Happy Valentine's Day (or not?)-- by Donna

So this week is Valentine's and everybody's mind turns to roses, hearts and love, right? Well, maybe not. I'm in the midst of trying to recuperate from that horrible cold, flu, coughing, plague-like stuff that is going around these days while at the same time dealing with a Colorado winter that has, so far, featured a -40 degrees wind chill. It's enough to slap the romance right out of you. On top of all that, my Valentine's present this year was a Brighton necklace to hold my reading glasses around my neck so I wouldn't keep loosing them. Pitiful. Even so, the theme for this week's blog is romance and I knew, especially in my current state of mind, I needed some help. I needed the advice of an expert.

My expert came in the form of my friend, Emma. That's her in the picture up there. She's a pretty, opinionated, sixteen year old who gives amazing advice to young adult writers about the whole subject of romance. Emma took the time to answer my questions from her own unique perspective and in her own voice. Take a look at our conversation below:

So what about Valentine's Day? Is it cool or not?
Nobody's into Valentines' Day, not even the ones who have boyfriends. A big dinner date out with a guy would just seem to cliche. Romantic to me is more about hanging out with friends--casual, relaxed, no pressure. It's not about big pick up lines. It's more how the guy acts, than what he says. He acts proud to be with you, maybe he puts his arm around you...touches you, but he doesn't act like he's totally amazed that you would be out with him.

So you're saying nobody likes "the big flower delivery to the desk in front of everybody" anymore?
I haven't done something like that since I was in middle school, but maybe it depends on the group. The drama group likes big, splashy things like that, but the down to earth group would feel pretty uncomfortable. They like things to be more private.

So, in your opinion, what would be a really romantic date?
I think going on a hike up Horsetooth Mountain would be great. I like it when a boy is super outdoorsy--a boyfriend you could go on an adventure with. I like boys that are snowboarders and hikers. I think it's really cool when a guy tries to be really good at something. And any kind of art. I especially like it when a guy is into art.

Flowers? Presents?
I wouldn't appreciate flowers. Maybe sunflowers? It would be romantic if a guy gave you his artwork. That would be awesome. You would have to be really comfortable with someone for them to give you something they made, because you could totally critique it.

What would you wear on a romantic date?
I always wear jeans and a tshirt or a shirt with long sleeves. Some of my friends give how they dress a lot of thought. Not that they dress up, they just have a certain style. If you can't keep your style with a certain boyfriend, then you shouldn't be dating them.

What kind of boys are you attracted to?
I'd like him to be able to hang out with my family. My friend's boyfriend always helps her family cook and stuff. He's accepted and her parents kind of like him.

As far as looks go, I like kind of hippie boys, with sort of long hair. He doesn't look like his outfit was "thought out." He should have a good smile and good teeth. I'm kind of a freak about teeth. I don't really care if he's good in school as long as he's smart. That's not the same thing.

My friend likes her boyfriend to be really nicely put together with his hair neat and in place. He definitely has some ideas about how he wants to look. I guess it's the clean cut vs. hippie.

What's a movie you would consider romantic?
The Notebook

What part did you consider the most romantic?
Probably not the parts you'd really consider to be romantic. I liked it most when they were talking, arguing, eating ice cream, and then they were kissing. Not the big, obvious love scenes.

What advice would you give to Young Adult writers about romance?

*I like to read about relationships, not romance.
*I like books where the main character isn't naive. She's able to have a natural, comfortable relationship instead of having her attracted to someone and her not knowing what to do about it.
*I think authors try to relate the attributes too strongly to a character. If she's shy, she too shy and if she's confident, then she's too cocky.
*Showing that girls still have insecurities is ok, and it's ok if the guy knows about it. It's ok to show vulnerability.
*Don't have one person being in control of the relationship.
*Instead of making it super dramatic throughout the whole story, make the relationship really good, then something happens thats a fall through and changes the way the main character feels about things.
*If its a good relationship, then its not just the two of them all the time. The girl has friends and the guy has friends. Then its real.
*They can also be best friends, not just romantic all the time.
*They should share jokes and stuff like friends at first, not serious right away, then it can be a lot more fun.

I found it fascinating that Emma's perspectives on romance, plot, and characterization often mirrored some of the best presentations I've heard from the most successful editors and authors in the business. From her sixteen year old voice, and my future audience's perspective, I found her responses incredibly insightful. Hope you did, too.

Oh, and Happy Valentine's!


You're right, Donna -- amazing advice. Finding the balance between vulnerable and overconfident. How a guy acts, rather than what he says. Brilliant. Thank you, and thank Emma!

What great insights from a great girl! Thanks Emma!

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