BEA Madness!

by sarahenni on June 3, 2013

I can hardly believe that 1) it’s already June, and 2) this last weekend was the third time that I’ve attended the annual BookExpo America conference, held in the glass labyrinth that is New York City’s Javits convention center.

This year was the most thrilling, by far, because of all the remarkable women I know who were there supporting their brilliant books. Jessica and I decided that this was the weekend of celebrating excellent things happening to deserving people. My favorite thing!

Through some lucky happenstance, I was able to room with some of my favorite ladies for free during the conference, in exchange for cat-sitting some cute, if ornery, kitties (Max, at left, was particularly… vocal). It was great to have a homey place to retreat to after very, very long days pacing the convention center.

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When you walked into the mass of steel and glass that is the Javits, the first thing you noticed was the MASSIVE poster for Veronica Roth‘s Allegiant! It was thrilling to see the Divergent series getting the attention it deserves, as the movie continues filming and the rest of us salivate for the final book!

And even better was that Veronica was giving the keynote for this year’s Children’s Author Breakfast. Hot damn, guys, she really tore the roof off. I’ve always known Veronica to be poised, thoughtful, and genuine. She was all of those things, magnified, during her speech, which was about approaching books, and life, with an open heart. I’ve got to share some quotes, because it was so dang good:

School taught me, whether I knew it or not, to approach books with [the attitude of] I am here to learn. But when I got older, something changed. In my Advanced English program, surrounded by peers I was sure were much smarter than me, my own insecurity started to creep in, telling me it was risky to be enthusiastic about anything, lest I be deemed not good enough for the people around me. It was comparatively safer to turn my nose up to everything because I felt like only a loser enjoys something wholeheartedly and I didn’t want to be a loser. …

And the thing is, when you adopt that attitude, ‘I’m here to learn,’ the world becomes a fascinating, beautiful place. I’m the author of the ‘Divergent’ series, and that means I am here to learn, specifically about knock-out mice and genetic engineering, gunshot wounds, exposure therapy, Chicago architecture, zip-lining, aquaponics and post-traumatic stress disorder — all things I researched while writing my series.

Every writer I know is also here to learn — about spaceships and fall-out shelters and international abduction and horitculture and language and everything. Everything else, everything that makes this world strange and rich and mysterious and ugly and beautiful. Humility in reading and in writing really means freedom, freedom to love things with unbridled enthusiasm. Freedom to critique things thoughtfully, freedom to write about topics you aren’t that familiar with, freedom to admit to your mistakes and learn from them. Humility is freedom.

– Veronica Roth in her keynote speech at BEA 2013 (transcript here)

Oh man. It was amazing. Video is here as well, if you’re into a more immersive experience.

After I wiped away a few tears from being SO. DAMNED. PROUD. of Veronica, it was off to being proud of OTHER amazing people!

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The BEA Buzz Panel this year was packed with fantastic authors, including fellow D.C.-area author and super rad friend Cristin Terrill (second from left), whose forthcoming debut All Our Yesterdays is going to melt your face off. She rocked the YA Buzz Panel Author session like a boss.

And the familiar faces, each with something to celebrate, kept coming!

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From top left: Jessica BS and Sasha with Rainbow Rowell‘s Fangirl; Me with the adorable Amy Tintera, who signed her debut Reboot and ran out of books; Rainbow Rowell being fabulous, signing my treasured copy of Fangirl; Gorgeous Erin Bowman was just kicking off her 2.5-week tour and signed her badass thriller Taken; Lindsey Roth Culli, as usual, made me smile and kept me sane through the madness!

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From top left: Cristin Terrill reads the opening of All Our Yesterdays, which is so good that Sumayyah was about to storm onstage and grab the ARC to keep reading; The super-rad agent (and fellow unashamed Dashboard Confessional fan) Logan Garrison was a blast to hang out with; and having some down time with Veronica Roth, Kody Keplinger, Phoebe North, and Sumayyah Daud was just the thing to re-energize the writerly batteries. Love those girls. I also FINALLY got to hang with the peerless wonder Michelle Schusterman, who is debuting the cover for her MG I Heart Band this week, and we got into some pretty deep conspiracy theories about Doctor Who. As one does.

And though I was too nervous to snap a picture, I also got to meet my amazing agent, Sarah Burnes, for lunch! It was great to meet her in person, catch up with everything YA, and talk about books, books, books!

It was a helluva weekend, all around. Oh, right, and I snagged some excellent early reads too:

image_8How about you?! Did any of you go to BEA? Did I see you there?? What books are you looking forward to?

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Query Tips

by sarahenni on April 8, 2013

photo (6)Querying is the pits. It’s also the best! The peaks and valleys, that emotional yo-yo, can make the weeks or months of frantic e-mail checking really tough to take. I was so excited to announce that I snagged a great agent this go-round, but it wasn’t my first time on the query train. And having gone through the experience twice, there are some tips I have to make the experience ever so slightly less maddening.

  • Create a new e-mail address. I sit at my day job with my every-day email open constantly. I used that e-mail when I queried the first time, and it led to a lot of unnecessary stress. Each new *ping!* of my inbox stopped my heart, and when it turned out to be yet another Madewell discount e-mail I was upset every time1. So this time, I not only created a new e-mail address, I also gave it a distinctive notification (different buzz and ringtone) on my phone. When I got an e-mail in that inbox, I knew it. And the rest of the time I found it easier to relax.
  • Query by committee. There’s just no way my query would have gotten to where it was without the help of literally a dozen friends. If you ask around to some writing friends (both those who’ve read your book, and those who haven’t) my guess is you’ll find those few crazies who actually enjoy query writing! It took me weeks, and several completely different versions of my query, to find one that reflected my story in content, tone, and voice. Wouldn’t have been possible without the shrewd analysis of my friends.
  • Find agents through multiple channels. There’s actually been a lot of attention paid to this trend recently, especially in Jennifer Laughran’s post about ‘rock star’ agents. I queried a lot of agents who I’ve been following on Twitter for years. Obviously I already knew we’d get along great, and all my friends knew who they were, too. But as I got farther in the process, I started thinking about all the other agents, who I was less familiar with but who represented some of my favorite writers. Some of them had almost no online presence, but if they could help my favorite authors get books into the world, they could certainly help me. That’s how I ended up querying my agent, Sarah2, and I couldn’t be happier!
  • Have questions at the ready! This isn’t unique advice by any means, but WOW was it necessary! I cobbled together a list from Kate Hart and Casey McCormick at Literary Rambles—you can download the list I made here. I printed out my list, put it on a clipboard, and hammered through the questions. That made for long conversations, but at the end I felt like I knew exactly who I was talking to and what someone could offer me. (And whenever I mentioned I had a list, the party on the other line was excited. “Ooh, a list!” Oh, book publishing! You are my people!)
  • Celebrate! I’m always preaching about this, but I really, really mean it. It’s distressingly easy to have a milestone on the path to publishing get overwhelmed by nerves, frustration, or anti-climactic feelings. Celebrating your success is a choice you make to acknowledge how far you’ve come, and prepare for the battles left to fight. I love this advice so much I did it twice–when I got an initial offer, and when I finally signed. Carve out the time and pop some bubbly!

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  1. 25 percent off AFTER I’ve already spent $120 isn’t a deal, Madewell! Insult to injury!
  2. Though she does have a Twitter!

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Exciting News!

by sarahenni on April 1, 2013

Breaking the blog silence because I have (as promised in the heading) something super exciting to announce 1:

I am now represented by Sarah Burnes with The Gernert Company!

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I haven’t discussed my current project all that much, but it’s a contemporary romance. That’s something Sarah knows all about, as she represents Gayle Forman and Natalie Standiford, both of whom I adore.

Sarah was so enthusiastic about the book, and her thoughts on revisions made so much sense, I know she’s just the partner I need to help move on to the next step2! Yay!

  1. And no, this isn’t an April Fool’s day joke! I would never do that to you guys. Just was too anxious to wait till tomorrow to announce.
  2. I also want to thank Logan Garrison, who has been communicating with me as Sarah’s assistant and an agent at Gernert in her own right, and who is obviously amazing because she agrees with Jessica and I about Dashboard Confessional’s enduring value and unparalleled earworm status!

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Style and Voice

by sarahenni on February 11, 2013

I admire people who have a distinctive look, a personal style. For years I worked to find that same effortless thing for myself, trying and failing, always ending up trying too hard to force something inauthentic. It was only when I found what felt right and worked with it that I started to feel like I had any style of my own.

There’s a very apt writing tie-in to this (I promise!), and it’s the elusive quality that, though every agent and editor says they’re looking for it, is so hard to define: voice. It seems like every interview with a publishing gatekeeper includes the term, and they all put it way, way up there on lists that will push one writer’s work from rejection to request, from sub to sale.

Just like style, voice is something innate that isn’t so much discovered as nurtured. And in light of New York Fashion Week this week, I thought it might be helpful to provide some examples of YA authors out there right now who have some of the most distinctive voices around, and ask the most stylish person I know, fashion blogger and certified bestie Megan (a.k.a. Step Brightly), to help me relate those voices to the world of fashion1.

Voice/Style example 1

Smart and thoughtful. Doesn’t back away from intense, philosophical considerations, but careful to also include levity in some wit, winks, and nods. Definitely an established mainstream name, but has a hugely dedicated cult following.
I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.
— John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
Megan’s style association: Elizabeth & James. 
JohnGreenOlsenTwins
Owned by the extremely popular, yet ever quirky Olsen twins, Elizabeth & James is a clothing line loved by everyone from pop icons to indie rock stars. Mary Kate and Ashley have created a high end sports-wear line that makes basics look fancy. Their website is ridiculously cool and somewhat intimidating, but Elizabeth & James will also pop up at mainstream stores like Madewell from time to time.   The thing I like best about the pint-sized duo’s line is that the clothing is mature and made for a sophisticated woman.

Voice/Style example 2

Poetic, focused on beautiful, intricate details. Something out of a fairytale, but the nuanced, sad, complex original Hans Christen Andersen kind, not the Disney kind. Takes traditional ideas and makes something beautiful and refreshingly new from them.

“That’s how you get deathless, volchitsa. Walk the same tale over and over, until you wear a groove in the world, until even if you vanished, the tale would keep turning, keep playing, like a phonograph, and you’d have to get up again, even with a bullet through your eye, to play your part and say your lines.”

— Catherynne Valente, Deathless

 

Megan association: The Character Sweater

 DeathlessSweater

You have seen them everywhere at this point, am I right? From bulldogs on cashmere to owls on wool, the ‘Pictionary sweater’ is making its mark on year – end fashions.  The fact of the mater is none of these characters are cutesy and many of them are quite the opposite. The melodramatic themes and romantic undertones come across in this crazy lady and this French bulldog.

Voice/Style example 3

Playful but clean. Relatable for the average girl, but brighter, sharper, more whimsical. Unique; an instant classic. Something you want to give as a gift to everyone.
Just because something isn’t practical doesn’t mean it’s not worth creating. Sometimes beauty and real-life magic are enough.”
—Stephanie Perkins, Lola and the Boy Next Door
Megan association: Kate Spade. 
LolaKateSpade
To me, this line of bags, clothes, shoes and accessories is the definition of happiness. Every girl who opens her Kate Spade bag to find an inspiring quote from Kate  feels special. It makes complete sense that Zooey Deschanel is spotted in the line time after time. Whether it be 50s glam, 60s art deco or 70s pops of color, Kate Spade’s classic trends are bigger and brighter than average. This circle of friends exclusively gifts Kate Spade to one another.

Asking, “How do I develop voice?” is almost exactly the same as the question I’ve been asking my closet mirror forever: “How do I develop style?” You study the great ones, the icons, and try everything on until something feels comfortable.

What do you think?? Is style, or voice, as elusive for you as it is/was for me? What other great YA voices deserve a shout out?

  1. descriptions of the voices are mine

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Just For Fun

by sarahenni on February 1, 2013

I was brainstorming titles the other day (hard! That is a unique and bizarre skill) and thought to make a word cloud of my WiP so I could see what words most commonly appear. After the entire universe laid the hammer down on Java, Wordle was out. However I came across Tagxedo, which not only let me easily upload all 60,000 words in a flash, it let me choose the shape of the word cloud! Check her out:

TAGXEDO

Holy schnikes, that looks cool doesn’t it?? Of course none of the words in that cloud translated literally to the title, but I really dig having that image on my desktop.

Have you used Tagxedo or something like it before? How do you brainstorm titles?

(If you’re curious about what I finally came to with the title, it’s: MISS MATCH. Yay!)

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ALA Midwinter: Book Fun in My Favorite City

by sarahenni on January 28, 2013

When I heard that the American Library Association was planning their midwinter conference for Seattle, I did a little dance. Not only is Seattle my favorite city, where all my family lives and where I met Dr H, but it’s also where fellow YA Highwayer Kristin Halbrook lives—and the meeting was just days before she celebrates the release of her debut, Nobody But Us (tomorrow!!!). And the books coming out in 2013 are, in a word, radtastic, so I was really excited for the meeting.

One missed connection, a planeful of 13-year-old gymnasts en route to a competition, and a demibottle of Chardonnay (Thanks for the voucher, VirginAmerica!) later, I stumbled into the party that YA Highway and Stacked threw Friday night at the Westin.

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It was so fun! (Pictured above, YA Highwayer Kirsten Hubbard far left with a smattering of the rest of the crowd.) And apparently we had a celebrity cameo, though we were all too absorbed in YA chatter to notice…!

The next morning I wandered the exhibit hall. I heard this was a record-breaking year of attendance for the mid-winter conference, and I believe it! Still calmer than BEA, but this ALA was hopping. I wandered to all the booths, but snapped this one of the gorgeous shelf of 2013 releases at HarperTeen. (I also met Erica Sussman, who edited Erin Bowman‘s Taken [among many other books], and she was absolutely enchanting.)

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Kirsten and I wandered the booths (over and over again, as you never knew when those clever staffers were going to reveal new stacks of shiny ARCs…) with the crazy-lovely Amy Tintera, who is also a debut author this year with Reboot! And quite possibly the most touching experience of the entire weekend was snapping the picture of Amy signing her first book (first author signing for her, ever!) for an adorable book blogger.

As the day segued into night, the YA Highway ALA contingent moseyed over to The Triple Door for Soho Press‘ awesome event.

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Among many great Soho peeps, we met Margaux Froley, debut author with Escape Theory, who basically charmed our pants off. She was so hilarious I forgot to take any pictures of her! Similar: Gayle Forman was there for a bit (!!!) but I was too in awe to stun her with my camera flash. So great to be a fly on the wall, though.

Then, punchdrunk from booklove, we stumbled home with a fairly giant bag of ARCs1. What an awesome event!

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Hammer admires my ALA stash

Were any of you at ALA? Did I somehow miss you?? Will you be going to any other book conferences this year? Let’s meet up!

  1. Kirsten would like you to know the bag might look small but it was mighty heavy

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Choosing A Heartbreaker For If I Stay

by sarahenni on January 25, 2013

It has been quite a long time since I had a good old-fashioned casting post at this here blog, and that is certainly not for lack of exciting happenings. But Gayle Forman’s announcement about the If I Stay movie yesterday unleashed a floodgate of feels, so Imma break it down.

The If I Stay movie has been floating around with Summit for a while, briefly with the flawless Dakota Fanning attached. Though I’m sad Dakota’s Mia will never come to be, I gotta say that I think Chloe Moretz is a truly fantastic choice.

And with Mia cast so impeccably, cue my heart attack over who will be bringing punk-rock boyfriend Adam to life. It’s a big deal to me personally, because the Adam from the book is a heart-wringing amalgamation of every dude I dated in high school (the dramz!). And a big deal for the franchise because, if the film version of If I Stay manages to capture the dagger-to-the-heart beauty of the book, I’ll be standing in line like an insomniac Twilight fan at Comic Con for a film of Where She Went to be green-lit. Does anything sound better right now than a YA version of Before Sunrise on the streets of New York? Absolutely freaking not.

I turned to Jessica BS, Casting Correspondent for this here blog, for a comprehensive breakdown of what Adam needs to be, and who might be perfect for the role.

Since Jessica and I were kinda-sorta the exact same person(ish) in high school, we quickly realized we had both envisioned the same person while reading about Adam in both If I Stay and Where She Went. My indie cred is going to take a serious hit here, but the visual we agreed was perfect for Adam is based on Chris Carrabba, of Dashboard Confessional and Further Seems Forever. 1

You can’t out-emo this guy. Don’t even consider trying.

So that’s where we began our search. We also agreed that Adam shouldn’t look too very young, and we told ourselves that was not just to keep us from max creepage when we inevitably salivate over the movie poster. Plus: whoever plays Adam needs to have chops. This role had better include some concert footage of fledgling Shooting Star, and there should be a Joaquin Phoenix-in-Walk-The-Line vibe, no cheesy lip-syncing allowed.

With that, here are some standout candidates!

Darren Criss

Wait, did I mention something earlier about indie cred? Well screw that. Darren Criss has been the only thing giving Glee oxygen for ages, and it’s obvious from his role there that dude can crush a vocal solo. And this role would give Darren the chance to step out of tailored Warbler suit jackets and Hogwarts school uniforms—grow the hair out, find some ratty old slouchy hat, and maybe add a fake tattoo here and there and you’d have a perfect Portland punk. Yeah, pretty into that choice, at least from a visual standpoint (ahem).

Freddie Stroma (a.k.a. Cormac McLaggen)

Yeah, he’s good.

Christopher Abbott

Currently playing spineless pushover Charlie in Girls, I think Chris Abbott would be fairly easy to age down (without any scruff he could definitely pass for a high school senior in Movieland). And we already know from Girls that he can play guitar and sing, so he’d have the talent portion locked down. Best of all, he’s handled the navel-gazing angst of Girls with charm and a slight undertone of kicked puppy, which, let’s face it, is kind of essential to Adam. RESISTING SPOILERY TALK.

Zach Gilford

Gayle Forman herself mentioned this familiar face, and UGH. It hurts so bad to have to admit that he’s WAY too old to be Adam. Even though he has a babyface and could (still) be aged down quite a bit, I think we’ve seen Friday Night Lights take all his “plausibly playing a high-schooler” years. (Not that I regret a single minute of FNL. I DO NOT.) Sigh. Too bad, because as Matt Saracen this guy broke my heart a thousand times, which is an essential prerequisite for every role in If I Stay, but especially Adam. I don’t even care if he can carry a tune. TEXAS FOREVER, SEVEN.

I am so dating myself guys. I just couldn’t get with any of the other actual-YA-aged go-tos (the guys from Perks aren’t quite right, Alex Pettyfer has been evicted from nearly every YA heart, Ron Weasley is too British). So what do you think?? Who is up to the task of ripping our hearts into the tiniest bits?

  1. This led to an entire side conversation about how holy hell did you hear Further Seems Forever is touring?! And did anyone honestly feel the need to listen to anything besides The Moon Is Down, most specifically “Snowbirds and Townies“?

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#DANCEBREAK

by sarahenni on January 18, 2013

The main character in my WiP (and pretty much everyone else in the book, too) is in love with a fictional band I made up, formerly known as Idioteque 1 I’ve written so much about the band (describing their sound, nailing down their influences, creating a wildly charismatic frontman, even writing a fake interview with them) that this week I decided to do a Very Nerdy thing and create a playlist that represents the band’s debut album, which I named Behold! The Melon 2.

It started as kind of a lark, but actually I found making the playlist to be 1) fun (perhaps most importantly), but also 2) an interesting new way to engage with my book before I dive into yet another round of revisions and edits.

Anyway, making this playlist has had me dancing at my desk all week. If you enjoy noisy head-nodding rock, I think you might enjoy it, too. Take a listen:

What about you? Have you made up bands, books, or movies in your work? Have you made a poster, flyer, zine or anything IRL to go along with it? If so PLEASE link! I’d love to see it 3!

  1. They are pending another name, after astute beta reader and Much Better At Googling Necessary Stuff For Books Guru Lindsey Roth Culli pointed out that Idioteque is such a genius band name that it is, in fact, a real life band’s name. Grr.
  2. How 90s is that? I love it.
  3. And if not, I really encourage you to try!

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RTW: Fantasy Bookstore

by sarahenni on January 16, 2013

Welcome to Road Trip Wednesday day, a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway posts a weekly writing- or reading-related question and anyone can answer it on their own blogs. Check out the original post for links to other Road Trippers’ answers!

This week’s topic is: If you owned a bookstore, what would it look like and what would it sell?

Oooh I’ve thought about this a lot. I think I’d like to sell new and used books (like my favorite bookstore Orcas Books in Olympia, WA) and sell a little bit of everything—fiction, non-fiction, mystery, YA, children’s, sci-fi, reference, etc. But no cookbooks. Not my jam.

AND! It would be part used/new bookstore and other half coffee/wine bar! With one television, only turned on for UW/Seattle sports games and Yule Log videos.

Here’s what it’d look like!

bookstore

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Justin & Justin: You Should Be Too Busy Dancing

by sarahenni on January 14, 2013

Like most of the Internet I spent a good deal of this weekend freaking out about the forthcoming new Justin Timberlake album 1. I listened to his old CDs and prepared some dance moves that will need to be busted out all summer. I’m excited.

But my mellow was resoundly harshed by a broad-scale reaction to the news that took me off guard. A lot of people were using JT’s don’t-call-it-a-comeback as a reason to turn around and pour some hate on an easy target: Justin Bieber.

I was actually sort of surprised by my reaction to the Bieber haterade. After all, it’s not unusual to hear. But after thinking about it more (a little to much, maybe) I realized that it was because that reaction is actually a confluence of several different phenomena that, in tandem, form a rather large chip I’ll now attempt to brush off my shoulder.

JustinJustin

Comparing Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber as their current selves is like comparing Puppy Bowl contestants with National Dog Show champions 2 You might say one is better than the other (more mature, sleeker, talented) but you’re forgetting something.

Let me provide you with what I’ll call Exhibit N for N*SYNC:

It has not always been glam and Bringing Sexy Back in the Timberlake camp. Hell, that shit isn’t even over; have you heard a description of his recent wedding to Jessica Biel? She wore pink and he sang her down the aisle. JT is a cheeseball, and loving him has gotten no less silly in the last 10 years. He was Bieber a few years ago. Outside of Neville Longottom there’s hardly a more compelling argument for letting a dude mature before passing judgment for life.

Oh, I love JT. I do, so so much. But this urge to shout from the rooftops that JT > JB plays into a time-honored tradition of Nostalgic Amnesia. We got plenty of this during the election, this doe-eyed romanticizing of A Better Time, When Things Were Somehow More Pure. But that ignores obvious history:  Timberlake, and Bieber, are part of a long, continuous string of decent-looking guys with good voices who are embraced by an audience of largely young, largely female fans who enjoy their music. For my mom, it was The Monkees’ Davy Jones. For my cousin, New Kids On The Block’s Jordan Knight. For me, it was JT (4eva), and for my younger cousin, it’s the Biebs.

PopStars

So all that bluster about Timberlake being somehow better seems like so much hot air. Why waste time hating the current example of an inexorable trend? Especially in the same breath as lavishing adoration one version of that trend?

And let’s be clear: we’re not comparing Mozart to Maroon5 here. Take a listen:

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And the Biebs.

Pop stars have one job: to make music that makes a lot of people want to dance. I think both JT and JB are doing their jobs well.

Finally: Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber alike rose to fame as artists targeted at teenage girls. Disparaging and belittling Justin Bieber (and his related teen-fame coterie, ex: Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez) is contributing to a culture that repeatedly and vehemently tells teenagers—and in particular teenage girls—that their opinions, feelings, and perspectives have no value. 3

Most importantly, that attitude ignores the fact that we were all teenagers once. If you love Justin Timberlake, odds are that you’ll cop to liking at least on N*SYNC song. Or NKOTB song. Or a Monkees’ song! At some point you were a teenager, and you liked music made for and marketed to teenagers. So why be angry that someone between 13-18 is experiencing that same thing now?

 Am I the Only One?

I reached out to the resident Pop Culture Guru for this here blog, Erin, to see if I was crazy for having so many pop music feels. I think her response ties the arguments together nicely:

So, I am not much of a Bieber fan… but oddly I’m not a Bieber non-fan. For a few years, he looked so goddamned young that it felt creepy to even like his music. But the new Bieber (aka The Second Coming of Justin) I actually feel actively less guilty about liking. Because he reminds me of JT.

So the key here is that I probably had the same level of disdain for the young girls screaming for Bieber that my mom had for Justin Timberlake in 1998. “They’re boys, Erin,” she used to say to me, rolling her eyes with a How-could-you? look on her face. Did it matter to me? Not one iota. When you’re 16, you care a lot less about a pop singer’s ability to grow facial hair or have defined pectorals. They’re relatable to you at that age because they look like the guys walking by your locker between classes… and maybe in some way, they’re awakening you to the fact that even the unassuming guy who sits next to you in Algebra might have a little Timberlake in him. They’re so relatable because they could be any one of us. And at that age, isn’t every single door open?

I was hoarse for 3 days following the one and only Nsync concert I ever went to. And yes, my mother thought this was preposterous. But I thought it was awesome.

Now that I’m rounding the corner on 30 (WHAT.), I’d like my smooth-soul songsters to have a little spice in their lyrics; something that rings true to a different period in my life where I began to seek men for slightly *ahem* different reasons. (And yes, a period in my life where things like morning scruff and a ripped chest started to matter.) The older you get, the more you’ve been through the rounds on love… and you hope your singers have, too.

At some point in life, you stop watching cartoons. Who knows when this switchover happens; gradually Phineas and Ferb just aren’t funny to you anymore. You’re looking for something with more acid, more edge. So you wave a friendly goodbye to the animated characters of childhood and you move up to MTV programming. Maybe an entry-level Thursday-night comedy or two. And in our pop idols, we do the same. You move on. You grow up. You want something different than they deliver. But it doesn’t mean you were ever wrong in wanting it.

I guess if I knew a high school sophomore who was hoarse from screaming at a Justin Bieber concert, I’d see a little of me in her. And in Bieber, we should see a little of JT in him. (Swapping those deliciously frosted flopping curls for an artfully swished set of man-bangs, of course.) And we should appreciate how, even though we’ve changed, adolescence hasn’t.

And don’t even get me started on One Direction.

What do you think? Am I wildly over-reacting, per usual? Are you psyched about JT’s new stuff? Will you deny that you never tapped a toe to a single Bieber tune??

  1. The new single is here!
  2. I realize this metaphor is rather tortured. But, puppies!
  3. Examples of this are everywhere: This WTF piece of “witty” wannabe-Onion writing; Or this actual Onion piece… that picture is the joke. That’s the entire joke; or remember that JC Penny T-shirt about a girl being too pretty to do homework? And there’s critical evidence, too, such as this essay on the hugely negative connotations of “fangirl” from British Science Fiction Film and Television by Tobias Hochscherf and James Leggott; Or how about the insanely negative treatment of the overall fanbase for Twilight?

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