Thursday, October 6, 2011

Here’s to the crazy ones.

I don’t have a personal remembrance of Steve Jobs, but I have, in the course of my computing life, owned a non-trivial number of Apple products (the SE/30 on the right is the first computer we ever had). You may count me among those who believe there is something great about what Apple creates (but please don’t call me a fanboy; I’ve never lined up for anything).

I’m also fascinated by Jobs because I love stories, and Jobs’ whole life is a good story, one that’s being retold ad infinitum right about now. In reading some of these remembrances, it’s striking to see that Steve Jobs was recognizably Steve Jobs at least as early as junior high school, when he introduced himself to William Hewlett, cofounder of HP:

When he was in eighth grade, Steve Jobs decided to build a frequency counter for a school project and needed parts. Someone suggested that he call Bill Hewlett. Finding a William Hewlett in the telephone book, the 12-year-old Jobs called and asked, "Is this the Bill Hewlett of Hewlett-Packard?" "Yes," said Bill. Jobs made his request. Bill spent some time talking to him about his project. Several days later, Jobs went to HP and picked up a bag full of parts that Bill had put together for him.

Subsequently, Jobs landed a summer job at HP. He later went on to co-found Apple Computer. [via hp.com]

In hindsight, that’s quite a moment (maybe Bill Hewlett gave electronics components to kids everyday, but I kind of doubt it). And I bet there were dozens of interesting moments in the adolescence of Steve Jobs  in the decade between meeting Hewlett and founding Apple.

These kinds of entrepreneurship stories are part of American mythology. Jobs isn’t alone. Henry Ford was repairing watches at 15. Edison was running a business selling candy and newspapers on trains. And on and on. This is why it’s odd to me that this stock character in American mythology isn’t really present in young adult lit (comment if you can correct me). It’s clear that these people really get interesting in their teen years.

Is the problem that the arcs of their lives don’t reach anything like a peak in their adolescent years? Is it that their adolescences seem remarkable only in retrospect? Maybe, but I’m not convinced. YA isn’t about peaks; it’s about the interesting struggles of interesting people in the midst of a transition common to us all.

So, I’m open to novels with main characters who personify this spirit. YA or older middle-grade. No biographies, no thinly-veiled novelizations of biographies. No books that extend into adulthood. Standard genre rules apply. Offer ends 11/7/11. Void where prohibited. Submission directions can be found here.

photoAnd, as a special treat, here’s an old (2001) bio of Jobs from Carolrhoda’s sister imprint, Twenty-First Century Books. Wonder what happened to that author….