Wednesday, June 9, 2010

23 WOW Wednesday: Robin Mellom on Finding the Right Outlet for Your Writing

Robin Mellom’s debut teen novel DITCHED—in which a girl finds herself lying in a ditch the morning after her prom with no memory of the last twelve hours, which includes a disappearing prom date, a Tinkerbell tattoo, and a dog-swapping escapade—will be published by Disney-Hyperion in March 2012.

I’m so excited to be over here today guest blogging! Except since I left my blog all alone I’m a little worried that it probably threw a raging party and there will be a big ol’ mess to clean up when I get back. Half-filled blog posts spilled everywhere…semi-dressed fonts running around…loopy comments that need a ride home. Naughty blog.

So I don’t consider myself an expert by any means on the topic of getting published, but I can speak about my experience. And the one piece of publishing advice I can offer is the same advice I learned about hair color…listen to the professionals.

Right after my son was born, I decided two things:
1. I want to be a middle grade writer.
2. I want to be blonde.

So I started writing during naptime and I paid a lot of money to get my hair dyed blonde. (Because Meg Ryan is so adorable, right?) But after a few years of that, I was suddenly confronted with a difficult situation: the opinion of a very passionate hair stylist.

“I can’t dye your hair blonde. I won’t do it.”

“Um…but I have money.”

“It’s not working. The color washes out your skin tone. And your eyes practically disappear! You are not a blonde.”

He literally refused to dye my hair. Didn’t he know about my dream to be blonde? My dream of having Meg Ryan hair!? I left the salon sad, wondering who I was if I wasn’t a blonde. I finally gave in and did it…I went dark. Like, Angelina Jolie dark. And remarkably my skin tone perked up and my eyes reappeared. And I started adopting babies! (Kidding.) But what I realized was: I am really a brunette! But a professional had to tell me that. Because I was too interested in being Meg Ryan, not me.

The same thing happened with my writing. I wrote middle grade novels for many years (I’ve written four of them, actually), and fortunately one of them landed me my agent, Jill Corcoran. We shopped a couple of my middle grades around, but no sale. There were some similar responses: love the voice, but it sounds older.
My agent then said to me, “I think you’re a teen writer. You need to write funny teen. That’s who you are.”

I was resistant at first. I had dreamed of being a middle grade author. I used to be a middle school teacher, and I love middle school kids. Love ‘em! But I had decided I want to write for them, not teach them. (Because teaching middle schoolers all day is like running a marathon on a Daily Basis. Exhausting!)

But once I gave in to the professional (yet again!) I found that I absolutely loved writing for teens. The words flowed out easily. It was an absolute joy! I am so thankful I listened to my agent. Now, certainly I hope we sell my middle grade novels, too. But if I had remained stuck on my dream, I may have never taken a chance on this teen novel. And trying something new made all the difference.

Sometimes we have to put aside our pre-conceived notions of who we are (or who we think we are) and work with the skill we’ve been given. Find the right outlet. The right age level. The right story.

And then nothing can stop us.

So now I think I’m going to listen to the advice of another professional in my life, my chiropractor (who also sometimes serves as my therapist)…

Relax your shoulders. Breathe deeply. Enjoy the moment.

Okay, now I’m headed back over to my blog. I don’t even wanna know what it’s been up to…


  1. What a great point you learned from your experience. True, we must be ourselves. My problem is that I seem to be constantly searching for myself. LOL. You're blessed to have had someone there willing to be honest with you and guide you.

    Still a brunette??

  2. I love this Robin! I've had my blond years and my teacher years too, and finally feel settled in writing and YA (I think. LOL. I want to try my hand at MG too).

  3. Great advice. I'd love to get that kind of professional advice, both with my writing and my hair... :O)

  4. I am so happy Robin found her voice. Sometimes all it takes is a nudge in the right direction. So glad your agent was there to point you towards YA.

  5. omg i read about Robin's deal in PM, and it sounds AWESOME. (and so does she!)

    a big thank you to all three of you ladies for putting this together!

    *waves at Robin!*

  6. I can't wait to read the book! I'm glad, once again, she listened to the professional.

  7. Ditched sounds splendid (like a YA girl's version of The Hangover, sans Mike Tyson :)

  8. Robin I loved it! You are so funny (I laughed at the adopting kids line out loud). And you are so right. You have to try what's new and stretch yourself to really find what you are best at. Also, I love Jill Corcoran! She's awesome so you must be awesome too! I'm good at this deduction stuff, huh?

  9. Awesome advice! Your book sounds funny! Can't wait.

  10. Terrific advice, Robin! Thanks for sharing. I'm really looking forward to reading your novel!!!

  11. Hey, Tahereh! *waves back*
    Thanks for all the sweet comments, y'all!

    And I am still brunette but I like to get all wild sometimes with caramel highlights. ;)

  12. Great post, Robin! So glad to hear you found who you are, as a writer and a brunette!

  13. This was great! I felt inspired by the fact that you wrote 4 middle grade novels that you couldn't sell before hitting your stride. I need to be reminded that just because I couldn't sell my first mg novel, it doesn't mean my subsequent novels won't sell. Thanks--just the pep talk I needed.

  14. Awesome! I teach middle grade kids and you're so right - it is exhausting. Fun, but exhausting :)

  15. I shouldn't dye my hair pink as my students suggest, then?

    I also teach and tiring BUT inspiring is certainly true!

    Loved your post and have already read about your book. It sounds intriguing!

    Thank you for telling us about was your blog by the way when you got back?

  16. It's almost midnight here and I let my manners slip!!!!

    THANK YOU, MARTINA and MARISSA for sharing this with us!

  17. Thanks for all of the supportive and enthusiastic comments for the awesome Robin Mellom!

    We can't wait for Ditched, Robin :) Thanks for the excellent guest post filled with great perspective!

    Don't forget everyone- tomorrow's big contest features Robin providing a 3-page critique for one of our lucky finalists!

    Martina & Marissa

  18. This was such great advice, and Ditches sounds AWESOME! I'll talk to you guys tomorrow with my, um, first line.

  19. What an awesome comparison! Love ya!!!!!

  20. Great post Robin, and again, I'm so happy for you!

    I, too, had to write some books before I figured out what kind of books I should be writing - which ones use my skills the best. I think authors should be open to playing around with genres, with formats, etc. because sometimes it takes awhile to figure out where your strengths lie.

  21. Oh, LOVE this post, Robin!!! I see a lot of early chapter book writers trying to write PBs. It's like trying to get a square peg into a round hole. It just feels wrong.

  22. Hah! The blog throwing a party had me CRACKING UP! Great post!


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