I worry about things. Silly things like whether that ingrown toenail I had six months ago might have become gangrenous (it didn’t) or whether that person I gave the finger to in traffic because they cut me off might have been having a really bad day that I’d made worse by responding like a jerk.
I worry about things that aren’t so silly. Things like whether our new president (whose administration has a habit of making up fake terror attacks, attempting to delegitimize the free press, and demeaning the third branch of the United States government) will bluster us into a third world war or whether our detrimental effect on the environment might already have passed the point of no return.
I worry about things a lot. The thing I’ve worried most about over the last couple of weeks was my latest book, At the Edge of the Universe. Specifically I’ve worried how it would be received. But that’s just the anxious writer in me. I was at a conference with Peternelle van Arsdale—whose debut The Beast is an Animal is out 2/28 and you should read it because it’s awesome and she’s awesome—and we were signing books (her The Beast is an Animal, and me At the Edge of the Universe), and we had this exchange (this probably isn’t exact, but it’s close):
Peternelle: You’ll have a long line and I won’t.
Shaun: Want to bet on how long it takes before someone comes up and asks me if this is my debut?
Two minutes later…
Bookseller: At the Edge of the Universe? Congratulations on your debut!
Shaun: Thanks. It’s actually my sixth book.
Peternelle: That doesn’t count as a win since they didn’t ask.
Okay, I made that last bit with Peternelle up, but that’s pretty much how it went (in my head). The point being, yeah, I totally freak every time a new book comes out. I worry about sales and how readers will like it and whether I did everything I could and whether I wrote the characters honestly.
Like I said. I worry a lot. But the one thing I never worry about is you. The teen readers. Because y’all are amazing and awesome and did I say amazing? In my travels, I get to meet a lot of teen readers, and you all never cease to blow my mind with how intelligent and socially conscious and accepting you are. I was at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, CA a couple of weeks ago and I was describing At the Edge of the Universe. One of the students raised is hand and the conversation went like this:
Student: Is Tommy a guy?
Student: And Ozzie, he’s also a guy?
Shaun: Yes he is. They’re both guys.
Student: Okay, cool.
No giggles. No laughter. Just clarification and acceptance. In all my life I never thought I’d be standing on a stage talking to high school students at a Catholic school about a book I’d written featuring gay main characters and that no one would have any problems with that.
I shouldn’t have been surprised though. Because, like I said, teens are awesome.
So while I may worry about how my books are doing and my dog’s health and whether I left the garage door open at night and about our potentially fascist president, I won’t worry about you. Because you are the future, and the future looks bright indeed.