So, I’m teaching my son to drive.
Yep, sound the Klaxon and get off the road–my 15-year-old is in command of a moving vehicle. As a parent, this is a very odd sensation. On one hand, you spend your entire life teaching them to be independent while secretly standing behind them in case they fall. Teaching a teen to drive is different–you’re there to help, but you are completely out of control. The kid has the wheel, the gas pedal, and over a ton of metal, glass, and rubber at his command…and I don’t. All I have is the door handle to hang onto and my voice to instruct. To quote my husband: “At best you can influence.”
To most people (save those saintly souls known as drivers’ ed instructors), this is a recipe for terror. I’ve had to learn that patience and gentle instruction is a far better tool than lectures about how brakes work. Learning to drive, although nearly everyone over sixteen can and does, isn’t as easy as a new driver thinks it is. It requires patience on the student’s part, too. I clearly remember trying to learn parallel parking with my mom. Let’s just say we both left in a huff. If we’d both had some patience with each other, it would’ve been easier. In fact, after asking my dad, who is probably the most patient man alive–no kidding–to teach me, I learned in an hour.
It’s been good for me to learn to let go. I want my kid to drive–I really do. I remember the freedom of being able to go where I wanted to go when I wanted to go there. (As an embarrassing side note, that was typically the local library–what a luxury to go get books whenever I wanted them! Oh, and McDonald’s. Because…sixteen.) That sense of freedom is part of what gives teens their first taste of adulthood, which is a theme that often carries over to YA literature. Think about how many books wouldn’t have a story if the characters didn’t have a car and the ability to go and do*?
That transition is at the heart of these books: first love, what does the future hold, life-changing decisions, learning you who are. How many people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s remember being a teen? I’d say a great many of us. Raising one can be difficult, but remembering what that time was like, with all it’s stress, can help you empathize (even if the teen in question doesn’t believe you). For YA authors who aren’t a YA (which is nearly all of us), hanging onto those memories can help you create a story that resonates.
In other news, edits on the “Zoey book” (sequel to Finding Perfect) are in the hopper with my editor, and we’re going to edit a new book later this summer (sekrit project). Finally, for my Unstrung fans, I’m starting the draft to book three, with hopes to release it late this year/early next year.
So how about you…did any funny/lightbulb moments happen when you learned to drive?
*Excludes places with regular, prolific mass transit.