I've been AWOL, too. Must be the season. For me it's not a partner with a broken foot or parenting duties, or even anything to do with holidays (I'll admit I am a scrooge). No, I am immersed in end of the semester portfolio reviews.
I have 58 undergraduates all taking Writing Children's Stories in three separate classes. We are just finishing the YA section of the semester. As with the picture book and MG sections, there are odd coincidental overlaps between classes, even though they don't know one another. For example, this week alone I've had four stories about teen pregnancy. And all of them decide to have the baby, either keeping it or giving it up for adoption. There have also been a number of stories about rape. Drugs (especially hallucinogenic episodes) is another popular topic, including one where the mom is a heroin addict. A lot of them are writing about college students or older teens, a couple about kids in the army or marrying a kid in the army. Unlike the picture book and middle-grade stories, not one brings in an adult to solve a problem (the majority of picture books did). And contrary to what is hot in YA, I have not seen a single vampire, fairy or fallen angel. However, there was an appearance of zombies, and two vaguely futuristic settings, one WW II story, and one steamy gay romance (from a very brave student!)
Not sure what this all means, but since these students are between eighteen and twenty years old it is curious to note what they are reading and writing.
By the way. not one of them reads paranormal novels. In fact they were surprised when I sent them on assignment to a local B bookstore and all they saw were vampires.