Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The REAL Truth About Teen Lit (Post-Simpson's Style)

Quick Update: Oh, hey. Hi.

Song Stuck in My Head: You Make My Dreams Come True by Hall and Oates (yep, all thanks to Glee, I started listening to it like crazy.)

So, I watched an interesting Simpson’s episode whilst watching the American Music Awards. The episode - for anyone who has better things to watch than twenty-year old cartoons I suppose - talked about the young adult literature industry in a very new way.

Basically in this episode, entitled "the Book Job", our favorite feminist/nerdy/bookworm Lisa finds out that her favorite tween book series (the Angela Button books, which has shown up in previous episodes and strongly but innocently resembles Harry Potter) is a scam. Instead of being written by one author with an inspirational underdog backstory, it was a commercial scheme and produced by a team of business gurus for cash money.

While Lisa is enraged, her father and brother seek their own team (which includes Moe the bartender, Principal Skinner, one of the Selma/Patti twins, and the crazy scientist genius whose name I keep forgetting) and create their own masterpiece.

They figure out the formula is orphaned hero plus magical school plus hero finds out their supernatural. They almost go with a vampire hero before realizing every shelf is covered with bloodsuckers. And so they create a story about two troll twins who go to an academy under a bridge where the pixies are popular and the gargoyles are the stoners. Lisa decides to prove them wrong and says she’ll write her own novel - which ends up meaning she’ll organize all her CD’s, play Boggle on her computer, visit book fairs to see the competition, and go to coffee shops to be a “real writer!”

Though the episode did have some merit value - despite airing less than two weeks after the release of the final Harry Potter movie, when everyone is still suffering Post-Potter Depression - it’s time to set the record straight. Especially since my favorite screenwriter Diablo Cody has the movie Young Adult coming out this year and I’m crossing my fingers it’s more realistic.


1. It’s one writer (usually). While the occasional book is co-written, it’s usually by best friends who share a love of literature and can actually work together. Writing a book, not just a YA book but ANY book, is such a solitary process at first. You’re stuck with your own mind and imagination and emotions.

Writers will spend months, years, even decades on a story because of its personal meaning. Novels are probably the least commercial part of the entertainment industry because they always start with one person. Movies have crews. Music have a production team. Fashion have designers. And etc., etc..

2. Sometimes, writers are going to have cheesy-cool back stories. Much like J.K Rowling, authors aren’t always the richest people at first. While a lot do have side jobs, especially in this economy, there are many who sacrificed careers and money to write. And when they get successful, you know we’re going to pat them on the back for it. They get to make a living on writing. What’s wrong with that?

3. The publication process is COMPLICATED. In the Simpson’s episode, they go to a literary company business executive. He takes the manuscript, flicks through the pages in two seconds and says it’s great. The team get a first copy what seems like a day later. Later on, they merely puts a flash drive with the manuscript on it into a computer. A screen comes up that says “Publish”. One click and it goes into print, and one week it’s in stores.

It’s not like this at all. There are agents who pour over manuscripts all day long to find a beautiful story; there are editors that seriously consider all the books that are sent to them by these agents; there are copyeditors who find mistakes and revise it to perfection; publishers that make sure the print version is flawless. It seems simple but lately this process takes one to two years for a book to appear on a shelf.

4. No, completely original books didn’t get changed last-minute to vampire books. Spoiler: that nearly happens to their beautiful troll story. It also apparently happened to Stephenie Meyer, whose originally wrote Twilight with a human girl and a golem (Jewish monster and no I’m not kidding look it up) boy love story.

I’m sure all the authors who penned the many, many, many, many (you get my point) vampire books chose that path beforehand. As did the werewolf authors. And angel authors. And dystopian authors. And mermaid authors. And what could be the next authors of leprechaun or teen sci-fi stories for all I know.

And lastly…

5. Neil Gaiman probably knows how to read and is not a scam artist. Long story. Just watch the episode.

It was a funny show though, and Lisa’s procrastination syndrome did portray us a bit too well (thankfully, most of us do get past typing up “chapter one”). The point is to prove stereotypes wrong though, isn’t it? And for all the writers out there who are underdog stories waiting to happen, we believe in you anyways and can’t wait to cry over your Lifetime movie.

And if there isn't anything truer than this emotion portrayed right here:

Later alligators.

Oh, right…the obligatory sorry-I-haven’t-posted-in-forevah-LOLcatz….

(Psst. The last one's my fave. :) )

HOPEFULLY see you next week and have a delicious Thanksgiving! Me, mine will consist of waking up early on a vacation day to see my favorite singer perform in the Macy's Day Parade. Thus is the curse of a fangirl...


  1. This episode made me think of books like Sweet Valley High and BSC, which it is my understanding were written by groups of people for money. But I didn't feel like it really captured today's teen lit situation. Still enjoyed it though :)

    Oh, also, the scientist's name is Professor Frink (I've been watching The Simpsons basically since I was born and will watch them until I'm dead).

  2. Definitely entertaining episode, but I agree with you. The Teen Lit situation didn't get the attention it deserved. And Professor Fink! I knew that. :)

  3. LOve your blog. Learned a bit, laughed a bit, and plan to return. -Kelly

  4. To Kelly/Gene Pool Diva

    Holy skittles, thank you so much! I'm honored.