Seriously. Even if you didn't like Twilight, you have to respect Little, Brown. So here's a little more from SCBWI:
JENNIFER HUNT—Finding Your Inner YA
Info on Jennifer Hunt:
• Editorial director at Little, Brown Books (original publishers of Little Women and Catcher in the Rye)—oversees Mg + YA fiction acquisition. Published Twilight.
• Oversees all acquisitions and edits her own list as well
• Doesn’t believe in chasing trends. What matters =
--An imaginative story
• Little, Brown is a boutique publisher that strives to be “kid smart”
-Any topic/genre is fair game; they use a more organic approach.
PILLARS OF GREAT WRITING:
1) Authentic voice
--Little Brown can help with structure/characterization, but voice is special and harder to edit.
--There are many types of voices—a wide breadth
--Qualities of good voice =
a) Age-appropriate—not too old/young, not an adult trying to sound like a kid
b) Character-specific—confidence level, how they cope with problems, gay/straight/questioning, western/city, etc.
--What makes the voice unique? (E.g., Sara Zarr (for an example of a unique voice))
a) An authentic story—
• Make these topics new and original --> Friends, family, surviving school, identity, sex, belonging, first love, etc.
• Do your research. Authenticity makes the difference b/w an amazing book and a mediocre book.
• Mine your own experience and relate to the story.
• Don’t be judgmental of the story.
b) Identity (of kid) (E.g., Hate List, Luna)
c) Authentic emotion—
• As an adult, you can vividly remember teen life, while bringing an adult perspective. But DO NOT judge.
• Exercises you can do as a writer:
--Pick 3 things from your teen life and write a letter to yourself. Focus on problems, and write with perspective about what the challenges were.
--Choose 5 random news stories about teens. Write a short story based on those teens’ experiences, with one story being something you have no familiarity with.
--This helps to broaden your horizons.
QUALITIES OF A GREAT YA WRITER—
• They take their work very seriously—dedicated to excellence. Children and teens deserve this from writers.
• They respect their audience. They don’t judge or limit teens. They don’t dumb down language. (Cerebral for teens is okay. give them something to step into/up to. Do not limit them.)
• They’re willing to hustle--Community building; critiquing each other, developing a support system, doing what they can to be the best writers they can be.
Trends she’d like to see (or see continue) = stories with diverse perspectives.
• All teens have important stories to tell. Ask yourself: “What’s the right way to tell them?”
• Look at their specific stories and the roles they place in each others’ lives.
--E.g., towns aren’t all white/all straight, etc.
--Think about what else is around you and incorporate it into your story.
Formula for a great story = great characterization + great storytelling.
Revisions = she most typically asks authors for more layers and more complex, well-rounded characters.
--She doesn’t like “thin” characters
--Hint: Peek into a kid’s mind and prove yourself. It’ll show up in your final product.
Things to avoid
• Pop culture reference and slang that dates the book.
• Weave authentic slang in so that you get the flavor, but not so much that it slows down the plot.
Goal with YA = To make all teens feel their stories are worthy; to show the diversity kids deal with every day.