The Sweet and Sour of Being Out in the World
It’s been a year since the middle grade novels LEMONS by Melissa Savage and EXIT STRATEGY by Lauren Allbright first graced the shelves of bookstores. Melissa and Lauren both recently celebrated the releases of the paperback version of their books. Because of that and the theme of Middle Grade Madness in June, we thought we’d hit the highlights (and lowlights) these writers experienced during their debut author year.
What has been the best thing about having your book out in the world?
Melissa: I’ve dreamt of being an author since the second grade, so to see my very first book in a bookstore or a library is truly a dream come true for me. However, I have to say that hearing from a young fan who loved the story is absolutely everything!
Lauren: I think just seeing something that has been a long-term goal and the product of lots of work (and angst) become a reality. I’ve also loved doing school and book store visits. It is amazing to get to talk to kids (and parents) that have read my book.
What has been the worst thing you’ve experienced as an author in the past year?
Melissa: I would say to anyone in the creative arts that what you create isn’t going to appeal to every single person all the time. And that’s okay. An experienced author once told me she never reads reviews of her books because it can easily squelch her creativity. One bad comment can sink into your psyche and erase one hundred good ones. I think that was the very best advice I’ve been given.
Lauren: When you get published, it is not by accident. Behind every book there are failures and rejections and so many insecurities. I used to think that would go away when my novel was on the bookstore shelf. It did not. Once the book is in print, there are reviews and sales and publicity that you can worry about. I’m learning to not be defined by the worry—but it is not something I am learning all at once, unfortunately—haha!
What is something you’ve learned that you want your readers to know?
Melissa: I’ve learned that the real reason I love writing for middle grade is that I’m still very much a ten-year-old girl on the inside. I love going to schools and talking with other young writers and readers about books and writing and of course cryptids! Meeting the kids (of all ages) that I have the privilege to write for is the very best part of my job.
Lauren: Talking to readers is one of my favorite parts of being a writer. I love the questions I get asked when I go to author events. I love listening to the ideas and thoughts of my readers. Also, I’m a reader too (reading is a super important part of being a writer). I love discussing any and all books! I love finding authors to fangirl about. (And I still get too nervous to talk when I meet them in person.)
What is something you’ve learned that you want aspiring writers to know?
Melissa: No one writes a perfect manuscript in the very first draft. I always share that with students because we often think it must be perfect the first time we write it. Nothing I write is perfect the first time. For me, by the time I’ve edited a manuscript to completion, I’ve changed about fifty percent of the first draft. The editing process is where my best writing happens. So, push that voice of perfection out of the way and write write write!
Lauren: Being an author is about not giving up. For example, there are tons of reasons I should not be a writer—I had trouble learning to read, I have trouble focusing, nothing in my past indicates I should or would be a published author now. But I am a writer for one reason that matters—because I keep trying and keep pushing myself and I write. I have way more failures than I have successes, but not giving up when the failures happen is what has made all the difference.
What is next for you?
Melissa: I have a new middle grade book coming out with Crown Books for Young Readers Fall 2018 called The Truth About Martians. I’m currently working on my third middle grade book which is another cryptid adventure set in Scotland.
Lauren: More writing—and hopefully more books in the world. I have two novels I am working on right now. One is in the same genre as EXIT STRATEGY—a humorous contemporary middle grade novel, and the other is more serious. It is scary to push and to try something new, but I think (hope) it’ll be worth it!