Wednesday, March 30, 2011

12 WOW Wednesday: Angie Smibert on the Company of Debut Writers

Our guest blogger today is Angie Smibert, author of the upcoming debut novel MEMENTO NORA scheduled for an April release from Marshall Cavendish. Angie has been kind enough to share her experience on getting support from other writers. You can find her on her blog, or at www.mementonora.com. She is represented by Tina Wexler at ICM.

In the Company of Debuts

By Angie Smibert

Writing—unless you’re one of those rare creatures who works with a partner—is a solitary profession. A lonely business.  Sure, you may have a supportive family, tons of friends, frisky kittens, and an old dog along for the ride. But, when it comes down to it, it’s just you and the page.

Usually I like it like that. (Me introvert.)

However, what has undoubtedly helped me the most as a writer, especially since signing my first contract, is this:  the company of other writers. Other debut young adult and middle grade authors to be precise. 

In 2007, I flipped open a copy of Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market and discovered an article about an intrepid group of debut YA/MG authors who’d banded together to market their own books.  Founded by Greg Fishbone (Penguins of Doom), the group called itself the Class of 2K7.  They planned to pay the idea forward, continuing the Class of 2K concept into successive years. Alumni of the original 2K class include Cassandra Clare (City of Bones), Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely), and Rebecca Stead (First Light). (Not too shabby, huh?)

I remember thinking this class thing was a genius idea, and if I ever sold a book, I’d join the 2K’ers.

When I sold Memento Nora, I looked for (and found) the Class of 2k11. In the process, though, I stumbled upon the Elevensies, another community of debut YA/MG authors.  Much like the Class of 2K11, the Elevensies are part of an ongoing tradition called the Debutantes.  Jackson Pearce (As You Wish) founded the Debs in 2009 as a casual forum to connect with other debuts.  Although the missions of the Deb and 2K groups differ, the membership overlaps quite a lot. 

So I joined both.

I’m not usually such a joiner, but I figured that there was so much I didn’t know about this business. Unlike some of my peers, I wasn’t already plugged into the YA/MG community of writers and bloggers before I sold Memento Nora. I’d published a number of short stories and knew a variety of science fictions writers and editors, but I really didn’t know any of my peers in the YA/MG world—that is, other debut authors, writers at the exact same stage as I was.

Joining the Class of 2K11 and the Elevensies has turned out to be an even more brilliant idea than I could have ever imagined.  There are a lot of reasons why.

Commiserating / celebrating.

Don’t underestimate how important this is. Your friends and family will gladly celebrate your major victories and console you over big setbacks. However, the seemingly minor stuff (to them) that you’re going to want to vent about is probably going to be met with this phrase (or some variation thereof):

          At least you have book deal. 

That is a true and well intentioned statement that should put everything in perspective. It doesn’t always. Often, it only makes you feel guilty for complaining. (Or bragging.) That’s where other authors come in.

Only another debut understands the frustration of a book cover that doesn’t quite capture your vision for your story. Or the soul-sucking anguish of getting your book bumped a year. Or the joy of getting a jacket blurb from a Big Name Author.  And, your peers will gently talk you away from the proverbial edge if you get a snarky review from Kirkus or are being dogged by a troll on Goodreads.

Sharing knowledge. 

There’s a lot more to know in this business than how to write a good book.  When you work with others in a group such as the Class of 2k11, each of you brings some other talent, experience, or knowledge to the table. Which is such a relief. That means you don’t need to know everything. One of you may be a great public speaker. Another may be whiz with websites and social media. Others may be great organizers. Still others may have great contacts with librarians or bloggers.

Pooling resources. 

In the Class of 2k11 (and all the 2K’s), for instance, we each contribute money (and time) toward group efforts. That money pays for the website, swag, etc. We set up group events, research speaking opportunities, propose panel sessions, run contests, and send out newsletters, to name just a few of our activities.

Cross promoting.

At the very heart of both the 2K’s and the Debs is the idea of supporting and promoting your fellow debut’s work along with your own. And they do the same for you.  We help each other with individual promotions as well as echo great news through the social media-verse.  

Working on new projects.

Just being part of a community of creative people can bring you new opportunities and spark new ventures. For instance, soon after I joined both the Elevensies and the Class of 2k11, a fellow debut contacted me about joining a group blog of dystopian YA writers, The League of Extraordinary Writers (leaguewriters.blogspot.com).  Another group of Elevensies formed an online writing workshop for teen writers.

Building friendships.

Need I say more? I have a feeling many of us will stay friends throughout our hopefully long and illustrious careers.

Writing.  

All that sounds great for promoting your book, but how, you may ask, does this help in the actual writing process? That depends on you. Maybe you pick up a new critique partner or beta reader. Maybe you bounce ideas off your new-found friends. For me, just being part of the community helps alleviate the stress of the business part of the business. I know I don’t need to know everything. I know I can safely vent or share a triumph—and know they get it. And they help keep things in perspective and even make me laugh (especially this)—so I can get back to the thing I love doing. Writing.

For more info:

·         Class of 2K11: http://www.classof2k11.com/

·         Elevensies: community.livejournal.com/2011debuts

·         Apocalypsies (aka 2012 Debs): http://apocalypsies.blogspot.com/

·         Class of 2K12: contact Caroline Starr Rose at carolinestarr[at}yahoo[dot]com.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I've heard about both groups and they sound fabulous. You've really explained how they can help. I'm an introvert like you and could use that kind of help if I ever get published.

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  2. Couldn't agree more! I'm so glad I joined the Elevensies. It's so reassuring to be able to talk to people who are going through the same thing.

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  3. This is very interesting; I'd never heard much about this kind of group beyond the name. Sounds very helpful! And a great place to meet potential other CPs, I bet. Congrats on your debut coming out soon!

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  4. Hi Anna! Thanks Carol and Natalie. Definitely don't go it alone when you make your first sale.

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  5. Fellow Class of 2K11'er stopping by to say, "what she said."

    Well put, Angie.

    I love the Elevensies but our small, close-knit group at 2k11 are truly my salvation some days and my heart.

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  6. Also a fellow 2k11'ner here. I'd never heard of this group myself and I joined mainly to show my publisher that I was getting involved. I had NO idea how incredibly helpful and important 2k11...and Elevensies...would be to me. Unpublished writers can create the same type of support system with a great critique group.

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  7. Here, here! I don't think I'd be able to do it without the support of the Class of 2K11.

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  8. So happy we're all able to help and support and celebrate with each other - you're right: unless you're living it, it's hard to appreciate the ups and downs of this crazy, crazy business!

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  9. Angie, this is perfect. As one who has had my soul sucked ;) and survived the experience (largely in part because of my dear friends in 2k11 and at the Elevensies), I can say I'd be completely lost without the support I've found there.

    Anyone with questions about 2k12, please feel free to contact me.

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  10. I love my writer friends...they've supported me on all sorts of things...some things that have nothing to do with writing!

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  11. I can see how joining that fraternity has done wonders for each of you! The writing community in general is amazing. I tweeted about writing a stinky query and the "go get 'em" from other writers helped push me forward and make it better. Thanks for sharing your story!

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  12. I think it's great that these communities exist for debut authors. Thanks for sharing your perspective on them! :)

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