Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Inspiration from Within the Writing Ranks

Helen Keller writing
Helen Keller's hand writing from Boston Public Library

Sometimes you just need a good, inspirational tale to get you through the writing day.

As a writer, it helps to hear about somebody else who struggled and came from behind to publish something wildly successful. Here are the three stories that I like best. They're writers whose stories make me think, "Yeah, I've been at this for a while now, but they were too."

Author Inspirations

Lois Lowry

The Giver Book Discussion
See? She's so good she gets Book Discussions.
Image from CCAC North Library

Lois Lowry has my favorite story. She wrote two books that won Newbery Metals, but she didn't start her professional writing career until after she'd raised four children, gone back to school for writing, and divorced her husband. She published her first book at age 40. I've read about her story in a few different articles, and she always sounds like such a gracious and wonderful person, but if you want to know more about her story, this is her bio on her website, and and this is an article where she answers questions about her writing process.

The writing process article is neither dry nor boring. I think my favorite part was when she said that she could always edit more, so sometimes you just have to call a story done. She regrets not expanding the third section of The Giver, but says:

On the other hand – if I had extended that section, made the book 250 pages long, it would not have been published until the next year. And so it would probably not have won the Newbery Medal, because Walk Two Moons was published that next year, and so… I guess I was wise to quit when I did.

Meg Cabot

crowned cupcake
Up next: a story about a cupcake's royal discovery.
Photo from Clever Cupcakes

Meg Cabot, of The Princess Diaries fame, kept every one of her rejection letters (that was back in the days before email query letters became the norm) in a postal bag under her bed. She accumulated so many that the bag is now too heavy to lift.

Then, once she finally managed to find an agent, she had a heck of a time getting anyone interested in the idea of a 14-year-old girl who discovered she was a princess. Meg talks about her story and her postal bag here. Again, I really recommend the article. She seems like a fun person.

JK Rowling

I really want to go here.
Photo by Scott Smith

Then, of course, there's J.K. Rowling. I mean, given the insane popularity of her books, she'd be a household name no matter what. But then add in her moving rags to riches story, and you've got backstory gold.

Not that I think her story helped sell Harry Potter. I think the books did that on their own. But if she had the Veronica Roth (Divergent) sort of backstory, which was: get out of college, get a book deal, and immediately publish an insanely popular series, well, I don't think many people would care about that story.

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