Monday, June 24, 2013

YA Saves...

Today, on one of the rare Georgia summer days that hasn't broken 90ยบ by noon, I decided to take my lunch to River Front Park and read. I parked myself on a swinging bench in the shade, unpacked my sandwich, and opened Ender's Game to where I had left off. I had just settled in when a young man (maybe 18 or so) parked himself in the swing across from me.

At first, I wasn't sure how to read him. This is in the middle of the city and all kinds of people congregate at the park. His clothes were a bit worn, but clean. He had neat dreds/braids and a small backpack. He stretched himself out on the swing and lay back to enjoy a little peace.

After a bit, he asked me what I was reading. When I told him, he asked what it was about. I described the book to him, and he made an interesting assessment: "I doesn't sound too far into the future." After another bit of silence, he remarked on the idea that a child would save the day. Then he asked me if it was the kind of book he could find in the library. I smiled and said, "Absolutely!"

We sat in silence a bit longer. Then he said that this book sounded a little like a series he had read earlier—Artemis Fowl. Again, I smiled and said I had read some of those too.

It would have been very easy to assume this kid was a thug or a drifter simply based on his appearance. But there was such an honesty in his expression. I have no idea what his daily life is like, but I'm certain it has not resemblance to my own or that of my kids. No matter what else is going on in this kid's life, he loves books. Good books. He seemed to hunger for another one and welcomed a suggestion, a bit of direction that would lead him straight to the library with a purpose.

Obviously, there is a lot more to his own story that I could never guess, but I couldn't help but hear a certain phrase banging around in my head as I left. YA Saves.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


Like many writers, I have watched with interest as the whole epublication/self-publishing model has exploded over the last few years. Plenty of friends who take me seriously as a writer have asked, "Why don't you just publish it yourself?" Of course, I have a long list of reasons why I would prefer NOT to do that, but John Green summed it up so eloquently in his ABA Indie Champion Award acceptance speech (embedded below).

Books are about ideas, and frankly, writers spend a buttload of time in their own heads. Too much time to see how self-indulgent or purple their writing gets sometimes or where the structure runs awry in the name of some really cool idea that just doesn't work when you actually read the book as a book. We can lose sight of the reader and what their relationship to our precious bundle of blather will be. Editors, publishers, booksellers—they keep us honest. The connect us to our readers by helping us write better books.

Which leads me to another, perhaps even more salient point...books are about connections. Isn't that why we write? To connect our experience to others who might share the same emotions or need the release, the catharsis, or see our vision so we know we are not alone in our insanity?

Already, my agent has helped me craft my stories into something more than a nice idea. She could see when I was shambling through the furniture in my head, unable to find the right path, and then she would feng shui the hell out of it so that I could invite others to the party who might actually have a good time without banging their knees and tripping over ridiculous prose.

Legendary editor Patti Gauch gave me the permission I needed to go big or stay home. She reminded me that I do have a voice and I shouldn't be afraid to use it and more importantly, that I have an audience who wants to hear it.

I want those middlemen in my life. I need them to help me build this amazing thing because it matters. It's not just a sale or a blip on the screen or an icon on my bookshelf app. It's something real. I can't wait to see my books in print and launch my first book signing in a shiny little book shop stuffed with eager readers. I can't wait to talk to the booksellers about what they liked and didn't like about my work.

Thank you, John Green, for getting it so right. These amazing middlemen—they are the brick and mortar of good storytelling, no matter what our egos tried to persuade us to believe. We must build it together.