For some reason, my school thinks I’m a good role model. To the point that they’ve actually hired me to be a role model. I’m signed up as a coach for a young women’s conference, which means that they want me to, you know, tell girls what to do with their lives.
It’s kind of horrifying when you think about it. How on earth can I be a role model? I’m twenty-one. I giggle at “your mom” jokes. I like candy more than vegetables. Sometimes I read with a flashlight or candles just because I think it’s cool. How can I be a role model for girls only a few years younger than me?
I feel like this is a conundrum for YA authors as well. Librarians and parents tell us that our books touch the lives of our readers, that we have a responsibility to write novels that build up teenagers instead of tearing them down. We are role models, too.
And I agree with this – but at the same time, I don’t. Because we are role models; but I don’t think it’s the content of our books that gives us that responsibility. It’s the fact that we write books at all. It’s the fact that we are proponents of literature in a world that so often places more emphasis on superficial pursuits.
As a writer – someone who is dedicating your life to a hobby that involves hard work and ambition and intelligence – you are a good role model for your teen readers. It doesn’t matter whether you’re working on the next Hunger Games or a quiet, sensitive issue novel; your book matters. Your writing matters. And your readers will notice.