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My Advice for Young Writers: Never Give Up on Your Dream
Twenty years ago, my dream of becoming a successful YA author seemed within reach. I had already spent four years writing an adult novel that ended up in a drawer and then brought out a YA novel with a start-up press that I created after I couldn’t find a publisher anywhere else. That novel, set in New York City, received some favorable reviews and was chosen for the New York Public Library’s “Books for the Teen Age” list. My persistence landed me an editor with a major publisher, who was interested in my project about a refugee teen from Chile living in the U.S. whose father rejoins the family in exile after years as a political prisoner. In 1989, the manuscript won a work-in-progress grant from the Society of Children’s Book Writers
But everything I’d worked for came crashing to the ground one fall morning, weeks before I was supposed to leave for Chile to finish the research for the book. As I backed out of my driveway on my way to a school visit, I noticed a bundle atop a pile of soggy leaves — my award-winning manuscript, which the editor had decided to reject, breaking off our two-year relationship. I took the research trip anyway and spent three weeks staying in people’s homes, interviewing dozens of Chileans, and traveling throughout the country courtesy of the writers’ organization, pretending I had a soon-to-be-published book. But when I returned and got a few more rejections, I decided to quit writing fiction.
I gave up.
For a long time, I didn’t miss it. Yes, I felt guilty taking the SCBWI’s money and taking up people’s time. For a couple of years, my Chilean friends wrote me asking whatever happened to the book, and then we stopped writing each other. In the meantime, I raised two children, became editor-in-chief of MultiCultural Review, and pursued a variety of hobbies—building dollhouses, coaching a middle school boys’ basketball team, helping to clear a mountain bike trail in a vacant lot near my house, and running (unsuccessfully) for school board. I also found myself writing my son’s seventh grade creative writing assignments.
It was then I realized the mistake I had made in giving up on my dream. Just as my son — the third shortest boy in his grade — found a way to play basketball even though he never made a travel team, I had to find a way to keep writing even if I couldn’t get published. I started another novel that got rejected everywhere I sent it, but then I sold a short story to an online magazine. The children’s magazine Skipping Stones accepted another of my short stories. I signed up for classes. I rewrote the novel that kept getting rejected, and this time, an editor who’d at first turned it down now accepted it. Working with the editor gave me the skills and confidence I needed to return to that award-winning manuscript that had caused me to give up my dream of writing—the manuscript that became Gringolandia.
It took me so long to return to Gringolandia that what was once a contemporary novel now had to be rewritten completely as a historical novel. I was glad to do it, though, because I had learned the value of pursuing my dream in the face of all the odds against me. And the struggles I had gone through in my own writing found their way into Gringolandia and made the struggles of the characters more vivid and real. When Daniel’s father cannot find a magazine to publish his stories, he begins to wonder if he has lost his ability to write—something that I couldn’t fully understand until it happened to me.
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Thanks Lyn! Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the Editor-in-Chief of MultiCultural Review, the author of the award-winning reference book Our Family, Our Friends, Our World: An Annotated Guide to Significant Multicultural Books for Children and Teenagers (1992), the editor of Once Upon a Cuento (2003), a collection of short stories for young readers by Latino authors, and the author of the novel Dirt Cheap (2006), an eco-thriller for adult readers. For Gringolandia, she received a Work-in-Progress Grant from the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators.
For more information about the book, check out my review! If I remember to, I'll link to it later tomorrow, but I'm prescheduling this post, so it's not up yet.
Don't forget to check out the other dates on the tour, too!
Feb 2nd: Read Into This!
Feb 3rd: Pirate Penguin's Reads
Feb 4th: The Bookologist
Feb 5th: Yay! Reads
Okay, now, contest time!!
The rundown on this contest:
One lucky person will win an autographed copy of Gringolandia.
This is open to everyone! But it's only open for a day, so enter quick! I'll set a post to go up when it closes because I probably won't be here.
Leave a comment with your email address. No email, no entry. I will not go to your profile to look it up. Leave it on the post, email it to me at Laina1312@gmail.com, or no entry. If you email it to me, still comment on the post telling me you entered, please.
+1 Become a follower through my Google Friend connect widget. (If you use a feed reader such as Google Reader, that's fine, just tell me that.)
+2 Be a current follower.
+3 Leave a comment on my review. You don't have to link to this, but please do tell me here (not there) that you did.
+3 Link to this post somewhere. You can do that in a blog post, in your blog sidebar, on Twitter, on a message board, whatever you can think of, but it only counts once per place. A sidebar link and a blog post link do, however, count as seperate entries. Leave a link here or it won't count.
Remember, you do not have to do any of the extra entries you don't want to. You only need to either leave me a comment with your email address, or comment and email me your address to enter. That's it. The rest is completely optional.
And please do try to keep it in one comment. Obviously if you forget something or need to change something in your entry, you can post again, but please don't comment once per entry as that fills up my inbox like crazy and makes me slightly crazy(er).
Prize: One signed copy of Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachman
Open to: Everyone!! Unless you live on Mars, you can enter. :P
End date: 8pm Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010. I'll schedule a post for when it closes so you guys know.
Now get entering!
Peace and cookies,
NEWS!!! Liyana is offering a signed Iron King bookmark to the 30th entry!