Now that I have your attention...
I am so excited to join PubHub! And I hereby promise to do my very best to make this worth your while. (Is there a merit badge for blogging? Cuz I want that.)
Like many YA writers, I always knew that I loved to write, and books were hugely important to me when I was young. But I got a late start as a novelist, because I let two things get in the way: 1) pragmatism and 2) doubt. I told myself that becoming a professional writer wasn't realistic and that I should focus on studying things that might actually get me a job. I majored in English, I went to grad school for children's literature, and eventually I started working as an editorial assistant at a publishing house in Boston. I loved that job. I loved working with authors and artists and book designers (and sometimes even sales reps!) If I was being really honest, though, I felt a little pang of envy every time I went to a book signing or an author event. I had stories that I wanted to tell. So I took a leap.
I decided to pursue an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults (wordy, right?) at Vermont College. It's a low-residency program so I was able to keep working as an editor while I attended, and this was a good thing for a lot of reasons. But it also meant that I was living a bit of a double life. While I was at school, I immersed myself in writing workshops and faculty lectures and story ideas; while I was working, I had to focus on the pragmatic stuff, like sales and budgets and finding books by other writers that my company wanted to publish. And after I graduated, I had some finished stories that I really loved but I wasn't sure what to do next. I still had doubts. I still didn't think of myself as a writer.
When the Boston Public Library announced that they were appointing a Children's Writer-in-Residence, I jumped at the chance to apply. The grant came with a monetary prize but also (and in some ways, more importantly) required the winner to spend 20 hours a week at the library, working on a project, and also to hand in a finished manuscript. "This is exactly the motivation I need," I told myself. So I came up with a proposal for a novel about a girl who runs away from an orphanage and joins up with a traveling carnival sideshow. I didn't stop to think about whether I could actually *write* that book. And then I won the grant.
And then I had to write the book.
As most of you know, there's nothing quite like trying to write a novel if you want to unleash every doubt you've ever had about yourself. And there's nothing quite like finishing a novel to make you think, "Maybe I be a writer after all."
This is glossing over some of the dirty details, of course, but I won't bore you with those. (As least, not in my very first blog post.) That carnival book eventually got published as Wonder Show, my first young adult novel, and was named a Morris Award finalist in 2013. My second novel, Some of the Parts, will be published next February, and I have two picture books coming in 2017.
I still have a lot of stories to tell, and most days, I can call myself a writer without cringing or qualification. That's not to say that pragmatism and self-doubt don't ever take over. But I've learned to put those voices in little boxes.
I label them like this: BE QUIET and NOT TODAY.
I've learned so much about writing and doubting and how to harness my pragmatism (hint: it's really useful during the revision process). And I can't wait to share all of that with you.