While browsing The Huffington Post, I ran across an article that made me stop and pause. The title read: “What We Can Learn From Teen Readers: A Conversation With 16-Year-Old Book Critic Robby Auld.” This article got me to thinking. What is it like for a teenage blogger? I know many of you bloggers are teenagers, but keep in mind that I, nor my fellow reviewers on here, am not. So, when I think of bloggers, I think of adults.
Naturally, I was DIENG to interview Robby Auld, so I hopped on over to his website so I could shoot him off an email. I cannot express how intelligent and inspiring Robby is. When I was a junior in high school, I never had the chance to meet someone who was as responsible and dedicated as Robby is. I hope that you all go take a look at Robby’s work after reading this post.
Let’s start out with some ice breakers:
I want to be happy. Regardless of the path my life takes, I want to be fulfilled, at least partially, as much as possible. I have many ideas for directions my future could head in, but I’m not sure which one it will be. Most of the time, I’m not sure which one I want it to be. Ten years from tonight, I’ll be just about 27. I could have already finished graduate school and headed into something else, or I may still be in school. I e-mailed Jennifer Gooch Hummer earlier this afternoon and told her that, when I am older, I will likely be living alone in a claustrophobic studio apartment with wilting flowers and mildew, eating only dry cereal with stolen spoons. Even then, I think I would be happy. I’d like to be alive.
All light, soft colors; I’m indecisive. I refrain from wearing purple, so that is usually cut from the list. I tell people my favorite color is red, but should probably start saying scarlet, because I’m supposed to be intelligent. I’m thinking yellow right now, though, so let’s go with that.
Favorite ice cream flavor?
Ben & Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie, preferably, though I’ll never turn down mint chocolate chip of any brand, or coffee, or butter pecan. When I go out for ice cream, I order vanilla soft serve in a cone with rainbow sprinkles. That, above all, is the real favorite.
The Mortal Instruments or The Hunger Games?
I haven’t read either series! I really should. I have no reason for why I haven’t.
Now let’s get down to business:
What made you want to start reviewing books?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past few weeks. When I started my blog 3 years ago, I was reading a lot, more than I have as I’ve grown older, and didn’t have many other friends who were also reading. Once I began searching, I quickly found the community of bloggers that I made a home for myself within, temporarily. I think I just wanted to write. I wanted to have a place where I could write and others could respond. I wanted to analyze and discuss and reflect. I’ve been able to do this and it has changed my life. It has led to this interview here. It has helped me become a better writer, which is hopefully a continuous process. Why I’ve kept reviewing books still has much to do with the answer I’ve already written, but there is more involved. That probably requires it’s own blog post. I will write it eventually.
Can you let everyone know how old you are?
I’m 16 years old, soon to be 17. I have driven once.
What grade are you in?
I’m currently wrapping up my junior year! I cannot articulate how wonderful a feeling writing that sentence has given me.
How often do you see your peers reading books that are not mandatory for school?
Quite often! It excites me more than I can physically express. I try to ask people what they’re reading as frequently as I can without being overbearing. In some cases, I have disregarded this worry and persisted.
What do you want to say to the youth who consider reading “stupid” and “uncool”?
I have to read. Though it now takes me a few weeks to finish a book that would have previously taken me only a matter of days, I am still reading. If I don’t, I feel it. I understand the stigma. When I am doing homework, I want to be doing anything but. I would rather be outside, taking a walk or meeting a friend. Too many kids view reading the same way they view homework, as an obligation. There is a pressure. Most kids, if they did choose to read, wouldn’t know what they’d enjoy. It takes time and experimentation to find a genre that interests you, and that is rarely permanent. Our preferences adjust and broaden as we do in our experiences outside of reading. Within reading is experience, too. I would ask each person to try.
Do you remember the book or series that originally got you interested in reading?
I read every single Junie B. Jones book in elementary school. Also Magic Tree House. Also Judy Blume and Judy Moody. Every Judy, probably. I have periods where I refuse to put down whichever book I am reading, and other periods where I cannot bring myself to open whichever book I am reading. I’ve found that it has less to do with what I’m reading and more to do with what else I’m doing. The youth mentioned earlier who will of course fall in love with literature should know the experimentation never ends.
Throughout your high school years how many books have you been required to read for your classes?
More than I can remember. In previous years, I haven’t enjoyed English class as much as this one. Freshman year, I wasn’t too interested in anything we read until we were assigned The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon over our Winter break. Sophomore year, I enjoyed Lord of the Flies by William
Golding and, though Catcher in the Rye didn’t meet my expectation, it led me to reading more of JD Salinger’s work, which I loved. This past year, we read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others. Our focus was American Literature. It was most compelling to me of the English courses I’ve taken throughout high school, not to say the others weren’t fantastic. I’ve had good luck with teachers, but not necessarily the curriculum.
You’ve interviewed quite a few authors. Who was your favorite to interview?
I could never choose a favorite. I’ve enjoyed each for different reasons. What I’ve loved most about having the opportunity to interview so many wonderful writers is formulating questions. That also requires experimentation, trial and error. I find myself asking similar questions each time.
Would you say that blogging gives you a sense of peace or relaxation?
Yes, definitely. Blogging is more than a hobby or an outlet. It’s a therapeutic process, to sit and write and revise as little as possible. It’s become ritualized, though not completely. I’ve gone weeks without updating my blog and, similar to when I’m not reading, I feel that, too. I either have a whole lot to say or not much at all. Others times, I have things to say, but wait. I plan out posts in my mind and scrap those plans completely when I sit and write. It’s spontaneous, which is what keeps me coming back.
Do you plan to continue your blog after high school?
I plan to. Reviewing books has become part of the reading process for me so, as long as I’m reading, I’ll be reviewing. Where those reviews will be posted or published is what may change, but I have no way of knowing. I’ll always be writing about what I’m thinking and observing and feeling. Whether or not those pieces are published on my blog or somewhere else is also an unknown. I may hoard those writings for other uses. I could write a memoir about being a privileged white boy. That will be my masterpiece.
What is currently in your To-Be-Read-Pile?
I’m currently reading Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin. I’m just about done, and after, I’ll be tackling The Hartford Book by Samuel Amadon. There are many others. There are too many others. This, more so than the end of the school year, makes me giddy.