Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me w/ Lija Fisher


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I’m excited to chat with the amazing Lija Fisher, whose new book, The Cryptid Keeper, comes out today! Welcome, Lija! And congratulations on the new book!

More about Lija: Lija Fisher is an author of humorous adventure novels for kids. Her debut novel, The Cryptid Catcher, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan. The book received a starred review from Booklist and was a Junior Library Guild selection. Her follow-up novel, The Cryptid Keeper, was written while Lija was a Writer in Residence with Aspen Words through the Catto Shaw Foundation. She holds a BFA in Performance Studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder and when she’s not writing you can find her acting in theatres across the U.S.

Now it’s time to step back in the Baby Author Me Time Machine. Lija, what words of wisdom would you offer to your wee Baby Author Self? Over to you:

Dear Baby Author Me!

Here are the things I would like to tell you now that I am more seasoned and wise!

You will get some fabulous reviews for your debut novel, but you won’t land on any lists. Don’t let this get into your head! Don’t try to next write an ‘award winning book,’ because it will stink. Trust me, I tried. Write what you love, write what makes you giggle, and your best work will always come from there. Plus, it’s more fun!

For book promotion, stay local! I know you’re saving your money to travel around to bookstores to peddle your wares, but your time will be much better spent cultivating buzz in your own community. There are tons of bookstores, amazing ones, in driving distance, so make connections there. And be sure to do a signing when there’s some other fun event happening at the same time, like a farmer’s market or art walk, because you’ll have lots of foot traffic!

Social media is a beast that will take up a lot of your time, but it’s a lovely way to connect with others. Finding your ‘voice’ on how you present yourself in social media will be hard, so allow yourself the gentle time to find it. And don’t tweet after wine! All you’ll talk about is your love of Liam Neeson and nobody wants to hear about that.

Finally, your launch parties will be so much fun! But don’t buy any food. Seriously, nobody ate the Cheeto Puffs (but you will, for like the next five days, and they are so good but oh so bad.) And whatever you do, don’t try to bake cookies in the shape of Bigfoot! You can’t bake, you know you can’t, and this will not change just because you’re published. 

To learn more about Lija and her books, visit her online at:

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me w/ Angie Smibert


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This week, I’m welcoming author Angie Smibert to the blog!

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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.

 

 

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Tania del Rio


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This week, I had the pleasure of chatting with the amazing Tania del Rio! Welcome to the blog, Tania! First things first, enjoy a complimentary coffee on the house. Now sit back…close your eyes…

I want you to go on a journey with me to your newborn authors days. Remember all the joy, the self-delusion, the crippling fear and anxiety? Think of all the things you would have done differently. Now imagine that you could sit down with Baby Author You the day after your book sold and offer her some sage advice. Guess what? It’s too late for you–sorry Tania!–but it’s not too late for all the other Baby Authors out there. So let’s dive in. The wee Baby authors of the world need your words of wisdom.

Over to you, Tania. What would you tell Baby Author You about…

Reviews: I think it’s perfectly natural for an author to want to read reviews of their work, especially if it’s their debut. When my first Warren book came out and I saw reviews starting to pop up on Goodreads and Amazon, I couldn’t wait to see what people thought. The first few reviews I read were very positive, and I felt great! I gave myself a pat on the back and was snug in the knowledge that readers were enjoying my book that I poured my heart and soul into. But then came my first 1 star review… and then my next. And suddenly it wasn’t so fun anymore.

Even though the positive views far outweighed the negative ones, all I could do was focus on the negative and how awful they made me feel. I heard a lot of other authors say not to read your reviews, but it took me years to finally learn this for myself. So let me urge you, baby authors, resist temptation. Don’t read reviews. And definitely DO NOT engage with the reviewers. Engaging with readers on social media is perfectly fine, especially if they reach out to you directly. But stay out of the reviews! Even if they’re totally wrong and misread your book, or are questioning something, or are just giving you one star because Amazon didn’t deliver the book in pristine condition…even if they’re just plain bullies who are attacking you personally and not the work, DO NOT ARGUE with them. DO NOT CORRECT them. DO. NOT. ENGAGE.

Here’s the truth: reviews aren’t for you. They are for the readers. Your book is out in the world, and out of your hands. It is a wild animal running amok and some people will think it is the cutest little critter they’ve ever seen, and some will think it’s a bug that needs to be squished. Chances are you’re a reader too (at least I hope so!). Think of the books you’ve loved and hated over the years. If you look at those reviews you will find plenty of people who agree with you, and just as many who don’t. The point is, don’t take it personally. Stories are subjective and will affect people in different ways depending on their own backgrounds and preferences. Focus on the things you can control, and ignore the things you can’t. Trust me, you’ll be much happier.

Revising: One thing I wish I had known as a baby author was that I have the final say over my writing. Even after the editor makes their suggestions, and the copy editor goes over it with a fine-tooth comb, you have the right to fight for your vision. I’m not saying there won’t be pushback, and of course they’re not going to agree if you want to leave in glaring spelling or grammatical errors in the text (unless it somehow serves the story in an intentional way), but you have the right to speak up and say what you want. For example, in my Warren series, there is a type of good witch who are collectively called Perfumiers. See how I capitalized that? That’s how I wanted it to appear in the text. Because, in my eyes, a “Perfumier” was a distinguished title, and not just a job designation. Well, copy edits came back and they de-capitalized every instance of the word. It bothered me, but I didn’t feel like I had the right to challenge it, because copy editing is the final stage of the process, and I knew they felt it was incorrect the way I had written it. In short, I felt insecure about my decision to capitalize it, and I let it slide.

But, to this day, when I flip through my books, seeing “perfumiers” uncapitalized really bothers me. I really wish I had known about “stet”, which means “Let it stand.” An author can mark this magic word next to any change that they disagree with and it overrules the edit made by the editor or copy editor. Baby author, use stet wisely—don’t abuse it—but please don’t be afraid to use it when needed!

Wow, Tania! You said it! What awesome advice for all of the baby and not-so-baby authors out there. Thanks so much for stopping by. Readers, don’t forget to check out Tania’s books and visit her online.

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Tania del Rio is the author of the spooky WARREN THE 13TH series about a cursed 12-year old bellhop who manages his family’s ancient hotel which happens to be filled with many mysterious secrets and surprises. The third book in the trilogy comes out in Spring 2020. Tania lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two dogs. You can learn more about Tania and her books at taniadelrio.com and warrenthe13th.com or follow her on Twitter @taniadelrio.