Meet Jenny Elder Moke.
Jenny Elder Moke writes young adult fiction in an attempt to recapture the shining infinity of youth. She was a finalist in the 2017 Austin Film Festival Podcast Competition, and studied children’s writing with Liz Garton Scanlon.
When she is not writing, she’s gathering story ideas from her daily adventures with her two irredeemable rapscallions and honing her ninja skills as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Jenny lives in Austin, TX with her husband and two children.
Her debut novel, HOOD, about the daughter of Robin Hood and Maid Marien, will release from Disney/Hyperion on June 9, 2020. She is represented by Elizabeth Bewley at Sterling Lord Literistic.
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The Guest Post.
The Infinity of YA Youth: or, Why I Write YA
Being a kid can feel eternal. Making it through the school day; waiting to be old enough to pick your own clothes or drive your own car or eat whatever you want for breakfast; waiting for the next season of your favorite show so you can binge it and immediately regret watching it too fast (actually that’s probably an adult thing, too). Everything just takes so long when you’re ready to go go go – ready to be done with school, to be done with homework, to be an adult where you can make your own choices and your own money and your own life. So much of childhood feels like waiting for your real life to start, and that wait can stretch on forever.
But there’s another type of eternity in childhood that first drew me to young adult novels as a reader, and then as a storyteller myself. There’s a line in my bio that says I write young adult novels to recapture the shining infinity of youth, and that infinity isn’t the tiny eternity you live trying to make it through a chemistry final. It isn’t the eternity of waiting for your birthday, or Christmas, or summer vacation. It’s the infinity of possibility. When you’re young, you’re on the edge of everything. You’re on the precipice of experiencing everything for the first time – first love, first heartbreak, first achievements, first year of high school, first year of college (VERY different experiences if you haven’t lived them both yet), all those life-changing moments that shape you into the adult you will become. You’re on the edge of forming your best, truest self, the butterfly you’ll triumphantly explode into after the transformative cocoon of childhood.
And all those firsts? Sometimes they hurt – horribly, worse than anything you’ll ever feel. And sometimes they are like sips of sunshine, a joy so pure and radiant it bursts through every pore in your body. Sometimes they fill you with a rage that makes you shake, and sometimes they make you so blue you’ll feel like you’re drowning on land. Sometimes they’ll feel like too much, like your skin will burst or your heart will explode from the pressure. You don’t yet have ways to protect yourself from them, from the immediacy and the intensity. You have no choice but to be present, to experience those feelings so deeply and fully that they overwhelm you.
But that’s what I love most about young adult fiction, far more than adult fiction. That immediacy of emotion, the importance of every decision, that feeling that everything you do is huge. What you wear today, what books you read, what hobbies you pursue, what schools you look at – every single decision feels like it’s setting you on a course for the rest of your life. Some of them do, and some of them don’t, but you can’t know which ones are which until you make them and live through them. And even though that living through them can be painful and messy and complicated, you’re fully living. You’re in the thick of it, your brain and your body and your spirit coming alive with possibility.
It’s the same decisions my characters face in HOOD – the same decisions all my characters face, because it’s one I’m constantly facing. Who do I want to be? Where do I fit in the world? What is my purpose in life? Isabelle, the main character in HOOD, is certainly looking for her place in the world. She doesn’t fit in with her old life in a priory (a place of chores and prayers and severely limited wardrobe choices), but when she accidentally shoots one of the king’s soldiers and becomes a fugitive, as terrifying as it is, the decision opens up her world. Suddenly she’s searching for the father she’s never known, fighting for her place among the Merry Men, battling the king of England – and finding her purpose in the world. It’s painful, and messy, and terrifying, but it’s also exhilarating. Because she’s on the edge of everything, the infinity of possibilities opening up before her. And I hope readers find the joy and heartbreak and hope in that shining infinity.