Reading Outside My Genre by Jill Richardson
Joan Bauer retweets me.
Yes, this does make me inordinately excited.
When my kids were in school, I spent about eight years coaching our junior high Battle of the Books team. Think Jeopardy for YA literature. The kids read twenty books and answered competition questions like, “In what book would you find main characters who speak lapin?” (Answer: Watership Down, by Richard Adams.) Oh yeah. The coach still has it.
Several of the books we read were best sellers written by Ms. Bauer.
I write nonfiction for adults. I am a pastor; I write pastor-ly sorts of things. Reading outside of my usual fare, however, stretches me and makes my writing, and ministry, far better than it would otherwise be. Reading YA lit gives me some laser insight into the thoughts, feelings, hurts, and beliefs of the young people whose parents I do write for. It also affirms to me that there is a generation waiting to step into Christian leadership who is thinking a lot about things that matter.
Reading YA lit makes me a part of that community, if only vicariously. When I read the books my youth group members are reading, I see through their eyes and am able to communicate to their hearts with a deeper, more authentic connection. I can pull them and their parents into the same internet space, if only for one article, and foster reconciliation.
This is gold to me.
The same connection happens with the authors of those books. I instantly loved Joan’s championship of the underdog. I found joy in her insistence that people could find hope and create a new beginning out of not much more than dust and dreams. Her themes echoed deep in my soul as I wrestle with the same themes when I put fingers to the keyboard.
Though my words are blog posts and magazine articles, I too, wrangle for the underdog. I, too, long to find the turns of phrase that will convince people stuck in inconceivable hurt that they can find redemption and renewal. I do it with Bible verses—she does it with stories of cupcakes and breakfast grills.
We write the same message.
I don’t know Joan Bauer. She has no idea who I am, though apparently, she has read a few of my blog posts or quotes and retweeted them. What we share is a community of writers whose hearts are ablaze for the hurting and who believe desperately in the next generation. She’s not the only one in that community. I’ve come to know a lot of us, and we cheer one another on in the writing trenches, fiction or non.
We don’t have to write in the same way to be in the same community with the same message of hope.
I’ve just published my first YA novel. Who even knew? This act is definitely in line with Writing Brave—one of the breakout sessions I’ll be teaching at Breathe. Both the writing outside my norm and the subject matter are brave steps for me.
I think writing it is also partly thanks to Joan Bauer. The pull to venture into unknown territory came from the need to set down what nonfiction writers sometimes cannot—a story of the underdog. Maybe she’ll read some of my tweets about it. Maybe she’ll retweet them.
I would be honored.
Jill Richardson is a writer, speaker, pastor, mom of three, and author of five books. She likes to travel, grow flowers, and break into random musical numbers. Jill has a BA from Washington University in English and Secondary Education, an MDiv from Bethel University, and is currently pursuing a DMin.