We're so pleased to have Alissa Grosso with us today. She’s the author of the young adult novels Popular (Flux, 2011), Ferocity Summer (Flux, 2012) and Shallow Pond (Flux, 2013). She is also an assistant editor at The Lascaux Review.
Reality Checks Have No Place in This Business
By Alissa Grosso
Not too long ago I had the chance to speak on a panel with some fellow YA authors at a public library. Following the panel, I was chatting with one of the audience members, a teen boy who spoke with youthful excitement about the project he was working on, a graphic novel about a team of superheroes. This young writer showed me and another author some of the pages he had sketched out and talked passionately about his ideas, a story that still existed mainly in his head.
This young writer even had a plan for getting his work the attention he knew it deserved. He had done some research and learned that the director of two of his favorite films was one Chris Nolan. He was hopeful that he would be able to contact Mr. Nolan and discuss this project with him. When he said this, my slightly jaded inner adult wanted to warn him that this plan might be something short of realistic, that contacting a blockbuster Hollywood director might not be exactly doable. Thankfully, I had the good sense to refrain from delivering this reality check.
Writers as a group tend to be fairly optimistic; some might accuse them of being dreamers. I dare you to find a novelist who doesn't harbor the secret hope that one of these days Hollywood is going to realize their greatness and turn one of their works into an epic movie. My guess is a lot have their own belief that one of these days they'll be sitting down and chatting with Chris Nolan. The only difference between them and that teenager with his superhero tale is that they've learned to keep such dreams to themselves. This is probably due to the fact that their whole lives they've been listening to people tell them to be realistic.
Reality is all very well and good, but it has a nasty habit of killing creativity. It's not such a stretch to go from the reality check that says "I'm never going to speak with Chris Nolan." to the one that says "This book's never going to become a movie." to the one that says "Nobody is ever going to want to read this book so what's the point of slaving over it." You see, besides boundless optimism, another trait that almost all writers share is insecurity. A dose or two of reality can bring out this latent insecurity and next thing you know you're shelving that work in progress and deciding to become a dentist or an accountant or something else far more realistic than being a writer.
Good writing is born of dreams, and I don't mean the kind of dream where you're walking down your middle school hallway dressed only in your father's old, ratty underwear though such dreams have been known to inspire a story or two. Dreams of seeing our words in print, of discussing our book with Oprah or chatting about our ideas with a Hollywood director give us the courage to write our story. They motivate us and push us forward even when things like raging insecurity, writer's block and rewrites threaten to suck the life blood from us.
Start messing around with this reality business, though, and your writing will suffer. You'll stop taking chances. You'll dismiss wild and crazy ideas. It won't be long before you abandon fiction altogether in favor of writing television manuals and catalog copy for elastic waist pants because that sort of writing is safe, and you know that there's some desperate soul out there who will end up reading it.
Writers understand the idea of reality, but they don't pay it much mind. In fact, they've probably been hearing people their whole life telling them to be realistic. This may be why they no longer wear their passion on their sleeve. They probably don't speak in excited tones about their latest project to folks they've just met like that teenage boy who attended the library panel, but I assure you that passion and energy are just below the surface.
The people that make it in this business are the ones who never stop dreaming. Every book begins as a dream. Hard work and perseverance make the dream a reality.
I don't know if that young writer I met will ever get the chance to speak to Chris Nolan, but I do know that he'll never speak to Chris, if he stops believing that he can. So, that's why I'm glad I didn't bring up the ugly idea of reality when speaking to him. If his life is anything like mine, he'll meet plenty of people who will tell him to be realistic. That's not my place, because I'm a writer, and I know that reality is overrated.
About the Author
Alissa Grosso grew up in Bergen and Sussex Counties in New Jersey. She’s lived in the Pocono Mountains; Hunterdon County, New Jersey and, briefly, in a basement in Maine. These days she lives in a small town in Pennsylvania, but she can walk to New Jersey. (There’s a bridge.)
She holds a B.A. in English from Rutgers University and like most English majors has held a variety of jobs. In the past she has worked as a newspaper editor, a children’s librarian, a book distributor sales rep and a long, long time ago as a tavern wench complete with Colonial style costume.
These days she spends her days writing whether it’s work on a new novel or one of the freelance writing projects that helps to pay the bills and buy the cat food.
She shares her home with some more or less domesticated furry creatures and has been known to post the occasional cat photo and dog walk pic on her Tumblr. She enjoys spending her free time outdoors walking, running, biking or, when the weather allows, cross country skiing.
She is a member of The Class of 2K11, The KidLit Authors Club, The Elevensies and SCBWI. Alissa is represented by Jim McCarthy at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.
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About the Book
Sisters uncover an unbelievable family secret.
Barbara “Babie” Bunting is constantly mistaken for her sisters, but she’s determined not to end up like her family. She doesn’t plan to stick around Shallow Pond after graduation, and she certainly won’t be ruined by a broken heart. That is, until fellow orphan Zach Faraday walks into the picture, and Babie can’t deny their chemistry.
When her oldest sister, Annie, comes down with a mysterious illness—initially dismissed as “love sickness”—Babie and Zach start investigating what exactly killed the girls’ mother and why their late father became so consumed by grief. What they find changes everything.
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