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Inspiration and Friendship

February 24, 2010

I’ve been fortunate to know a few people who have been truly wonderful to me this past year.

But I have a confession to make.

I’m always reluctant to say anything, because the people in question actually mean something to me, and I never want them to feel like I’m using them for publicity. The truth is, I’m a terrible schmoozer. I suck at sucking up and I suck at doing things for people with the idea that they’re going to do something for me in return. And sometimes, honestly, I wish I were better at it. I do. Because then I could do more of that “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” stuff that sometimes actually helps on the publicity front.

But when push comes to shove, it’s just not me. My heart isn’t in it. It feels icky and transparent and self-serving, so, I usuallyย  just keep quiet and converse more or less privately with the people in question, sending them messages of thanks when the occasion call for it.

This past week, though, I was blown away to have TWO very gracious gestures made toward me by two of the people I most respect and admire. Even then, I didn’t think it appropriate to say anything, but this week has been an embarrassment of professional friendship riches, and I just can’t keep quiet any more!

๐Ÿ˜€

When I first started reading YA aggressively, I plowed through Tamora Pierce’s books. I loved that her female characters were always strong and smart and gutsy, and I was blown away by the details of her world-building. For me, it was like Feminist Tolkien, and I adored her for every word long before I actually had occasion to know her. I told every teenage girl I knew about her books, encouraging my own daughters to read them as soon as they were able. Tammy has authored a crazy number of books, but her most recent are from The Beka Cooper series. If you haven’t read them, you MUST. They represent everything I love about storytelling on a grand scale. The first two books, Terrier and Bloodhound, are out, and the next one, Mastiff will be out this year. That cover hasn’t been released, so I’m showing you Terrier’s cover so you know what to look for!

Anyway, Tammy reached out to me when Prophecy was still in the ARC stage, and after she read it, she offered me a blurb. Now I have to say that my editor had already made the decision not to seek blurbs, but this was one of those times when I wanted to look around and say, “Me?” And of course, I was so happy to have that blurb!

It’s totally surreal to have someone whose work you so admire offer to recommend YOURS. That’s the first thing!

But beyond that, Tammy, is one of the most intelligent, gracious, hard-working people I know. She earned her audience the hard way before an author could jump online and court readers directly through Twitter and Facebook and blogging, and there’s something so honorable about that to me. She just kept writing, book after book, building her audience slowly and steadily. Of course, now, she has legions of fans the world over – proof that in the end, it really IS about the writing.

I was fortunate enough to meet Tammy and her amazing assistant, Cara, for lunch last Saturday when Tammy was at Vassar for a conference. I brought along my daughter/assistant (heh) who is also a serious Tamora Pierce fan, and we had a terrific time talking about everything from women in the sci-fi/fantasy publishing world to books to conferences. She is every bit as genuine and warm in-person, and when I noticed that she mentioned our lunch on her blog, I thought it was probably okay for me to do the same! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Like the author below, Tammy has been a source of both personal and professional inspiration. Her belief in my work and willingness to offer support and advice speaks to everything good and right about YA publishing. It is a constant reminder that no matter what the future holds, there should always be time for writing and supporting new writers.

The other person who has been so inspiring for me is author Ellen Hopkins. From almost the beginning, Ellen reached out a hand in friendship to me. For those of you who don’t know, Ellen is well-known for writing books in verse on hard-hitting topics like drug addiction, suicide, and teenage prostitution. Her book, Tricks, was a New York Times Bestseller last year, and her next book, Fallout, is highly anticipated and will be out later this year. One of the things I love most about Ellen is she’s so REAL. So totally herself. That is becoming rarer and rarer, and it’s always wonderful to be in Ellen’s presence because she radiates passion and enthusiasm and authenticity. You can read her interview for SCBWI Bologna here.

My admiration for her is bottomless, but if I had to make a shortened list it would go like this;

I bow to anyone who writes in verse. I just don’t think I’m smart enough to do it!

Ellen does the difficult, heart-wrenching job of talking about things no one WANTS to talk about to teens but everyone SHOULD be talking about to teens.

She is a tireless opponent of censorship in publishing and has taken a ton of shit for speaking out, oftentimes being banned from speaking in schools and libraries because of the subject matter of her work. And when you think teen prostitution + thirteen-year-olds, you might be inclined to agree. Until she tells you about the letters she gets from eleven-year-olds who are already living that life and who started doing it to they could buy a new pair of jeans. Then, you might think twice.

Ellen is one of the MOST generous authors in the business when it comes to mentoring new writers. She travels over 100 days a year, speaking at conferences all over the country, and my own editor has mentioned more than once that her willingness to help even the writers who aren’t really ready to publish is unparalleled.

If she believes on your work, she will take every opportunity to shout about it from the mountaintop.

She is a beacon of hope for thousands of troubled teens, always reminding them to have a strong sense of self and to think about the choices they’re making NOW.

I could go on, but the bottom line is, I owe Ellen a debt of gratitude both for her professional inspiration and her friendship. She has been so generous in speaking out about Prophecy publicly, but she has been equally generous privately.

I want to say thank you to both of these women. Your tireless advocacy for women, awesome talent, and willingness to support other writers inspire me in so many ways. The world of YA publishing – and MINE – is so much better for your presence.

Lastly, I have to thank a friend who debuted with me last year! Lisa Mantchev may not be a veteran (YET!), but her unfailing friendship and support has meant everything to me. Her debut, Eyes Like Stars, was critically acclaimed (even by Kirkus! Gasp!), but more than that, it’s an inventive, imaginative, magical journey. I honestly believe no one could have written it but her, and book two in the series, Perchance to Dream, will be out in May. I’m reading it now and it’s AH-mazing!

Sometimes in this business, you just need a friend. Someone who believes in you and will share every joy, emo moment, worry, and quandary, and Lisa has undoubtedly been that for me. My world would be so much emptier without her in it, and the YA world would be poorer without her contribution.

There are so many people who have been wonderful to me, and I’d love to thank them all! But today, these three incredible women are on my mind, and I want to say thank you and to encourage you guys to check out their work if you haven’t already. The best way to support a writer you admire is to purchase their books and to spread the word!

On an entirely different note, there is some BIG NEWS going down on the Prophecy community site. Check it!

๐Ÿ˜‰

PS. You, dear readers, writers, friends, are a constant source of companionship, laughter, and joy. You are every bit as important to me as these women I adore, and don’t you forget it. โค

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 6:33 pm

    I absolutely adore Tamora’s books, I own every single one of them and have been reading them for a good six years or so. I’ve read them all countless times and I don’t know what I would have done that day at the library if her book’s hadn’t of called to me. :]
    So nice that she could be there for youu.

  2. February 25, 2010 2:15 pm

    That was SO inspirational!

    I have a blog!!! YAY!!!

  3. February 25, 2010 11:19 am

    Love this post, Michelle. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. February 25, 2010 11:18 am

    Wonderful post and so true. As in all professions, support is important. But good and trusted friends who understand your struggle and those you can respect and learn from–even better.

    xoxo-
    Georgia

  5. February 25, 2010 11:09 am

    Truly friendship is one of the most important things that count in life. Some friendships are more valuable than gold ๐Ÿ™‚ Loved the post ..

    Thanks for the news about Guardian Of The Gate .. Can’t wait !!

  6. February 24, 2010 2:20 pm

    Amazing. What an inspirational post. Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

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