SCBWI: “Why Teens In Books Can’t Swear” – James Dawson’s perspective on the choice faced by writers

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
July 17, 2012 at 06:00AM

A debate in the UK on the merits of introducing an age-guidance rating system for Young Adult books inspired this article, WHY TEENS IN BOOKS CAN’T SWEAR, by YA author James Dawson.

James goes into detail on the level of swearing he and his editor agreed on for his debut novel Hollow Pike, and discusses role of gatekeepers (librarians, booksellers, and parents who pay for the books) and their feelings about swearing (and being seen encouraging it.)

He says,

This dilemma comes back to the author. No one tells us what we can and cannot write, but so early in my career I didn’t take the risk of being refused entry at the gate. In a choice between swearing and being stocked, I opted for the safer choice. It is up to you to decide whether I run the risk of losing artistic integrity by removing sex and swearing.

He also weighs in on role youth play in deciding what’s right for themselves as readers.

As a 12-year-old, I had no access to young adult fiction because it didn’t exist. Instead I went straight to Stephen King and James Herbert. I was able to choose what was suitable and unsuitable. The rise of young adult means we are able to explore “the darkness” with the safety wheels on.

Ultimately, James is against a rating system.

What’s your take?  Do you think a rating system for teen books is a good idea?  

And how about in your writing?  How far a swear word is too far for you?

Illustrate and Write On,


Posted on July 17, 2012, in SCBWI and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on SCBWI: “Why Teens In Books Can’t Swear” – James Dawson’s perspective on the choice faced by writers.

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