Friday, May 28, 2010

Did anyone in your life inspire you to become a writer...?

A few key events, rather than specific people inspired me to pursue a career in writing. In elementary school, I wrote plays and cast my little cousins in the roles. My good-sport-of-a-dad filmed our homemade productions. I also kept a poetry book—a marble notepad filled with catchy, rhyming stanzas capped off with inspired titles, like “The Fab Four” (read: what a group of us girlfriends named ourselves). And I can’t even begin to count the number of diaries I’d filled by the 9th grade. Writing was always a part of my personality. So much so, I didn’t give it much significance. I didn’t even give it much weight when I began winning essay contests that I entered to earn college money. And then early senior year, my guidance counselor got a call from the admissions office of my dream school, New York University. They called to ask her questions about little ole me! Huh? Apparently, they were really taken with my college application essay and wanted to know more about me. Of course, this caught me completely off guard, but it was extremely encouraging. I thought to myself, writing is viable. (p.s. I got accepted, but couldn’t financially afford to attend.)

Soon after, on the strength of another contest essay, The Star-Ledger, the local newspaper, awarded me scholarship money (through journalist Jerry Izenberg's Project Pride program, which awards college-bound city kids). Having my writing recognized by professionals in the field was a turning point for me. At the time, I was looking at comfortably settling into an undecided, undeclared underclassman existence, and my immigrant parents were pushing me to be more career-minded (“Pick a major! Your choice--pre-med or pre-law.”). So this recognition gave me the direction I needed. One look at the Star-Ledger plaque—which was titled “For Excellence in Journalism”—and something clicked for me. A few years later, I decided that my personality was best suited for magazine journalism, rather than newspaper or TV. My first magazine internship put me on a direct road to awesome magazine staff positions which, in turn, led me to an exciting introduction to the book publishing world.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Release Day for Jenn Echols' ENDLESS SUMMER!

Starting today you can get your very own copy of Jennifer Echols's ENDLESS SUMMER (the sequel to THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, which is in the same volume!). I don't know about you, but I'm so excited! Congrat's to Jennifer, who not only does a great job writing romantic comedies; she's the lady behind this awesome blog. Thanks for all your hard work, Jennifer, and best wishes with your newest book(s)!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Who Inspired Me to Become a Writer?

Unlike a lot of authors I know, I only decided to try my hand at writing books later in life. Like, way later (30?). I always enjoyed writing and did well on writing assignments throughout my school years. Several of my elementary, junior high and high school teachers helped build my confidence, but they were general "you can do anything" types of messages.
Then I went to college and realized I should probably start trying to narrow this "what do I want to be when I grow up" thing down, at least a little. I did take one creative writing class, but it was kind of a neutral experience. I got good grades but my prof never really jumped up and down about anything I turned in. I found that neutral was a lot more pleasant than negative, though.
My honors philosophy professor (who the entire liberal arts building was named after) told me I could not write. He even brought me into his office to tell me this so it could have its full, devastating effect on me. Not only did he give me a bad grade on a paper I felt I'd done a great job on, it ended up making my GPA fall just enough to lose my honors scholorship. My heart wasn't set on being a writer at that point, but I'd only ever had positive encouragement from teachers and parents. I'd never been told I could not do something, ever! (I actually include this story in my school presentations nowadays.)
Thankfully I bounced back, and it was only a little while longer before the dean of my college called me up to her desk, handed me an A-plus paper and told me, "You can do anything you set your mind to, but if it doesn't involve writing, you'll be doing this world a great disservice." And guess what? She surprised me and one guy in the class with scholarships!

Of course its' a happy ending because after trying out a variety of jobs, I finally discovered that writing makes me the happiest and I've been able to work towards becoming a published author. In fact, my third YA, LIFTED, comes out in just a few days! So it's all good. Very, very good. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Support, or lack thereof

"Who or what inspired you to become a writer?" is a pretty standard question for an author, but truthfully, the answer, for me, is kind of a big old blank.

I honestly can't remember when I knew that I wanted to create stories, professional or otherwise. My mother has always been an avid reader, and she read to me as early as I can recall. Likewise, I have memories of lying in bed at night, making up stories in my head long before I knew how to hold a pencil (or even a crayon, for that matter). The only inspiration that I can come up with, in this context, are the books I fell in love with as a child.

My favorites were many of the usual suspects: ELOISE, MADELINE, FRANCES (and her baby sister, eventually), but my true first love had to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. My obsession with the "Little House" books was such that I recruited my mother in sewing me a pioneer-style bonnet and spent afternoons recreating favorite scenes with my best friends. Yes, I watched the tv series faithfully, but I'm sure I re-read those books much more frequently than I ever tuned in.

Authors are sometimes asked whether they write with a particular "ideal reader" in mind, and the answer is that I personally do not. I think envisioning my audience so specifically would bring on an acute spell of writerly stage fright. And I'd never deign to suggest that I write with the intention of someday having the impact on a reader that Laura Ingalls Wilder had on me. Such presumption would almost feel like heresy to such a devout follower as me!
And meanwhile, my family and friends have always been phenomenally supportive of my writing.

But at the end of the day, it's all about having fallen in love with books. If I'd never read books that took me out of my own life and into a new character, an exotic location, or a unique situation, I don't know that I'd have gone on to indulge my own imagination daily quite the way I do when I'm writing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Support Is Key...

This month's question got me thinking: Has there been any one person who urged me to write? Anyone who tried to dissuade me? Most writers I know can come up with a name in an instant, either pro or con.

My case is different. No one could dissuade me because I kept my writing on the down low. On the other hand, keeping my writing dreams quiet meant that none of my family or friends could cheer for me, either. Only my husband knew that I wanted to try to write and sell a book, and he was extremely supportive.

That's not to say that support isn't important. Early on, I discovered the Romance Writers of America and joined the organization so that I could take their workshops and improve my craft. Along the way--without even trying--I made a number of friends, all of whom were pursuing the same dream. It made a world of difference in my career. I had whatever constructive criticism I wanted as I tried to improve, but no one to tell me, "You shouldn't." And the friends I've made through our shared goals are some of my closest.

In retrospect, finding others who shared my goal was the smartest thing I could do. Now, whenever I have a new goal, I find someone like-minded, and we work toward our goals together. It's a strategy I believe can be applied to non-writing areas of life, too!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SUMMER is just around the corner!

ENDLESS SUMMER comes out in two weeks. I AM SO EXCITED! I have posted the first chapter if you want a little taste in the meantime. And did you know I have a countdown clock?

Did you know that I can totally stare at the countdown clock for several hours at one sitting, willing the time to pass faster?

Well, time IS passing. I know this because the book has ACTUALLY BEEN PRINTED and my editor sent me a copy. This volume contains the novel ENDLESS SUMMER, which is the sequel to THE BOYS NEXT DOOR. But it also contains THE BOYS NEXT DOOR itself, resulting in a Big Honking Book. How big is it? It weighs 1 pound and 2.4 ounces.

For comparison, an apple weighs 10 ounces.

A strange ceramic object that my small child made me for Mother's Day weighs 3 ounces.

My cat weighs 186 pounds.

Of course, I am really glad to have the book, but it has required some lifestyle changes on my part. I had to buy a new vehicle.

Look for this book in the teen section of bookstores on Tuesday, May 25, okay? If they don't have it, ask them to order it. If they do have it, you probably won't be able to miss it. Take your forklift.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Did anyone in your life inspire you to become a writer or warn you against that goal?

Since I never set out to be a writer, this question requires a little pondering. I never walked around announcing to my family, "I'm going to be a writer someday!" (insert little baby voice). In fact, until well after my first year of college, I told everyone I was going to go into that other profession that strikes fear in parental hearts: acting. Right, acting. I might as well have said I was going to make my living creating gerbil homes of out of shoelaces. But however worried my parents were, they never, ever let on. All they did was nod and smile and wave me cheerfully off to college, knowing that about two seconds after entering my first intro to acting class, I'd realize that 90 % of the people there were better actors than I was. And that's exactly what happened. But when I did eventually get around to telling them I was going to write full time (this was about seven years ago, when I was twenty-five), they also did not say one negative thing.

I'm not answering this question very clearly, I realize, but what I'm trying to say is that I think I could have been easily convinced NOT to be a writer, but because my parents (and my husband) never, ever tried to talk me out if, not even once, I just went ahead and did it. And it's worked out okay.