I sort of backed into my calling, but I had always written for teens.
When I was in college there was an incredible teen magazine called Sassy...I really wanted to work for Sassy. It was one of the coolest, hippest, fabulous teen magazines and all the twenty-somethings I knew read it and we all loved it. I was studying journalism and I thought, "I'm going to move to New York (I lived in Oregon) and I'm going to work for Sassy. Well, unfortunately, by the time I got to New York, Sassy had died as so many magazines do.
So, I worked for Seventeen instead, five years: three on staff, two as a freelancer. And I worked on these amazing stories that no one ever believed that Seventeen did. I was their social justice reporter so I did everything: from going to Sierra Leone to write about child soldiers; I went to the Philippines to write about child labor; I did the story about behavior modification bootcamps. I also did great quizzes such as "75 Reasons Why Life Without a Boyfriend Rocks"...so, I was really drawn to writing about and writing for that readership right off the bat.
When I left Seventeen I kept writing articles about young people, for young people, but I missed writing for that readership. I was writing more nuanced articles for Seventeen magazine then I was for many of the adult magazines.
And then when I wrote my nonfiction book it was, again, a lot of writing and reporting for young people. So that when I finally wrote that first young adult novel it was just sort of like slipping into a soft comfortable bed---where I should have been all along---and I didn't know that I knew how to write a novel, but apparently I did. And...it was like: "this is what I want to do." And...it was a little bit scary because once I realized that I wanted to do it I realized that you also only had so many chances in life to write a novel that nobody reads before they stop letting you do it. So, I kinda wanted to get serious about it.
It's funny because outside of the YA community there is this idea that young adult authors are the farm team, and we're just sort of warming up for the big leagues. Anybody who is in the YA world knows there is amazing literature being produced in YA right now. We're all really glad to be here for a number of reasons.
First of all, we have the best readers. We get the most engaged, excited readers. When they get excited about the book, they tell absolutely everyone. Our books get such great word-of-mouth: Facebook, Twitter, things like Tumbler, and blogs. They really get the word out. I don't think adult readers are as engaged; plus, adult readers are still reading our books.
The kinds of things we can right about are great. The risks we can take are great.
I love writing for young adults; I can't imagine writing anything else. These are the stories that excite me.