Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

From Super-size to Bite-size

With summer vacation officially starting for me I decided to attack my office and tidy up the mounds of paper that has been accumulating through the year. This is both a needed chore and also serves as a means of procrastination. I know I should be sitting down and actually getting back to those writing projects. Like that cow joke book…

Cows can wait momentarily, for I found treasures to share.

[Zits points out that literature, and I will extend this to quotes, is a matter of perspective] 

Every year in September I attend the local SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference. My main goal is have a manuscript professionally critiqued by an editor or agent (who will be so delighted with my writing that I am offered a contract on the spot). Another goal is network and source gather. Both are conducive to bettering my writerly skills.

One workshop handout proved too fun to toss.The idea is to take a well-known quote and make it more relatable to teens by translating into more YAish language. Here is their example:

“When today fails to offer the justification for hope, tomorrow becomes the only grail worth pursuing.” Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Here’s their translation: “Some days it’s hard to see the point of it all, so you have to wait for tomorrow and hope by then there’ll be something worth waking up for.”

I don’t know about you, but I can see this opening up a YA book that will be full of angst, humor, a touch of romance, and maybe even a bit of defiance.

YA is one genre that I would like to get out there into the hands of readers. There must be room for another John Green. I’m working on getting my YA voice down, and that’s the point of this exercise. Tell you what, rate me on whether I’m even close.

Marcel Proust, In Search of Time
“We believe that we can change the things around us in accordance with our desires–we believe it because otherwise we can see no favourable outcome.”

C.Muse translation:
“If I can’t see the silver lining, I’m still gonna carry an umbrella.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them.”

C.Muse translation:
“The world wants to suck your joy, just like vampires, and vampires aren’t exactly EMTs.”

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

C.Muse translation:
“Life is too short to be hanging on to bruises–get over it and go have a bagel.”

Quotes of great possibility I didn’t get to:

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever know.” 
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

It was actually pretty entertaining to listen to everyone’s interpretation. As I recollect my vampire translation received a few polite guffaws. Does that mean it was perceived as a home runner or just a bummer?

I do have a couple of YA manuscripts I plan on revisiting and sending out on their “please-publish-me” tour.

Blue Skies and hope your summer is also off to a spiffy start.



Single Post Navigation

19 thoughts on “From Super-size to Bite-size

  1. What a neat idea! YA is an under-appreciated genre. Please let me know if you ever need a beta reader or reviewer–I read a lot of YA!

  2. Oh, I like this! Here’s my YA interpretation of Gatsby.

    “Liars suck so bad. And sometimes I think I’m the only guy in the world who isn’t one.”

  3. Oh, and here’s my Shelley:

    “Dammit! Who’s been messing with my stuff!”

  4. Amber on said:

    What a fun end-of-the-year activity for AP Lit! My students would go nuts for that!

  5. very cool. i thought the vampire one was clever, and spot on for YA.

  6. I’m just an ornery old codger from NC. I guess that puts me in a category that few want to get close to. Still, my brain works, long as I’m halfway sober. I’ve got a children’s book and its sequal under my belt — or notched on the handle of my Colt 45 — and not a whole lot other than that to recommend me. A collection of weird short stories. I have a YA novel on the back burner on the cast-iron stove back in the workshop where the coals have just about died out. But I’d be more’n proud to read and react to your YA work. Read (dontcha think that ought to be “red”?) more’n my share of YA titles, bein I once was workin on gettin certified to teach middle grade language arts, and, in fact did for a year in a rural NC county school. Dahl is my most favorite writer. But I’ve read extensively enough to know what’s out there and in the schools (Island of the Blue Dolphin, The Chocolate Wars, etc.). I’ve Walked Two Moons and sifted through the classics as well. So, if you’d like to include me as a non-paid set of eyes, my email’s under my About page, and contact me there, please. I’d like to pay it forward before I run my account down to nothing. If that makes any sense. I won’t edit. I’ll just tell you what I dang-well think of your characters, dialogue, plot, action and climax — all them high-fangeled terms that you don’t really think about when the muse grabs you and has you at gun-point.

  7. I love the idea of transforming antiquated yet meaningful quotes to modern language. One thing to be wary of: YAs, I’d imagine, appreciate words in their lingo; yet, there’s an aspect of discovering lost words and classic quotes that resonates. I know I did when I was a YA; it made me feel grownup to find and understand and apply ideals I found in generations past.

  8. Love your translations. Would be fun to see what your students come up with. Maybe a competition is in order? Here’s one for Absalom! Absalom!: Marrying your brother or sister is cool. Marrying someone outside your own race, OTOH, will land you in hell.

Comments, anyone?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: