Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Start of Me and Emery and Books

On January 20, 2011, I received an email from a virtual stranger. Attached was a 50-page sample of a manuscript about a teenage girl with an amazing group of friends attempting to reinvent herself.

Would I be willing to read it and give some feedback?

At that time the sender of that email, Emery Lord, and I were in similar situations. We were both 20-something Midwesterners with similar backgrounds. We'd both just finished writing our first complete manuscripts and were trying to figure out what to do next. We didn't really know many other writers. Even though I'd never critiqued anything before, a mutual writer friend introduced us. We agreed to exchange pages and give whatever feedback we could. Four years later, Emery and I both have literary agents, I have an awesome job as an editor, and she has two gorgeous books out in the world with a third on its way. Best of all, she's become one of my best friends.

Those original pages Emery sent me became THE START OF ME AND YOU, which released yesterday. It's a smart, lovely book full of heart and humor and people who care about each other. I love this book for many, many reasons, not the least of which is that it was the start of our friendship, but it was also the start of our professional writing endeavors. Independently we learned how to finish a manuscript. Together we learned how to query, how to edit, how to do it again and again and again. Together we learned how to try new things and see things differently. The more I look back at the last four years, the more I realize that the themes contained in this young adult book - themes of reinvention, of trying new things, of seeing things differently - are timeless. These are lessons we learn and forget and relearn again, and I love that this book reminds me of that.

On Tuesday, March 31, 2015, I drove from Chicago to Cincinnati to attend the launch party for THE START OF ME AND YOU at Joseph-Beth Books (and every time I visit Cincinnati I'm reminded that it's one of America's secret gems).

Emery joined young adult authors David Arnold, Kate Hattemer, and Courtney Stevens in an hour long panel discussion followed by lots and lots of book signing. David Arnold, in a stroke of genius, brought a copy of his book for the readers to sign for him, sort of like a year book. Emery brought boxes of donuts to share with the crowd.

Courtney recounting the amazing origin story for her book FAKING NORMAL (I can't do it justice here), and Kate answered questions about poetry and utilized her fluent Latin. Jasmine Warga tried to blend in with the audience but ended up signing a few of her books too.

Every writer I know has at one point or another considered shelving a completed project. Maybe it doesn't appear to fit the market, or agents are only responding with form rejections. Maybe it's been shopped to editors and no one bought it. The last line from that very first email I received from Emery back in 2011: "I guess I need to know whether or not this thing has a shot or if I should let it be and move on." We finally have the answer, and I couldn't be prouder of my friend and everything she's accomplished.