This month, I participated in the YA Open Mic segment on the Barnes and Noble Teen blog, where they give us authors free reign to speak from the heart about anything we want. With Dear Heartbreak coming out next week, the topic I chose–loneliness–seemed apt. It’s also a big reason why I decided to edit Heartbreak. Here is the piece I wrote, but I encourage you to go to the post on the Barnes and Noble blog and check out those of the other eight authors. It’s such a great segment. And then, of course, I hope you’ll want to read Dear Heartbreak, too. You can pre-order now, anywhere books are sold, or go pick it up on December 18th. 🙂
I love hearing people’s stories, don’t you?
According to a recent study (a legitimate one—you never know with these things), if you are a young adult—18 to 22—you are officially part of the loneliest generation. And if you’re a millennial like me, you’re in the second loneliest generation. But it doesn’t really matter what generation you’re in because the stats don’t look good for anyone: roughly half of all American adults sometimes, or even always, feel alone.
It’s hard to talk about. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says in The Little Prince: It is such a secret place, the land of tears.
I think one of the reasons I am a writer, and certainly why I’m a reader, is because I’m lonely. Desperately, agonizingly lonely. Sometimes, I’m convinced I’m invisible. You can see right through me.
But then I pick up a book. Or I rest my hands on the keyboard. And, suddenly, I have form again.
My favorite kinds of books are the ones with tightly knit crews. A band of die-hard friends you can go into battle with. All of my protagonists find themselves surrounded by friends who would bury a body for them. Whether I’m writing a fantasy or a contemporary or historical fiction, my books are filled with people who have one another’s backs. The kinds of friends who show up, who pull you out of the whirlpools you’re drowning in. I read for the crew, for Aelin’s court and Dumbledore’s Army, for Anna/Lola/Isla and the women in Rose’s Ravensbrück bunk.
James Baldwin said this, and it is true and it’s why I write and why I read, and probably why I get up in the morning:
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
Books can be a cry for help, and also the answer to that cry. These days, my books are a call and response. I’m calling to you, my fellow loneliests. I am saying: we are not alone. And when you open that book, and feel a little less lonely because of it, I’ll hear your answer.
Breathe. Write. Repeat.
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