Finding Your Niche
During senior year of my undergraduate career at Saint Joseph’s University, I enrolled in Dr. Lindner’s “Young Adult Novel” course not knowing what an immense impact it would make, not only on my writing career, but my life as a whole. Dr. Lindner told us to pick a topic that we would not get sick of, for we would be writing the start of our own young adult novel all semester. I decided to write about the story I have always dreamed of writing: the one of the Greek girl trying to find her place in the modern American world (I swear it is fiction). The course consisted of reading several current young adult novels, presenting on a young adult novel similar to the one we were writing, workshopping our own novels while providing helpful feedback to our classmates, and producing a final portfolio of about 50 polished pages to the start of our novel. To no surprise, my story turned out drastically different than I could have imagined, but everything I hoped it would be at nine chapters. I was more intrigued by young adult literature than ever before and found myself reading more and more YA books in my spare time, and of course continuing to write.
After my Young Adult Novel course had ended, “Greek Girl Crazy” was a story I could not even think of abandoning. Upon graduating from SJU I moved to Arlington, VA for work, where my free time consisted of continuously working on my young adult novel that ultimately contained a part of my soul. I was not just working on a novel; I was a writer. Every day I would find myself thinking how I could develop my characters more and what plot twist I could add to make my novel more enticing. I would find myself laughing and relating everyday events in my life to something that would happen to my main character, Despina. Whenever I would need inspiration, I would recall writing exercises that my professors implemented during our lessons and also observe my surroundings. My “me time” consisted of finding a new location to write (whether it was Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, or unique places to Arlington such as Busboys and Poets or Northside Social) and fully immersing myself into Despina’s world. I had grown to really adore Despina and while she was a fictional character, I continued to bring her to life through my words. I ended my last semester of college having nine chapters of my young adult novel written and found myself with twenty-one chapters written a year later, moving into a sequel.
While it was apparent that I found my niche in young adult literature, I yearned to be back in the classroom and have the ability to workshop the rest of my novel with writers who would critique me. After a move back to Philly to work in higher education, I had the opportunity to embark on my graduate school journey at Saint Joseph’s University through the Writing Studies program. Fatefully enough, the graduate version of Young Adult Novel was being offered. Now, I am currently enrolled in the course and in the midst of working on the sequel to my novel, which is roughly twenty-five chapters (with word count). I have been blessed to have Dr. Lindner critique my work, along with my classmates, and further explore fiction writing, specifically young adult literature.
Writing has become more than a mindset, but rather a lifestyle to me. Everywhere I go and everything I see could serve as some sort of inspiration, which is why I love young adult literature so much. While it is fiction, it is relatable- at all ages. Katherine Prokou writes in her article Young Adult Literature: Rite of Passage or Rite of Its Own in the Alan Review, “It’s literature for teenagers; it’s literature about teenagers; it’s stylistic and simplified literature; it’s overly didactic, and of course, shorter than a real novel,” but she continues to explain how it is so much more than just that, and I would agree. Young adult literature may be aimed at teenagers and adolescents, but writing and reading young adult literature can be directly applied to life, even beyond the teenage years. It is emotional and passionate, while still being light. Many critics of young adult literature would argue that it is an escape from reality, but in fact, it is a dive into reality. While often shorter and written with simpler vocabulary, it still deals with real and complicated concepts of love, heartbreak, family struggles, mental health, friendship, sexuality, and identity, yet still holds a sense of innocence and nostalgia that only young adult literature can truly capture.
Whether it is young adult literature, travel writing, script-writing, journalism, or even rhetoric that allows you to question your purpose of writing, the important thing is to find out what sort of writing makes you get out of bed in the morning. As Ray Bradbury says, “You have to get up in the morning and write something you live, something to live for.” The best part of the Saint Joseph’s University Writing Studies program, along with phenomenal professors and specialized attention, is that it will guide you to find your niche. This program allows you to question who you are as writer and who you want to be. After thirty credits, you will have more than just a degree in Writing; you will have vision of how to be the best writer you can be and you will find what kind of writing makes you tick. I have been so blessed to find a part of literature that I cannot get enough of and I have Saint Joseph’s University’s English/Writing department to thank for it.
Thanks for sharing, Vanessa. What a great tribute to the SJU Writing Studies Program! Congratulations on finding your niche. Anyone else want to share their story?