A Primer for a YA Author in Her Debut Year

This time last year, I was gearing up for my year as a debut author. The Chance You Won’t Return came out in April, and 2014 has been the most amazing, scary, exciting, stressful, awesome year ever. For all the debut authors gearing up for their debut years in 2015 and beyond, I’ve put together a list of things that will probably happen around their book launch:

You will hold your ARC for the first time and realize that your book is actually going to be out in the world.

You will think, “This book is so great. Surely it will win all the awards.”

You will think, “This is the worst book ever and no one should ever see it.”

You will make bookmarks/postcards/bracelets/magnets/buttons and wonder if you really need bookmarks/postcards/bracelets/magnets/buttons.

You will connect with other debut authors and bond over the stress and awesomeness of writing and marketing and life.

You will sign up for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Youtube, etc. You will maybe only use one or two of those platforms regularly.

You will get a great review that shows your book really connected with a reader.

You will get an awful review by someone who didn’t get the book at all.

You will get an awful review that makes thoughtful criticisms. You’ll think, “Yeah, that’s fair.”

You will look at your Goodreads/Amazon/etc. reviews way more often than you tell people you do.

You will go into a bookstore and see your book on the shelves with all of your friends’ books. You will not believe your book is actually on a shelf for readers you don’t even know to find.

You will go into a bookstore and your book and your friends’ books will not be there.

You will do readings and panels and lots of people will come to see you.

You will do readings and panels and only one or two people will come to see you, and those one or two people will be people you already know.

You will read your fellow debut authors’ books and think “Oh my gosh, maybe someone I know is going to win the Printz/Morris/Newbery/etc.” You will be so proud of your friends for their talent and hard work.

You will read bad reviews for your fellow debut authors’ books and think “Are you kidding me, that was the best book ever!” and get even more incensed than when you read bad reviews for your own book.

You will sign your book for the first time.

Your friends will share pictures of your book at bookstores, in libraries, on their bookshelves.

People will ask, “When are you going on your book tour?”

People will ask, “So, how’s the book selling?” You will resist the urge to ask about their salary.

You will worry about how your book is selling.

You will worry about being on lists or being named for awards or getting starred reviews. You will see friends get named to lists or awards or starred reviews and wonder if there’s something you’re doing wrong. (There’s not.)

You will Google yourself. A lot.

You will see that people you’ve never met before are reading your book.

You will introduce yourself as a writer, and when people ask what you’ve written, you can finally tell them the title and say it’s now available at their favorite bookseller’s.

You will stress out about your follow-up book and wonder if you should give up writing for something less stressful, like juggling flaming swords.

You will write your follow-up book (and the one after that and the one after that) because no matter what happens, this is way better than any other job.

You will meet some of the greatest people in the world and wonder how you ever lived without them.

Sometimes you will have to remind yourself that, no matter what, you have a book in the world. You made it. And no matter how the rest of your career goes, no one can ever take that away from you.

But really, you will know that this is only the beginning.

Happy 2015 and beyond, writers!

The Season of Giving

The other day I was talking to my mom about the YA/children’s book community, and I mentioned how pretty much everyone I’ve met–from fellow writers to librarians to editors to readers–is awesome. People don’t tend to be snobby or petty or dismissive. Instead, the large majority of people I’ve met are warm and friendly and inclusive and generous. Maybe that’s because we’re writing for an audience that’s often not taken seriously and our work requires a little more sensitivity. Maybe that’s because other people in the literary world are easy to dismiss our work so we have to band together even more. Maybe that’s because we’ve found that it’s better to be supportive of each other than to knock each other down.

It’s especially evident online, where people will retweet friends’ exciting news or take a picture of a friend’s book in a bookstore. We read each other’s work and recommend it to our reading community. We share ideas for marketing, let each other vent, and remind each other that we’re not alone on this wild writing journey. It’s overall a very giving community, and one I’m so glad to be a part of.

I love cheering for my fellow writers. From best-selling authors to debut writers to writers who are still drafting their first novel, I love sharing my enthusiasm for their work and encouraging them and sharing writerly experiences with them.

I am, however, way less giving toward myself. If a writer friend is going through a hard time, I’d be quick to tell them, “It’s okay, take care of yourself, you don’t have to do all the work right now, the story will wait for you.” When it comes to myself, I’m way more likely to say “Dude, why can’t you get it together and finish the damn draft already? And why isn’t it perfect, it has to be perfect!” If a friend has exciting news to share, I will tweet and blog and Facebook all about it. Sharing my own exciting news feels weird and awkward and conceited. I think my friends are so smart and talented, but if someone asks me about writing, I say “Oh, well, this is just what works for me, what do I know?”

Sometimes it’s easier to be generous for others than it is to be generous for yourself. This quote by Marcia Hutchinson is about body image, but I think it totally applies to how we treat ourselves in general:

“If you talked to your friends the way you talk to your body, you’d have no friends left at all.”

Writing and publishing are hard and stressful and it’s easy to put pressure on yourself, especially about things you can’t control. But at the end of the day, you can’t write your best book if you’re not taking care of yourself. You’re a priority, too.

In this season of giving, let’s commit to talking to ourselves more like we talk to our friends. To supporting ourselves and taking care of ourselves and reminding ourselves that challenges are a part of life. To being enthusiastic for ourselves and our work. To being just as giving and kind and generous to yourself as you are to those around you.

You’re the Only Ten I See: a YA/MG Tennessee Retreat Recap

Despite my blog silence over the last couple of weeks, I’ve returned from the 2013/14/15 writer retreat in Tennessee. I got to see some awesome writers I’d previously met, give major hugs to writers I’d only met online, and befriend new writers I didn’t know as well. A few highlights:

We stayed at a lodge in the Smoky Mountains, and the view from the porch was amazing!

I got to room with some pretty awesome people (and yes, we did watch “Hush” from Buffy while packing up on the last night):

We didn’t exactly go hungry, thanks to lots of great cooks and bakers:

There may or may not have been a dance party.

Two words: swag table:

Getting to hang out with YA/MG writers I love and admire.

And, of course, getting lots of writing done.

Special thanks to the amazing Natalie Parker for putting this all together! What an awesome time to share thoughts and have fun with some fantastic writers.

Getting Ready for the OneFour Retreat: a Gif Interpretation

Next week, I’ll be in Tennessee with about forty other 2014 (and 2013 and 2015) debut authors, writing and talking our experiences as debut YA/kidlit authors and hot-tubbing and eating/drinking lots of tastiness and probably hugging a lot. This retreat has been in the works for a while now, and I can’t believe it’s almost here!

My preparation list includes packing, making sure I have all my flight info, and trying to decide what book to bring on the plane. But of course, the only real way to prepare is with gifs.

Trying to pack:
On the flight to TN:

‘Meeting’ people at first:

But then after like five minutes:

Fangirling over everyone’s books:

Talking about our career paths:

Productive writing thing:

When someone puts on the good music:
Sharing bookish gossip:
Feeling all the YA/MG love:

Remembering we have to go home eventually:

 

Post-retreat:
Can’t wait to see all those wonderful writers in a few days!

The Not-So Bizarre World of Writers with Day Jobs

Recently, I came across this list of bizarre day jobs of famous authors. Although I think for most writers, this list doesn’t seem all that bizarre. Most of us need some source of income that’s not writing-related, and I’d wager that almost all of us have had some kind of random job in our past. (My resume includes ice cream scooping, doll selling, wrangling costumed characters, and television production.)

Writing is pretty much the best career ever, but unfortunately it’s not one that usually comes with health benefits attached. My advice for finding a writer-friendly job:

  1. Be honest with yourself and your needs.
    Your career is writing. A day job can (and hopefully will) be fulfilling on its own, but you don’t need to feel pressured to climb the corporate ladder. Think about what kind of schedule you need, what your priorities are financially, what flexibility you might need, etc. Your day job shouldn’t drain you of valuable energy that could go toward your writing.
  1. Find something you don’t hate.
    At one of my first jobs out of school, I was super stressed and would leave feeling like I’d just spent 8 hours doing nothing worthwhile. My current job makes me feel good about what I do doing the workday, which means I don’t get home and want to hide under the couch cushions.
  1. Wear your writer badge.
    If possible, be honest with your employer/coworkers that you’re a writer. Not that you need to go into major detail about revisions, but try not to hide the fact that you’re actively pursuing a career in art. At my current and last couple of jobs, people knew I was a writer and were extremely supportive.  If I had to hide the fact that I had another career outside of my job, I might not feel comfortable going to work everyday.
  1. Understand the ebbs and flows.
    Even with the best day job, there are stressful times and days when you wonder, “What if I just wrote full time?” I’d love to be a full-time writer, but I know I’d hate the pressure of writing with a voice in the back of my head telling me, “If this doesn’t sell, you are sunk.” It’s okay if you have a stressful day or week or month at work. That doesn’t mean you’re not doing the right thing for yourself, your home, and your craft.
  1. Remember it’s not just you.
    It’s easy to think that other writers make enough money to spend all day writing, but even really successful writers often do other things to pad their incomes–teaching, writing other articles, doing author visits, working 9-5 at entirely unrelated jobs, doing temp or freelance work, etc. And even if they are writing full-time, that doesn’t mean they don’t stress about bills or cut back on their budget on any given month. Just because you see someone has a book out doesn’t mean you know what their financial situation is. We’re all trying to make it work as best we can.

No matter what your writing career looks like or what other kind of jobs you have/have had, you’re not alone. Most of us need a day job, but writing is our real work, and that’s a pretty great thing to be doing–even if it’s not doing regular office hours.

Quote of the Day

“I would say to get the character in your mind. Once he is in your mind, and he is right, and he’s true, then he does the work himself. All you need to do then is to trot along behind him and put down what he does and what he says…You’ve got to believe in him. You’ve got to—to feel that—that what—that he is—is alive, and then, of course, you will have to do a certain amount of—of picking and choosing among the possibilities of his action, so that his actions fit the character which you believe in…But the character’s got to be true by your conception and by your experience, and that would include, as we’ve just said, what you’ve read, what you’ve imagined, what you’ve heard, all that going to giving you the gauge to measure this imaginary character by, and once he comes alive and true to you, and—and he’s important and moving, then it’s not too much trouble to put him down.”–William Faulkner

As always, Faulkner finds the perfect words to describe the creation process. So often I feel like I just need to see in my mind what a character is doing. I can’t force it; I just have to let them walk around so I can “put down” what they say and do.

Check out more of Faulkner’s thoughts on writing here (wahoowa!) and check out more quotes on writing here.

Come Find Me at Buttonwood Books Tomorrow Night!

Tomorrow I’ll be at Buttonwood Books in Cohasset, MA (just outside of Boston) for a panel and signing with my fellow 2014 debut YA author the lovely Skylar Dorset!

Come for the discussion about YA writing, stay for the signing and smiles.

The details:

YA Author Panel and Signing
August 13, 7pm at Buttonwood Books
747 CJC HWY RTE 3A
Cohasset, MA 02025

The weather is supposed to be kind of gross, but hopefully by 7pm things will have calmed down. And what better way to spend a rainy day than by hitting up a local bookstore?