I am not that old.
But I have aging hands: tiny wrinkles that have turned into true lines, a crepe-paper quality to the skin. It can be startling, believe me. It's like the zombie apocalypse. BUT IT'S MY OWN HANDS.
And my toes are so old. They are tiny skin-coloured wrinkly elephants, perched down there on the end of my feet, trumpeting my age. The Birdy looks at them and says, "Ew! Your toes are so so so... empty!"
The Bun says, "It's because she's so old. You're old, right, Mum? You're really old? Will you die soon?"
"No," I say. "I will never die."
He cries. "But you're so old! You're like a HUNDRED and TWENTY!"*
The Birdy says, "Can you fill them back up?"
The truth is that I am the same. The same. Always the same. I don't think I'm old. I feel the same as I did when my toes were full. When I didn't have scary dreams about my hands.
So when people say, "Why do you write YA?" I think, but don't say, it's because that's who I am.
I am an eleven year old girl. I have instant access to despair and humiliation and hilarity. I am a seventeen year old boy replete with the anger and the pain and the wanting, the painful incessant wanting. I am a fifteen year old girl, vainly worried about the wrong things, in love with the wrong people, given to dramatics and a taste for sad music.
I write YA because every character is me and I am all of them. And because it's easier -- it can be easier -- to be an adolescent version of myself than being the actual me, owner of aging appendages and real, grown up heartbreak that can't be fixed with a really amazing mix tape.
I am a grown up. A person old enough to have empty toes and a full roster of responsibilities.
How did this happen?
*I am not really 120. Oddly enough, the top search term to hit this site lately is, "How old is Karen Rivers?" Which makes me want to keep it locked up tight in the Top Secret Vault where I also store information like, "How much does Karen Rivers weigh?" and "How do you do the Rubik's Cube?" and "Who will win The Bachelor this season?" ALL OF WHICH I KNOW, OF COURSE. Well, except that bit about the Rubik's Cube. That's really still a mystery to me.