This week, I’m welcoming author Angie Smibert to the blog!
Angie Smibert is the author of the middle grade historical fantasy series, Ghosts of Ordinary Objects, which includes Bone’s Gift (2018), Lingering Echoes (2019), and The Truce (2020). She’s also written three young adult science fiction novels: Memento Nora, The Forgetting Curve, and The Meme Plague. In addition to numerous short stories, she’s published over two dozen science/technology books for kids. Smibert teaches young adult and speculative fiction for Southern New Hampshire University’s creative writing M.F.A. program as well as professional writing for Indiana University East. Before doing all this, she was a science writer and web developer at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. She lives in Roanoke with a goofy dog (named after a telescope) and two bickering cats (named after Tennessee Williams characters), and puts her vast store of useless knowledge to work at the weekly pub quiz. Find her online at: http://www.angiesmibert.com/blog/
Now, Angie, it’s time to step back in the Baby Author Me Time Machine. Strap on your seatbelt and hold on tight! What advice would you like to share with Baby Author Angie and all of the other wee baby authors out there?
My first book—Memento Nora—came out in 2011. Since then, I’ve published five novels (with a sixth on the way) as well as a veritable library-cart-load of nonfiction for kids. So what advice would I give me back then? First of all, I did do some things right. I joined a debut group (or two)—Class of 2K11 and the Elevensies—as well as a group blog devoted to YA science fiction. And I had (still have) a good in-person critique group. Having a community of other kidlit writers to share the ups and downs of that first book is extremely important. However, fair warning baby-author-you, it’s hard to keep up the level of participation all that demands beyond the debut year—especially if you’re an introvert and/or need to work to pay the bills.
Okay, so what would I do differently? Let me count the ways. Well, we only have time for one or two things … like marketing and reviews!
Social media / blogging / author platforms. In 2010/11, I was a total noob at all this (except designing websites, which I’d done in a past life). And everyone seems to tell you that you need to be on these social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, yada yada yada) doing this or that. Or you need to be blogging, YouTubing, or whatever. But, for me, trying to do all this drained my energy, patience, and creativity. Of course, your mileage may vary, and it totally depends on your temperament and situation. But what you really need to be doing is writing the next book! Bottom line: These activities have their place but shouldn’t take up an inordinate amount of your time and energy. Write the damn book!
Reviews. With my first book, I read all the reviews—and shared the good ones on social media—in the beginning, probably annoying the heck out of everyone. It’s gratifying to read the good ones, and a bit depressing to read the bad ones. But reviews—good or bad—can frankly start messing with your head, creatively speaking. When you’re writing, you shouldn’t (or at least I don’t want to) be thinking about what a reviewer might think! Besides, reviews really aren’t for us writers. They’re for the readers and gatekeepers. Bottom line: Don’t read reviews unless your agent or editor sends you a blurb. Then go back to writing the next book.
Envy. Veronica Roth was in one of my debut groups. I wasn’t necessarily envious of her success. (Ok, maybe a twinge here and there.) Divergent is a really good book, and I’m happy for her success and others’. But we’re human. Sometimes you do get more than a twinge of envy when one of your peers gets a movie deal, a half million dollar advance, a shiny sticker (Newbery or Printz), or even just shelf space in your local Barnes & Noble. And everyone else’s author life always looks perfect on social media. The thing is: nobody’s author life is what it seems, especially on social media. One of our debut groups had a bit of a reunion on Facebook last year—in a closed, secret group—and we caught each other up on what our lives had really been like over the past 7-8 years. Nobody shares the bad stuff in public, not the dropped deals, divorces, health scares, money problems, agent break-ups, and so forth. Bottom line: Don’t be envious of other writers’ achievements. Just work on yours!
Ugh, Angie, so true! I am right there with you, especially on that envy thing. Thanks so much for stopping by, and, readers, don’t forget to check out Angie’s books.