Erin Bow speaks out in praise of storytelling

SKCover (3)Erin Bow‘s Sorrow’s Knot is a book that will break your heart.  But first it will get you ensnared in its world:  The only way to keep the dead at bay in Sorrow’s Knot is through magically knotted cords; the women who practise this magic are called binders.  Otter’s mother Willow is a powerful binder and Otter is in line to become one.  Then Willow chooses another apprentice instead, and Otter’s world is torn apart.  A rave review in Quill and Quire asserts “Bow’s prose is powerful, insidious, and heart-squeezing. This book is brutal, beautiful, and not to be missed.”  Without further ado, please enjoy a guest post from the author of Sorrow’s Knot and the award-winning Plain Kate, Erin Bow.  Welcome, Erin!

The fabulous Erin Bow

The fabulous Erin Bow

harryYou see them everywhere these days: grown-ups reading fiction for young adults.

I first remember it when the final Harry Potter book came out: I was in Toronto that day, counting the number of people on the subway with their noses in bright-coloured volumes and — often enough — tears in their eyes.  But these days it’s common to see someone reading the latest John Green or Rainbow Rowell.  There are trend pieces, mostly hand-wringing ones, in places like the New York Times.  Over and over, people ask — what are grown-ups doing reading kids’ books?

I am, admittedly, part of the problem.  I write books for young people.  I write them because they are my favourite thing to read.  Let me try to tell you why.

bloodchocYoung adult fiction is hard to define.  A huge range of voices, genres, and subject matter filed within those two little letters:  YA.  But all those books — from the ones with the werewolves to the ones with the first kiss — do have in common one thing:  they are stories.

The book may be total dreck, but it will always tell a story, because teenagers won’t put up with books that don’t.  Someone made them read The Mill on the Floss recently and now they are just DONE.  Since I like stories above all things, this suits me.

Now, YA books are not the only thing I read, by a long shot — I’m a fan of contemporary poetry.  (I’m also a published poet.) I read a lot of non-fiction.  And I do make like a grown-up and read literary fiction.  But when I do, I am quite often disappointed.  So much literary fiction is beautiful and elegant and intense and — guess what —  sadly lacking in story.

adultreadSo, in trying to explain why I like YA, I made this my new motto:

Love of storytelling and love of language need not be at odds.

In children’s literature, they aren’t.  In YA, you will find stories told without cynicism about stories.  Stories told without the need to deconstruct stories.  Stories with beginnings, middles, and ends.  Stories innocent of modernism.  Stories of all kinds — but always stories.

If you love stories, look to children’s literature.  Even if you’re a grown-up.

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