Wednesday, July 23, 2014

8 Doing Stuff and Reading: Roadmaps to Not Losing Yourself as a Writer by A.S. King

I think most writers find their love of writing through reading. I think we all have influences and our dreams came mid-sentence at some point in our lives—that moment where we thought I would really like to do something like this. Reading grew us. It is a writer’s parent or soil or maker. Reading is where we start.

So there I was, many moons ago, on my farm in Tipperary, writing on my own time, writing what I wanted to write, published by no one, touring to nowhere, on deadline never. I read constantly and volunteered when I wasn’t in my garden or working. But now is kinda…different. Now I write because I have to write, I am published several times over, I travel like crazy twice a year and I am always—always—on a deadline.

I still manage to help my kids with homework, play tipsy games of Ping-Pong with Mr. King, and I see my family and friends, though not as much as I’d like to. I also help run my non-profit community swimming pool. And I’m secretary of my library board. And I volunteer with my local V-Day. I will not lie. These volunteer positions have, at times, stressed me out. But, they also feed my material. I am out of the house, meeting new people, experiencing new things. I cannot tell you how important this is in relation to being a writer.

Example: Had I locked myself in my office five years ago and not become part of the swimming pool board, I would have never had the opportunity to wear a greasy, leased catering polo shirt and serve food to hockey fans at the local stadium. This is not a romantic job. It really isn’t. But because I did it several times a year for the last few years, I can perfectly describe to you what a greasy, leased catering polo shirt feels and smells like. I can remind you of the trivial tasks you once had to remember when you worked fast food in high school. I can remind myself that real people still often forget to say please and thank you to food service workers in greasy, leased polo shirts. I am reminded also of the nice people who tip me because they know I’m volunteering.

People say (I mean this—people say this to me all the time) “Why don’t you quit that volunteer stuff you do? It’s taking up too much of your time. You need to concentrate on your work.”

But they can’t see that those nights at the hockey games are my work. Life. Life is my work. Having sore feet after six hours serving hockey fans is my work. Filling the ice bins is my work. Listening to the old man complain about the temperature of his hot dog is my work.

How can that be my work? Because those experiences percolate into books. My main character Gerald, in my next book Reality Boy, works at…I bet you get the picture. (But only if, in that picture, Gerald is wearing a greasy, leased polo shirt.)

I believe: Everything you do, you will do it as a writer.

I believe: The more you do, the better writer you will be.

As much as I am inspired by meeting the cranky hot-dog-complainers and the greasy, leased polo shirts, I am inspired by books. And yet, this is the one love that has fallen away from me. I am sad to admit it, but in the last two years, I have read very few books. Worse yet, I didn’t really read books for fun. My favorite books are literary adult translations and the books I’ve read in the last years have been for work—for endorsements, mostly, which I love to do but have stopped doing because I have run out of time for reading.

It seemed the more books I wrote, the less books I read. It seemed the more cities I traveled to, the less I read on airplanes and the more I made sure my battery was charged so I could work on airplanes.

About a year ago, I realized that I’d lost…me. I couldn’t find me anywhere. Amy was in the office writing and meeting those deadlines, and she was going from town to town talking about empowerment to teenagers and loving every single minute of it. But me, the woman who was inspired to write by the amazing books she once read? I had no idea where she was.

Then, last weekend I read the most remarkable book. I stayed in bed for two days and just read. Like the old days—a deep Norwegian translation. Nearly five hundred pages. It was a perfect book—not just because it was great in itself, but because it showed me why I do this and reminded me how to do it well. It even showed me how to fix an eight-year-old project I’d abandoned long ago.

I realized: If we get too caught up in writing and keeping up with the responsibilities we have as authors, we can forget that books—they are roadmaps. They are tour guides. They are teachers. They are mirrors.

I believe: Everything you read, you will read it as a writer.

I believe: The more you read, the better writer you will be.

So today I am here to remind you: Reading is essential. Getting so caught up in a book that you don’t shower for two days is part of your job description. Staying up until three in the morning because you just can’t put it down and then dreaming in dark, flat Norwegian translation worlds is part of what you’re supposed to do. Being slightly late on a deadline because you are reading a book that will make your book better is…probably the best thing you can do for everyone concerned. Don’t worry about your friends. They’ll understand. Don’t worry about your editors. They know all this stuff already. Don’t worry about the kids. They will learn from you even if you smell bad and can’t tear your eyes away from the page.

They will learn that books are important.

Which is the whole damn point, isn’t it?

About the Author

A.S. King is best known for her award-winning young adult novels, though she writes novel-length and short fiction for adults as well. After more than a decade in Ireland dividing herself between self-sufficiency, restoring her farm, teaching adult literacy, and writing novels, she returned to the US in 2004.

Amy's newest YA novel, Reality Boy (October 2013) is a A New York Times Editors' Choice,Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and School Library Journal Best Book of 2013, a Junior Library Guild Selection, Amazon Best Books for October, and a Winter 2013-2014 Kids' Indie Next List Top Ten pick. 2012's Ask the Passengers (Little, Brown October 2012) is a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner, a Junior Library Guild selection, a Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly & School Library Journal Best Book of 2012, an Indie Next List pick and has been called "Another thoughtful, and often breathtaking achievement" by Booklist in one of six starred trade reviews for the book. Everybody Sees the Ants (Little, Brown October 2011) was an Andre Norton Award finalist, a Cybils finalist, and a 2012 YALSA Top Ten book for young adults. Her 2010 YA novel, Please Ignore Vera Dietz was a 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, an Edgar Award Nominee, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book for Teens 2010, a Junior Library Guild selection and a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick. Her first YA novel, The Dust of 100 Dogs, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an Indie Next pick and a Cybil award finalist. Her short fiction for adults has been widely published and was nominated for Best New American Voices 2010. Her short fiction collection, Monica Never Shuts Up is available in paperback and all ebook formats. Amy now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and children and is a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut, corn on the cob, libraries, and roller skating.

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About The Book


  • A New York Times Editors' Choice, 
  • A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013, 
  • A School Library Journal Best Book of 2013, 
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2013, 
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection, 
  • Amazon Best Books for October, 
  • A Publishers Weekly Book of the Week, 
  • A 2013 VOYA Perfect Ten Book, 
  • A 2013 Association of Booksellers for Children Best Book for Children, 
  • A 2014 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Book, 
  • A 2014 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers Book, 
  • Winter 2013-2014 Kids' Indie Next List Top Ten, 
  • A 2014 Tayshas High School Top Ten Reading List Pick...

“Fearless and brilliant, a seething pressure cooker of a masterpiece.”
—Andrew Smith, author of Grasshopper Jungle, Winger and The Marbury Lens

“Timely, incisive, compassionate. All of A.S. King’s novels are must-reads.”
—Matthew Quick, New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock


Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.

Order signed/personalized copies from Aaron's Books. 


Download the REALITY BOY Discussion Guide HERE.

** Please note: This is an updated repost. AYAP is on limited hiatus until August, with a mixture of old favorites, new posts, and new giveaways.


  1. Beautiful! I needed this reminder more than I can say.

  2. This is a timely post of affirmation for me, of recently making a choice to allow myself more reading time and falling back in love with what brought me to writing in the first place. Love this post :-)

  3. "If you want to write, read." I preach it all the time--'cause it's true. Your post made me smile--love the greasy shirt description!

  4. Great post and great reminder of how important reading is to the process of writing. Thanks for this. I'm going to read now.

  5. I am a big fan of maps - road maps and otherwise. Also of carrying a compass (literal or figurative) to remind me what direction I might be heading. Thanks for validating our need to read and write and write and read and that the world is bigger than our desks.

  6. Loved this post, Amy, thank you for reminding all of us crazy, deadline-ridden writers why we do this and why we love our jobs so much.

    btw: What's the title of the Norwegian adult novel you spoke of so highly? I'm curious to read it!

  7. Love your books...thank you for the insights and I will keep reading!

  8. So true! The work I do as a teacher's aide, being secretary of the P&C and my local writers group - and reading! is so important to my writing. We have to have a life, for goodness sake!. Julia Cameron calls it filling the well. I quite agree :)


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