Wednesday, April 6, 2011

18 WOW Wednesday: Kirsten Hubbard On Why Writer Friends Are Crucial

Today's guest is Kirsten Hubbard, a young adult author and travel writer. Her debut YA novel, Like Mandarin, released March 8th from Delacorte Press, and her second, Wanderlove, will be released in spring 2012. Catch her on her blog, on Twitter, or on YA Highway. She is represented by Michelle Andelman at Regal Literary Inc.

Why Writer Friends Are Crucial

by Kristen Hubbard


The journey to publication is full of surprises. We’ve all heard that, and yet, the surprises continue to surprise us; to conjure up emotions we’ve never felt before, unfamiliar and unexpected. The highs and lows are both higher and lower than we ever imagine. Wild, crazy soaring-all-around-the-room highs! And lows that are almost existential in their crappiness.

Unfortunately, most writers have experienced such lows – bad reviews, publisher rejections, agent rejections, manuscripts you need to shelf. Even if you haven’t queried yet, just writing the darn book in the first place can result in total exhilaration and utter despair.

In early 2009, I was agentless and aspiring, waist-deep in Like Mandarin revisions. Two years later, I am a month past publication – the other end of a long, long journey with mountain peaks and beautiful views, but also potholes and pits and sometimes dragons in the pits. It’s a relief to be here, but I have to admit, it hasn’t gotten easier. Just busier. And in some ways, harder.

At the writing stage, and the querying stage, there are tons and tons of wonderful blogs and websites (like this one!) for assistance, research, commiseration. They help smooth the rough patches of the early journey. Just knowing plenty of others share your boat is invaluable.

But then, once you’re agented – and especially, once you’ve sold – there’s a sense you’re not allowed to complain any more. On sub to editors for months, or years? At least you’re agented! Your agent or editor passes on your second book? At least you’re sold! Scathing review? Barnes and Noble isn’t going to stock you? Didn’t sell out your advance? At least you’re published!

The thing is, those setbacks don’t hurt any less just because you’ve conquered an earlier obstacle. The further I’ve traveled in this career, the more I realize how much other writers and authors are keeping inside – fearing coming off as ungrateful, or negative, or a complainer.

It makes me want to hug everybody.

This isn’t to say writers should broadcast all their woes, from the first page to their tenth book published. On the internet, writers and authors all walk the necessary balance between honesty and professionalism, venting and inspiring. However, I have to admit: nothing made me feel better when faced with specific setbacks than honesty from other authors who’d experienced the same things.

This is why writer friends are crucial.

Writers at the same stage as you – querying or on submission, recently sold or just debuted. But also writers who are a little further along, who’ve been where you’ve been and lived to talk about it. And newer writers too, because mentorship should go both ways.

Being an author is the most awesome career in the whole wide world. It is the only career I would ever want (well, except maybe baby sloth rehabilitation). But it can also be pretty lonely, especially on bad days. We’re all entitled to wallow, and watch 30 Rock reruns instead of write, and maybe even Tweet something cryptic as a last resort. But nothing helps like knowing other authors have had bad days too; and that if we’re all understanding, we can be there to lift each other up – at every stage of the game.

18 comments:

  1. Thanks Kirstin for sharing your journey. I appreciate your honesty. Good luck with your career, I wish you the absolute best.

    And thanks, girls, for another great WOW Wednesday interview. Have a super Wednesday!

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  2. Thanks for sharing and reminding us that it still hard once you get published. I'm still at the revising-the-manuscript-stage and it does get discouraging sometimes. But yes, you're right, especially when you're published, it's probably best to share the low times more with friends.

    That's a great idea about the mentoring. I would love if a published author who likes high fantasy would mentor me. But it's hard for us aspiring authors because we don't feel like we can ask someone to do that. They have to offer.

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  3. You know this is all very new to me. I was the 'lock myself in a room and close the blinds' type for a long, long time...until very recently. All of the sudden, I heard these voices out there, and they were saying the kinds of things I was thinking. Wow! It was initially strange to feel that reach - but I'm so enjoying it. I've met a few people interested in having a new critique partner. I've entered and engaged in ways I never thought I would. I've learned a tremendous amount from reading other peoples journeys, and all this from taking one little leap out into the cyber world of writers, a community that baffles me with its generosity at ever turn.
    I could still be sitting in that dark room, and sure I still am sort of, but then there's this light on my screen and faces and voices...it's so very cool. So thanks to our great big community and may it forever grow.

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  4. I know lots of writers at the various stages of their career, but none a long way down the line from where I'm standing (aka Sarah Dessen). I can definitely see how benefical that would be to writers like Kirstin.

    Love the mentoring idea.

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  5. I love posts like this, because it's good to know that life on the Other Side is not all roses and confetti. That way we unpublished writers can be more prepared for what's ahead, and then it's not so traumatic when we get there--because we've expected some of that roughness. I like to know what the road could look like before I get there. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. This is a wonderful post that I believe all/most writers can relate to. Writing can be lonely on top of the challenging market. Cheers to writer friends!

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  7. Just stopping in. Found you while searching on Tamora Pierce.
    gigglelaughcry.blogspot.com

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  8. I think writing can be lonely at any stage, but when you've "made it" (got an agent, got a contract, debuted etc.) you aren't one of the gang anymore. And the limbo certainly doesn't sound fun! I'm glad you have some friends though to make the slog bearable!

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  9. And now I'll have the Beatles in my head all day...

    Great post, Kirsten (as always!). The support system in this business is so crucial, and it doesn't end with being agented, published, criticized or lavished with awards.

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  10. love this post. i would definitely be crazy(er) without my writer friends. :)

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  11. Kristin, you rule (and not only because Like Mandarin was the best realistic YA book I've read in a long time)! This post is such a great reminder that we don't have to go it alone.

    I may have a supportive husband and coworkers who are excited when I tell them writing news (as slowly as it comes, lol), but they don't really understand what it's like to be editing/querying/rejected/on sub/writer's blocked like my writer friends.

    I'm ever so grateful for the free therapy they give me! ;)

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  12. Wow. I think this was a really important post for us to read, Kirsten. It's easy to forget that the journey is sometimes hard no matter where you're at. Thanks. :-)

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  13. Awesome post, Kirsten. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

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  14. Brilliant. Having writer friends who understand and can relate is really priceless!

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  15. I'm at the very beginning of my writing journey; in fact, I just joined an online writing community. I know the writing road will be long. Thank you for sharing yours.

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  16. This is so true. My best writer friends have literally changed my life. We celebrate good news together and walk each other from the edge when not-so-great stuff happens. They KNOW. They UNDERSTAND.

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  17. Thanks for sharing this. It's an important reminder that publishing is a wonderful but tough business, all the time, and that we need to be there for each other - and feel free to call on each other when we need a shoulder.

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  18. Thanks for sharing this thoughtful post, Kirsten! It's definitely great to get some perspective.

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