Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I don't know how many of you use Twitter, or even follow the literary folk on there. But if you do undoubtedly you have see this hashtag thrown about #YAmafia. So what does it mean? What is the YA Mafia and should I want to be a part of it?

Well this blogger took some interest in it because hello the Twitterverse was like totally obsessed with this for like five minutes. Now that's some sort of power peoplle--but really I just like a good scandal.

The idea of the YA Mafia is that there is a select group of writers/authors/bloggers/reviewers, who have the power to choose who gets to be publishd, who gets to be reviewed/who gets to review, and basically rule the publishing world--or if you join them/befriend them and give them cookies they can give you a helping hand.

Awesome, am I right? Totally baking cookies right now, but before I break out my mother's super secret cookie recipe let's reconsider this for half a second.

We can approach this as a it does exist vs. it doesn't exist dichotomy, but really, let's face it, this sort of discourse is really going to lead us nowhere. Fast. Like Susan Collins' Hunger Games fast. If we can't use the dichtomy how do we approach something like YA Mafia scandal? We can't prove its existence and we can't disprove it--it's basically taking a nap with Shrodinger's Cat.

The only way I can approach it is with a little advice--okay a LOT of advice--from my mother that makes me say YA Mafia--YA Shmafia.

I've always compared being a writer to being an artist, and like any artist involved in a community there are definitely cliques, "mafias," and other things that make the art world go round. As a very young child, I decided I wanted to be an actress, and I tried out for play after play and repeatedly got my heart broken. It wasn't until a friend's mother pointed out the fact that the kids getting cast had a direct connection to the director/producer/big shots in the industry that I understood something relatively important.
Nepotism is alive and well.

Scary right? I mean, I cried over not getting cast, because it wasn't fair. I mean we live in America, and that means this is the land of the free and that means everyone has a fair chance. As long as you pull yourself up by your bootstraps...yadda yadda yadda. My mother, as many many mothers before her, uttered the phrase "Life isn't fair." How I hated this phrase. It burned me and rubbed me the wrong way, because life should be fair, I work hard and do everything I can so life should be fair.

But it's not.

Then a few years went by and I now still in theater and dabbling in film have discovered yet again that its who you know and partially what you know. Talk to anyone in my theater department or any one of my film professors and they will tell you that nepotism still happens and that you need to know the right people. The "right people" meaning a) who can get you a job and b) who you should not anger in your attempts at climbing the artistic ladder. Now I'll be the first to admit I don't know the publishing industry, but if it exists like any other type of art then I'm gonna guess there is some strong urges toward this "mafia" idea. Not that everyone is playing along, but that there is a healthy chance this could be going on.

I got so angry at one point over people playing "favorites" and ignoring all of my work that I called up my dear mother once more to complain about the situation. She fed me this extremely frightening line:

"Fine, if it's so hard, and never going to happen. Quit. Quit right now and go into something that is 'safe'."

Whoa, what a concept, give up what I love because someone says no, or that there's some secret cabal out there waiting to posssibly destroy me? I don't think so. How could I ever dream of doing something else? This moment, this dream is the culmination of a lifetime of work, and now to just give up because some person doesn't think I'm good enough.

No. False. Not going to let the Shrodinger's Cat of the literary world, ruin/run my life.

YA Mafia, sure, you can give into them. Accept the fact that someone out there has a handle on your fate, and there's nothing you can do about it. That someone decides they don't like you and are going to secretly amass a propoganda machine to take you down. There will be people like that, there are people like that. Now are they in the publishing/theater/film/art world--I hope not but I have a sinking suspiscion that there are some people like that lurky in the backwaters.
But if that's all it takes to freak me out, and make me back away from doing something I love then my mother was right. I should quit and fast. Like sparkly running vampire fast. But I choose to stay and have faith in myself. I have crit partners who have done so much for me, I have taken classes, and at the end of that day, I am happy with my endeavors.

From my years in theater, writing, and film, I've come to the conclusion that there are people out there who are like this supposed YA Mafia, there is a lot of who you know, but there's also a lot of what you know and there are people who look for that. It's not an "us" vs. "them" philosophy, it's a give and take, sometimes there will be truth to what you know and sometimes it will be about who you know. It's an acceptence that sometimes life just ain't fair. Ouch, that still hurts to hear.

Accept it and write your book, make your play, or film your movie anyway. Fight for your ideas (they're yours after all so who better to fight for them?), make friends who are like you and want to get published (the road is too long to go at it alone--I mean even King Arthur had a support team), be friendly to new people (Golden rule aside, remember what it was like to be a newbie), and let secret sects be secret sects (because I think they're out there, but I really just don't care).

In other words, bring it on YA Mafia--if you really exist--I'm not going anywhere.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know there was a technical name for this. I'm going to link you on my blog this week. I think this is an interesting topic. Glad you sniffed it out for me so I'd know the skinny. THanks!