At the 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, Laurie Halse Anderson encouraged attendees in her "Here Be Magic Woven" keynote, to think of the conference community as a fire circle. This is a place to keep darkness at bay, a place where we can share.
As writers sitting alone at a computer wondering where we'll find the next line (or worse, yet, where we'll find the first line), we've all looked into the face of that darkness and know it by name. "Welcome to the darkness," Anderson begged us. "Welcome to your doubts."
We can think of our books as fire circles, too. Young readers come to our works because of the darkness and doubts they they cannot share with their parents and peers. Humbly, we should approach our task of fueling that blaze, of pushing back the darkness beyond just the pages of our books but in young readers' lives.
Middle Graders and Teens are bloodhounds in their ability to sniff out a fake. Free write the story of your greatest doubt, of the time darkness overwhelmed you in your own young life. Was there something unexpected about that pain (i.e. from whom it arose, from a normally comfortable situation)?