These choices are what should be noticed when you read like a writer. When reading like a writer word choices are noted as well as techniques that the writer employs.  Each choice is examined critically, deciding for yourself if it is effective and can be used in your own writing. In the article, Mike Bunn states, “You are reading to see how something was constructed so that you can construct something similar yourself.”  Taking note of these choices helps the writer to build their own voice and learn new ways to express yourself. Reading like a writer has already transformed how I wrestle with a piece of writing, I inspect each word, each phrase, each choice an author makes. For example, using letters in The Perks of  Wallflower makes the novel feel personalized, it brings the reader in and makes them feel comfortable, as evidenced here: “I think you of all people would understand that because I think you of all people are alive and appreciate what that means.” (Chbosky, 2) In this statement he compliments the letter recipient, therefore complementing the reader, this is very powerful, and something I may bring into my own writing. I tend to write in first person point-of -view, so the realization of how far I could push that point-of-view was a wake up call for me. I can do so much more with it  and I look forward to doing just that.

FUTURE WORKS

Change must occur, I have so much to re-read, rearrange, and redraft. What I addressed above is something that I plan on utilizing in my current manuscript. Change must occur, I have so much to re-read, rearrange, and redraft. My use of setting needs to be explored, the I am writing is about a girl that had to stay in her darkened room for two years. I need to create a rich setting that would reach out and make the readers understand how bad her health situation really is. Utilizing figurative language is something I plan on exploring. The head injury my main character sustained is a terrifying injury, one that can’t be described with only words. I must dig deeper; I believe using figurative language will help. I plan to use foreshadowing to accomplish this. I also need to pay attention to the inner dialogue of my main character. I need to make sure she comes alive to the reader as much as she’s come alive to me while writing her, if I don’t do this, I have failed. The use of setting needs to be fixed, my story is about a girl that had to stay in her darkened room for two years, I need to create a much richer setting that would really reach out and make the readers understand how bad her health situation really is. Using figurative language would help this process along as well.  The head injury my main character sustained is a terrifying injury, one that can’t be described with only words. I must dig deeper and I believe using more figurative language would help. I plan to do this through using foreshadowing. I also need to pay attention to dialogue and the inner dialogue of my main character. I need to make sure she comes alive to the reader as much as she’s come alive to me while writing her, if I don’t do this, I have failed.

I’m sure this list will often change as I grow and expand in my writing, but for now these are the topic I need to concentrate on. Armed with these skills, including reading in a new way, means I am on the verge of the next step, which is exciting. I can’t wait to see where these skills take me.

Works Cited

Bunn, Mike. “How to Read Like a Writer.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, vol. 2, Adobe  Ebook,      2011, pp. 71–86.

Chbosky, Stephen. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Gallery Books, 1999.

Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Project Gutenberg, 25, November 2008.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1952/1952-h/1952-h.htm. Accessed 12, October 2017.

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. 1951. Little, Brown and Company, 2014.

William, David. “What’s Your Writing Style? Do You Even Have One?” The Web Writer

Spotlight, 21 August 2012, http://webwriterspotlight.com/what-is-your-writing-style.

Accessed 08 September 2017.

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Reading as a Writer

One of the major themes across my art classes while growing up was about “seeing like an artist.” This concept is something that forever changed the way I, not only, perceive the master artworks, but also the world. This included more than seeing how parts become a whole, but also how each individual artist makes choices that web together to form their beautiful artwork.  It is a way to learn from what you see, as well as being inspired by the techniques of the masters. This is the same concept as “reading like a writer” as explained succinctly in Mike Bunn’s essay entitled How to Read Like a Writer.

When reading for pleasure you read to be swept away. To be entertained. To enter new lands and have new experiences. When reading for literary context, you read to notice plotting techniques, rising and falling action, characters are examined and analyzed. You read to find greater meaning. The student reads to better understand their world, to gain empathy for the human condition, and to learn who they themselves are. Reading like a writer is different the other ways of reading. This type of reading inspects the construction of the writing, the word choices themselves.

Writing is a series of choices an author makes. These choices are what should be noticed when you read like a writer. When reading like a writer, word choices are noted as well as techniques that the writer employs.  Each choice is examined critically, deciding for yourself if it is effective and can be used in your own writing. In the article, Mike Bunn states, “You are reading to see how something was constructed so that you can construct something similar yourself.”  Taking note of these choices helps the writer to build their own voice and learn new ways to express yourself.

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Works Cited

Bunn, Mike. “How to Read Like a Writer.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, vol. 2, Adobe Ebook, 2011, pp. 71–86.

Symbolism in The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower

In The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses the symbolism of ducks. Every time Holden rides in a taxicab he asks questions about the where ducks went in the winter.  Change constantly torments Holden, he’s been kicked out of his prep school and he’s headed into the cold streets of New York City, all of which made him entirely unsure of what his future held. The ducks leaving each fall, then returning each spring is an annual event that always occurs. It acts as a reminder that no matter how much some things change, other things will remain the same. Perhaps it gives him some hope for the future?  His possible reliance on the returning ducks may act as a minor comfort. Every moment for Holden feels tense. Inquiring about the ducks is the needed sweet side of Holden Caulfield for the reader. It fractures the heavy tone and adds a sense of levity.

Stephen Chbosky also uses unlikely symbolism in The Perks of Being a Wallflower through a Pittsburgh tunnel. The three friends Charlie, Patrick, and Sam drive through the tunnel, with the wind being a catalyst for their sparse feeling of freedom. The tunnel represents their journey, their struggles, and is a reminder that they will come out on the other end. The darkness being bookended by light acts as an illustration of the story.  This was exceptionally effective in making both the reader and characters feel the same thing, hope. It shows that no matter what, everything will turn out well for Charlie, Patrick, and Sam. This aids the tone of the novel, in showing their youthful nature, and also adds brief levity to the story.

Symbolism is important to bring layers to a written piece. It can help the reader see an added aspect of the main character without telling them outright, it can even help in foreshadowing future events. I plan on reading through my past writing to see where it can be added and how it can be used to further my plots.

Works Cited

Chbosky, Stephen. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Gallery Books, 1999.

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. 1951. Little, Brown and Company, 2014.

The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper  is a short story that has haunted me since my undergrad years. For a setting to still haunt me after 20 years can only mean that it is an extremely effective setting. Why would this setting, one that scares me, be my favorite? It’s compelling, it makes the reader think, and it makes the reader terrified of what is going on in the mind of the narrator.  The setting doesn’t only feel real and believable, it feels as if it’s actually alive.  The setting is not just a place where the action takes place, it IS the action, it’s an actual character. “And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.” (Gilman)

There is a strong impact in studying the settings in the works we have studied in class; I now look for clues in the setting of a written piece, the setting isn’t just background, sometimes it is the main character.  There is always something more hiding there. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the tunnel represents freedom, in The Yellow Wallpaper the walls come alive and point to the narrator’s psychological distress by being hidden away in a room without much human contact.

As a writer, I realize how much weight the setting can have in a written work. It’s not something to be thought of last, it’s a meaningful part of the narration and should be handled as such. It can set up tension, signal romance, tell when the character is going insane, show if something tragic is about to happen. As I write, I need to look for ways to bring setting to life, whether that be through metaphor, symbolism, or even more. I will work harder to develop the settings of my writings, it is just as important as character development.

 

Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Project Gutenberg, 25, November 2008.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1952/1952-h/1952-h.htm. Accessed 12, October 2017.

 

The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower: A Craft Analyses

Written for my SNHU M.A. in Creative Writing.  English 510

 

The Catcher in the Rye has become a sort of litmus test for all Young Adult literature published after 1945.  Many books have mimicked its literary mechanics, with an angst-driven main character and themes of mental illness. A similar work of fiction, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, encapsulates similar devices to deliver its message. The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being of a Wallflower handle the teen experience in powerful ways, not shying away from topics considered shocking in their time. Through the use of storytelling elements, themes, and stylistic choices J.D. Salinger and Stephen Chbosky successfully handle themes that teens from the 1940’s and now struggle to deal with, which include suicide, sexuality, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, date rape, and abortion.  

The conflict, climax, and resolution in The Catcher in the Rye helps lead the reader through the downfall and mental illness of its main character, Holden Caulfield. At the beginning of the novel, Holden has learned he has been kicked out of his private school, Pencey Prep. He tells the reader he’s been kicked out of many prep schools before, which helps the reader to know Holden is not at all concerned with the expectations that are placed upon him: “I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself and all.” (Salinger, 6). The conflict of losing his place at Pencey Prep sends him into a very cold, wintry New York City, where he can’t find anyone who truly cares and which causes him to feel completely alone, despite the many people he came across in the city. The coldness of the city and the desperation for human contact work to create a mood of despair. In the climax of the novel, Holden watches his sister, Phoebe, ride the carousel, creating a breaking point for him, where he realizes he must pull himself together and disrupt his plans to move west.  “I’m not going away anywhere. I changed my mind. So stop crying and shut up.”  (Salinger, 228)  If not for himself, he needed to mature for Phoebe. She gave him a reason to mature, a more powerful statement than if Salinger had chosen this moment to occur between Holden and an adult.  Using Phoebe made the moment feel real and heartfelt. The resolution shows Holden in a mental hospital, at this point the reader learns the entire novel has been a conversation–a retelling of his life to a hospital employee. Revealing one of the most important parts of the novel at the end drives the reader to review the book looking for clues missed during the first reading; it creates interest and a lifelong infatuation with the novel.

The Catcher in the Rye is written in first person point of view, using Holden as an unreliable narrator. “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible. (Salinger, 14) The reader cannot trust Holden’s words, his entire story is a version of the truth, or maybe a complete fabrication, the reader can’t be sure. Alternately, the reader also becomes aware that Holden is not exactly sure of his surroundings and own personal actions.  He has little knowledge of how he is behaving as evidenced here: “Don’t shout, please,’ old Sally said. Which was very funny, because I wasn’t even shouting.” (Salinger, 117) Sometimes Holden doesn’t know why he reacts to events in the way he does, as evidenced in this quote: “When I was all set to go when I had my bags and all, I stood for a while next to the stairs and took a last look down the goddam corridor. I was sort of crying. I don’t know why.” (Salinger, 46) All of this demonstrates why the reader cannot trust Holden’s narration of events. Holden is young, not sure of the world around him, but also feels as if he is more mature than he is, which is normal for his age. It is not unreasonable for a teen to be confused by his reactions, or to lie, adding in a mental illness creates a character who is unreliable, but also mirrors teens in his age range, making him a believable character.

The Catcher in the Rye represents the cusp of change in America and matches those conventions in literature: a time when the nation’s ethics and morality were challenged, when society itself was considered too impersonal, and when the art and literary world began to fight against that cold impartiality. The creative world was struggling to move beyond the staunch rules and practices of the late 1800s early 1900s.  As Baldick observes “Modernist literature is characterized chiefly by a rejection of 19th-century traditions and of their consensus between author and reader” (Baldick 159). The Catcher in the Rye shows the modernist characteristics clearly. The novel extremely conversational, written as if the main character, Holden Caulfield, is verbally telling his story. Catcher is a break from the expected norm, it is now, it is different, and certainly avant-garde for its time period. This becomes evident immediately upon picking up the book: the first sentence tells the reader so. “IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HEAR about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like…” (Salinger, 3) Here Caulfield is telling the reader “IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HEAR…” (Salinger, 3) It feels as if Caulfield is talking to the reader, when in reality, he is speaking to someone at the psychiatric hospital. This method is extremely effective in helping the reader to understand fully how Caulfield’s depressed mind is working. Throughout the novel, he continually lets the reader know he is depressed, “… I was crying and all. I don’t know why, but I was. I guess it was because I was feeling so damn depressed and lonesome.” (Salinger, 169). Salinger wrote Holden Caulfield with a raw emotion and ragged mental state during a time when mental illness was shushed and swept under the carpet. Through first-person narrative, Salinger gave Caulfield a voice while giving the world insight into the realities of depression and mental illness. Salinger’s decision was against the norm of the time, a convention of modernist literature.

While The Catcher in the Rye showcases a teen running away from his responsibilities, The Perks of Being a Wallflower introduces us to a teen fully immersing himself in life.  In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie, a 15-year-old high school freshman, finds himself alone at the beginning of the school year. Through letters written to a stranger, the reader follows Charlie through his first year of high school. Stephen Chbosky spins a postmodern tale using unconventional storytelling methods and contemporary themes to create Charlie’s world in an immensely believable manner. Chbosky draws both Charlie and the reader through the conflict, crisis, and conclusion to show that friendship is indispensable to surviving life’s harder moments. His storytelling elements help the reader to fully understand the characters and themes of the novel to produce a work that speaks to its readers.

The conflict, climax, and resolution of Wallflower are in line with Charlie’s growth process socially as well as psychologically. The conflict in Wallflower occurs with the suicide of Charlie’s friend, Michael. Charlie is left dealing with the suicide as well as the long since the death of his aunt Helen. He is feeling alone and awkward with flashbacks plaguing him. Two climactic moments occur in his novel, with the first climax being the most important to the story. This is an unconventional storytelling method. For the first, most important climax, Chbosky sets a party scene. Dared to kiss the most beautiful girl in the room, Charlie chooses to kiss someone other than his girlfriend, he kisses Sam, his good friend, the person he is been dreaming about. This starts the progression of downfall in the story, causing Charlie to lose friends who had become a safety net protecting him from bad memories and flashbacks. The second climactic moment happens when Charlie’s friend Patrick gets into a lunchroom fight. By having Charlie step in to help Patrick, Chbosky both gives Charlie more self-power and drives home the theme of friendship as the path to emotional survival. Patrick’s realization that Charlie is a true friend sets the course for Charlie to regain his friend group and sets the stage for the story’s resolution. The resolution occurs as Charlie’s friends get ready for college. He finally kisses his longtime crush, Sam, then has a disturbing flashback of his aunt molesting him. Chbosky sends Charlie into a psychotic break, with the novel ending with Charlie in a mental hospital. In the resolution, Charlie ultimately begins the process of self-actualization.

Charlie’s progression shows despair, loyalty, and finally growth. Charlie is a reliable narrator revealed through a set of letters sent to a stranger, addressed simply to “friend.” This friend is someone that Charlie does not know, so he feels he can be honest and forthright in his letters, despite the fact that he changes all the names, including his own. “I will call people by different names or generic names because I don’t want you to find me.” (Chbosky, 2) Through this set of letters, the reader is exposed to a teen boy who is different from his peers. He is smarter, awkward, and a wallflower, as noted by Charlie’s friend Patrick: “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.” (Chbosky, 37) Throughout the book, Charlie grows as a character in his relationships with his peers, but still remains awkward and never truly learns to advocate for himself until the end of the novel. He makes friends and begins learning how to be a friend himself. Yet, as Sam points out in the following quote, he remains a wallflower: “…You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.” (Chbosky, 200). Charlie has a realization in the hospital that shows the reader he will be okay: “…even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.” (Chbosky, 211) At the end of the narrative, Chbosky shows the reader that Charlie will be okay through a heartwarming moment with his friends. “But mostly, I was crying because I was suddenly very aware of the fact that it was me standing up in that tunnel with the wind over my face.” (Chbosky, 213) This is the end of the novel, but the start of his new life.

Stephen Chbosky utilizes many literary conventions that are found in contemporary Young Adult Genre, as well as the youth culture of the late 1990’s. Those literary conventions include: “adolescent protagonists, narration from the adolescent’s point-of-view, realistic contemporary settings, and subject matter formerly considered taboo.” (Ross) By this definition, Chbosky is successful in his portrayal of teen life in contemporary America. Wallflower has indeed been written in the point-of-view of an adolescent protagonist. Its contemporary setting is a more modern Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the 1990’s. Lastly, taboo is something that sticks out heavily in this novel, as Jeffrey Kaplan states: “The trope that all young adult literature has in common is the search for identity.” (Kaplan, 12) In this novel, the search for identity includes exploring topics once considered taboo. Charlie pushes the boundaries of what was once considered taboo with drinking and drug use. More so, Patrick’s struggle with his homosexual identity leads Patrick to make choices that hurt him deeply. “The nights he would pick up someone always made him sad. It’s hard, too, because Patrick began every night really excited. He always said he felt free. And tonight was his destiny. And things like that. But by the end of that night, he just looked sad…. He ran out of things to keep him numb.” (Chbosky, 163) Other taboo topics in Wallflower include abortion, suicide, rape, alcoholism, and drug abuse. The teens in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s wanted real topics, they didn’t want to be sheltered, they want authentic literature that mirrored the issues they saw around them daily.

The Catcher in the Rye and The Secrets of Being a Wallflower employ storytelling elements in similar manners, but there are also many differences. Both Catcher and Wallflower are told from a first-person point of view, with Charlie in Wallflower being the more reliable narrator. Holden and Charlie are telling their stories in a conversational manner. Holden’s story is told to a psychiatric hospital employee, while Charlie’s story is told through a series of letters written to someone only referred to as “friend.”  In both instances, these stories are being told to anonymous people. This helps the reader concentrate only on the main character, and his thoughts, instead of a back and forth dialogue between the teller and the interviewer.  In addition, Salinger uses more of a conversational tone in Catcher, while Chbosky uses letters.

Both Charlie and Holden show a late development of character, with both characters having their realization moments towards the end of their novels. However, there are slight differences in their development; Salinger’s Holden is stubborn until the end, whereas  Chbosky’s Charlie knows he needs to change and tries. Both novels start with a stressful event, pushing the character to do something different. Holden learns he’s been kicked out of school: “They kicked me out. I wasn’t supposed to come back after Christmas vacation, on account of I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself and all.” (Salinger, 6) This event sends Holden into the cold streets of New York City to avoid telling his parents of his recent dismissal. “I didn’t want to go home or anything till they got it and thoroughly digested it and all. I didn’t want to be around when they first go it. My mother gets very hysterical….  My nerves were shot. They really were.” (Salinger, 58) In Wallflower, Charlie learns a friend has committed suicide, sending him into his first year of high school with no friends and social life. Chbosky shows Charlie’s pain in the following: “Then, I started screaming at the guidance counselor that Michael could have talked to me. And I started crying even harder.” (Chbosky, 4)

Both The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of being a Wallflower take a serious view of what teenage life is in their particular time and place with teenagers being the intended audience for the novels using conventions that are typically used in Young Adult literature.  The themes the authors explored are relevant to the changing societies in which they reside. Both works reside in a time period of change, both works deal with the impetuousness of youth, sexuality, and drug abuse. In Catcher, Holden is surrounded by an emerging sex culture where youth are becoming more interested in exploring sex before marriage. While Holden sees teens making out all around him, he himself is not interested: “Most guys at Pencey just talked about having sexual intercourse with girls all the time–like Ackley, for instance–but old Stradlater really did it. I was personally acquainted with at least two girls he gave the time to. That’s the truth.” (Salinger, 55) and “I know you’re supposed to feel pretty sexy when somebody gets up and pulls her dress over their head, but I didn’t. Sexy was about the last thing I was feeling. I felt much more depressed than sexy.” (Salinger, 106). In Wallflower, Charlie is willing to go with the flow of whatever is going on, just to be kind:

“Like when you guys went to that park? Or when he was kissing you? Did you want him to kiss you?”

I shook my head no.

“So why did you let him?”

“I was trying to be a friend,” I said (Chbosky, 201)

Stephen Chbosky also handles homosexuality as a subtheme of the larger theme of sexuality, something that J.D. Salinger’s society would not have allowed. Chbosky was writing in the late 1990’s when society was starting to become more accepting of homosexuality. Chbosky chooses Patrick, Charlie’s friend, to illustrate the experience and shame of growing up gay in the 1990’s. Patrick’s love interest, the star quarterback named Brad, did everything he could to hide his relationship with Patrick, including bullying Patrick.

““What did you call me?’

God he was mad. I’d never seen Patrick like that before.

Brad sat quiet for a second, but his buddies kept egging him on by pushing his shoulders. Brad looked up at Patrick and said softer and meaner than the last time.

“I called you a faggot.”” (Salinger, 150)

Other sex-based themes including date-rape, molestation, and abortion were also handled in Wallflower–areas that Salinger did not embrace in Catcher.  

Mental illness is another theme explored by both Salinger and Chbosky. Both writers chose to end their novels with their characters receiving psychiatric care. Both novels look deeply inside the mind of a hurting teen. For Holden, Salinger makes the hospitalization a part of the realization of the character’s problems with taking ownership of his life. Holden is depressed by the death of his older brother, the suicide of his roommate is feeling hopeless in the streets of New York City, and has a mental breakdown: “Everytime I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I’d say to him, ‘Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Please, Allie.’ And then when I’d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him. Then it would start all over again as soon as I got to the next corner. But I kept going and all. I was sort of afraid to stop.” (Salinger, 217)  Chbosky’s Charlie also has a psychotic break at the end of Wallflower when memory of his Aunt molesting him came flooding back: “I did what she told me. And just before I fell asleep, I said something.

“I can’t do that anymore. I’m sorry,” I said.

“It’s okay, Charlie, Just go to sleep,” Sam said.

But I wasn’t talking to Sam anymore, I was talking to someone else.” (Chbosky, 203)

Salinger and Chbosky’s choices work well in their novels for Young Adult readers.  Both novels were written during a period of change in the American society. Themes prevalent in Young Adult literature include: “disillusionment and  alienation, coping with family dynamics, peer relationships, overcoming obstacles, and broadening perspectives.” (Eiss, iii)  Each of these themes was touched on in both novels. While Salinger wrote Catcher, more women working outside of the home, the baby boom was occurring, and Alfred Kinsey was two years away from releasing Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. In Wallflower, there were changes in society. Chbosky tackles issues that teens were wrestling in their own worlds, changes that hit the teen population of the time in a hard way; homosexuality, date rape, and drug use. The conversational tone of both novels appeal to the younger Y.A. audience, both authors captured the voice of teens exceptionally well. Both authors’ main characters are teens themselves. In The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger makes sure the reader understands that Holden’s family relationships are strained.  In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie is dealing with the death of his aunt and the changing dynamic of his brother being in college. It appears as if he has a normal American family who love him very much. He never questions their love. We can see Charlie thinking about his family here: “One thing I do know is that it makes me wonder if I have ‘problems at home.’ but it seems  to me that a lot of other people have it a lot worse.”  (Chbosky, 4) The way Chbosky writes Charlie’s family paints a portrait of an average American family. Friendships and peers were handled by both authors. Holden seems to distrust and dislike his peers: “Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these very wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway.” (Salinger, 6). Whereas Charlie so desperately wanted be a part of his peers lives: “Normally I am very shy, but [Patrick] seemed like the kind of guy you could just walk up to at a football game even though you were three years younger and not popular.” (Chbosky, 19)  Family life, social life, taking risks, these are all things that teens enjoy reading about. Both authors appeal to the youth in America, both wrote successful Young Adult novels.

J.D. Salinger  and Stephen Chbosky deal with similar themes in different ways. Both authors successfully gave a voice to the he teens of their decade. They both explored topics that were taboo, and both explore teens that are coming of age. Salinger and Chbosky also dealt with mental illness in very powerful ways that lead the reader to pay attention. The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are successful Young Adult / coming of age novels.

 

Works Cited

Baldick, Chris. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.

Chbosky, Stephen. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Gallery Books, 1999.

Eiss, Harry. “Young Adult Literature and Culture.” Newcastle upon Tyne : Cambridge

Scholars Publishing. 2009. Page, iii

Kaplan, Jeffrey. “Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century.” The Alan Review,

Winter 2005 https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v32n2/kaplan.pdf. Accessed 13

October 2017.

Ross, Catherine , “Young Adult Realism: Conventions, Narrators, and Readers,” The Library

Quarterly 55, no. 2. April, 1985: 174-191.

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. 1951. Little, Brown and Company, 2014.

 

I’m Reagan, I will be #1!

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“Did the team list come out yet?”

“Yes.”  I’m afraid to tell her what the results were.

“And?” My mother stands with a hand on her hip, looking at me as if she’s ready to lurch at me.

“I got JV goalie, first string.”  The look in my mother’s eye–she doesn’t look happy. “Mom, I’m going into 9th grade, JV is where most of the girls my age are at. I’m first string.”  She looks even more unhappy.

“MOST of the girls?  Let me guess… Larkin?” My mother snapped. Her words slash through me. It’s always been hard to be one-upped by Larkin. She’s been outplaying me since we were eight.  

I meekly answer,  “Larkin got varsity goalie.”

“Right, exactly.” My mother snaps.

“Mom, she’s just better.”

Rolling her eyes. “If you would have put in that extra time, you would have gotten it. The only difference between her and you is how hard she tries. You don’t try.”

“Mom, I did all the extra training, spent all my time with the ball, what more can I do?  I’m doing the best I can.” I’m trying to hold back the tears at this point.

“Larkin and you have been neck and neck for so long, this is your time to pull ahead.”

“Why can’t you be happy for me that I made first string, that’s a big deal. Larkin is only in 9th, that’s not normal. This is the first time a 9th grader has ever made varsity.” the tears start flowing. “Why can’t you just be proud of me?”

“When you do something to be proud of, I will be.” After saying that she coldly looks at me, and turns to walk away to continue cooking dinner. As I sit there with an endless stream of tears, my mom just stands in the kitchen, chopping away at carrots scowling at me. As she chops, I hear her mumble under her breath “Pathetic.” The second those words reached my ears, I let out the most intense scream of my life “Don’t you know that I’m doing the best I can?” As the echo of my words rang throughout the house, my mother put down the knife, takes off her apron, raises her head and looks at me with terrifyingly dead eyes… and just walks away.

I sit here staring at nothing, after a while, I look down at my hand with the roster still in its grasp. I’ve been squeezing the paper to the point that it has ripped.  Standing so quickly that the chair tips over,  I wipe the tears from my eyes with my still clenched fist. As I stand there staring at my fist, my only thought is… My name is Reagan Williams, and I won’t stop until I am number one!

 

Why?

 

oldnoah

2014 before his injury.

I’m taking a break from character introductions to type something that means so much to me. It may not be written perfectly, but it’s written from my heart.

This writing project, that has taken me away from Design and visual arts and placed me in the seat of a writer, has a specific purpose. I would not completely change my creative direction for a small reason. I need for teens to understand what happens in the brain of someone that is healing from Post Concussion Syndrome.

When I was a child, I don’t remember any of my friends ever having a concussion, and we played, hard. But now, it seems like everyone has a concussion story. It’s on the news, there’s a movie, and there are so many social groups on facebook about the topic.  They still aren’t talking about something that is also becoming more and more prevalent, Post Concussion Syndrome.  Sometimes people don’t take that 1-3 weeks to heal. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes it takes years, sometimes healing never happens. Sometimes people have to get used to their new normal.  

boardMy son is two and a half years out from his injury. He was thrown off his longboard during the summer of 2014. He sustained a skull fracture, and major concussion at the age of 14 (he’s about to turn 17). It didn’t start off bad, he had a headache, but could cope, then a few days later, it became completely debilitating. This is something that many don’t understand, the symptoms of a concussion can develop over time. He ended up unable to walk without assistance, unable to hold a pencil, unable to handle any light. He slept for three months straight. We took him to neurologist after neurologist, he was put on many medications, but mostly we were told to just wait it out.  That there would be this magical moment that he would blink his eyes, and become okay. As time went on, we added in Physical Therapy in the hopes that he could learn to walk without aid again. Instead of saying that one day he would just come out of it, they started saying they would TRY to get him as close to baseline as possible. We tried speech therapy, but the therapist said she couldn’t help him, his pain was too great.  He lived with a headache of 7/10 for two years. Sometimes higher, never less. He began losing his sight, his peripheral vision went dark and was slowly closing in on his entire field of vision. We were beyond frustrated, and completely terrified. He spent a long time like this until we found a Neuro-chiropractor, Dr. Sullivan, who hooked him up with all sorts of electrodes and began sending electric impulses through his brain, and his nerves. This was successful in three months, he was headache free, he still gets a few headaches here and there, but nothing like what they were. But the best thing? His vision came back, 100%.  He woke up one morning and he could see, completely. He felt like he had a new life, we were out of the woods.

Then the realization of what had happened started closing in on him. He started having major panic attacks, stopped eating, had very serious social anxiety, as well as other symptoms.  This was a part of Post Concussion Syndrome we never expected and weren’t ready for. My child was, once again, wilting in front of my eyes. We have a handle on this now, and he’s doing much better. But there are some things that he will have to deal with for the rest of his life. He will have to stay on top of it, and not become lazy about it.  This is where the story of Larkin in Shattered Self takes place. This place where you believe that she’s better, but she’s actually worse. There’s no reason for her to still be kept out of school, but school is a painful place for her to be, for so many reasons.

My son lost friends, my son lost his support system.  During those months that he was laying in bed, friends weren’t able to call, text, visit, anything. We have to remember, they are kids, their lives are moving lightning fast, they all have their own issues they are dealing with. Their own heartbreak, their own illnesses, their own family problems. This is exactly what happens with Larkin, but in her mind, they abandoned her, and that’s a very dark place to live. It begins to hurt so much, that you stop trying.  You begin to shut yourself off, and only feel the loneliness.  For my son, when he started going back to classes he felt like he was a different person. He felt completely misunderstood, and this was extremely frustrating for him. So, in a lot of ways, he gave up.

I’m writing this book so that other teens know what’s going on in their injured friend’s minds. We have friends whose children have been dealing with their post-concussion syndrome for a lot longer than 2.5 years. We have friends that after years and years, still aren’t able to return to school. They get lonely, and it becomes dark. When they do return, it’s just not the same. This is hard for their them and their friends.  Larkin is a combination of these teens.

So much is out there about concussion, there’s not a whole lot out there for this place, the place right after.  The thing that everyone can do to make this transition better, is to give them hope. They’ve had to give up all of their favorite activities, they’ve lost friends, school may be much harder for them. Find a way to give them hope. Don’t be over critical about those things they can’t do, don’t be over critical of the moments that are dark, don’t hold on to those bad times leading them to believe that it’s what they are worth. They are worth so much more.

newnoah

2016, The new normal. He’ll never play soccer again, but he coaches and he loves it!

 

 

Please, don’t be that person that tells them that they are faking it, just because you don’t understand it (adults and kids alike).  Don’t be that person that tells people in their social group that they are making it seem worse than it really is, usually they are trying to fake being better than they really are. Don’t be that person. That’s a horrible thing to do to something that is struggling so hard to just be normal. FYI: This is important for anyone that suffers, from anything.

This is a novel that I need to write, and it wasn’t letting me sleep until I started.  I have no idea where it will go, but I have to try.