Aug 2, 2010

Know Your Audience

Saturday night my family went to a BBQ at a friend's house. This friend does nothing small. In fact, she not only invited her entire ward, but ours as well. The two wards used to be one, so most of us knew each other and it was a fun time to rekindle relationships and friendships. There were well over 100 people there. Good thing she has a huge yard and family to help her.

As the night wore on, the entertainment began. Her son-in-law is from Tonga and used to dance at the Polynesian Center in Hawaii, so got some of his buddies together and performed several dances, included a fire sword dance. It was impressive and fun. While waiting for it to get dark enough for the fire dance, they played some popular music and invited everyone to come up and dance. Most of the adults held back, but the youth were like a swarm of bees ascending on the dance floor. It was fun to watch.

My son is 16 and has autism. I've always been concerned about how the kids at school and church may tease him. My concerns were put to rest as I saw my son make his way through the crowd and join his peers. Honestly, it's how I envision our ancestors greeting us in heaven. Several of the kids called out his name, welcoming him. The tight knit crowd opened up and engulfed him. For most of the time, I couldn't even see him because he was surrounded by his friends. At some point, someone got the idea to hoist one of the boys up in the air and pass him around the group. They were having a great time. Soon, it was Joshua's turn to be lifted up, and I must say, I've never seen a wider smile--a smile that brought tears to my eyes. He was being included.

You may ask what this all has to do with "Knowing Your Audience."  Well, I write Young Adult and because I don't spend a lot of time with teens and have only my autistic son as a daily example, I tend to rely on what I see on television or the internet and gear my books toward that audience. Well, no more. I've never been more impressed with a group of individuals in my life. The youth in this little Idaho town have impressed me beyond my expectations. And, NO, they were not all LDS. In fact, there were a lot that weren't because the host children invited all their friends from school. And they have a lot of friends.

So, I've learned that in order to write true to your audience, you need to observe more, take them in and get to know them better. Whether it be Middle Grade, Young Adult or the Geriatric community, absorb yourself with their ways so you can entertain them with your words.


  1. I think that's true. I need to do more eavesdropping at the mall or something!