I went to hear YA author Lauren Oliver read from her novel “Before I Fall” (Harper) this weekend. You can check out her website here. Most days I slob around wearing my comfiest jeans and a big sweater. Frequently it is lunch before I remember to brush my hair. There are photos of me after the birth of my son in which the back of my hair sticks straight up, but not in a cool punk rock bedhead way, in a crazed woman on the edge sort of way. However when I leave the house (whether it is just to run to the store) I make a bit of an effort these days. There was one mad dash to the drugstore a couple of years ago, I remember (hazily), in which bits of chewed oatmeal were later discovered spangling the back of my shirt. So I brush the hairs, dress with more care, sometimes apply some powder, wear cool boots and jewelry. Plus this Saturday, the husband was home and I was without children so I thought I should make some extra effort. Lauren was reading at Barnes and Noble in nearby Kingston. I’ve done 3 readings there and Carol, the events coordinator is a pearl who keeps asking me back even though she’s seen me scattered and nervous, frazzled and sleep-deprived, dashing around the store madly after my two-year old. Lauren is from the city (NYC). She looked effortlessly cool and she was very relaxed and amusing. Her book is at the top of my tbr stack. I have no idea how I appear these days when I read. I’ve done over twenty public appearances including workshops since Feltus came out and I think I am more at ease and funnier. Funny is very important when dealing with a group of middle-graders. Also firmness. (I channel my professor mother). But I have yet to read from my YA, since it’s not coming out until 2011. The thought of reading for teenagers is daunting to say the least. For one thing, I may be cool(record label owner, boxer, old punk rocker) but I am an older person. I had a lengthy career before I began writing full-time. I have noticed that a lot of YA writers are not so distanced from their readership by age. As a female writer, I am terribly excited by these twenty-something year olds. I wrote piffle when I was younger, although I was learning the craft. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted anything I wrote in my twenties to be published; most of it was very clearly influenced by other writers. But these young women—they are talented and ambitious and plugged in, and I think it’s fantastic. (The amazing, astute Nicola Morgan has also blogged about whether a writer can be too old to debut. You can read that here). If you look at the Twitter avatars, the websites and blogs of all these exciting debut authors, there is definitely an image, a style that threads through everything. It’s young and hip, and edgy, and smart. It is certain that the face of authorship is changing. I remember noticing when I worked in a bookstore how author photos on novel jackets had changed from the stiff, posed, sitting-at-desk-with-pen pictures of serious writers- all of whom seemed quite mature (you know in a ‘your parents’ sort of a way)– to hip, outside the box, cool hair, clothing photos of interesting people who you’d want to be friends with. Even the mature male crime writers were donning floor-length leather coats and holding doberman pinschers on short leashes. Think Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon and Stephenie Meyer’s hairdo. I wonder if it’s possible that young female readers of YA in particular want to feel some close connection with the writer. Want to be visually assured that this author gets what it feels like to be a teenager, understands all the emotions, and is truthful. They don’t want to look at a photo of someone who looks like their mother. Perhaps because they associate that too closely with the authority figures already present in their lives (parents,teachers, etc…). People who, however loving or caring they might be, tend to tell them what to do with themselves. Maybe a YA author should be (or at least look) more like a best friend. No preaching. Just understanding. And perhaps younger hipper authors bridge a narrower divide?