We each have that book, the one novel we could read over and over without growing tired of it. The one with characters we have grown to adore, who feel like family and every time you open the cover to the first page, it feels like coming home.
For me, that book will always be Hope Was Here, by Joan Bauer. Before reading it for the first time, I felt lost as a writer, not sure which genre my voice belonged in or what kind of books I wanted to write. Back then, I dabbled with women’s contemporary stories, murder mysteries, and picture books but nothing felt right. The young adult section in my local bookstore was one I rarely visited, so I can’t quite remember what made me pick up Hope Was Here but by the time I had finished, I was love with not only the story but the genre as well.
Afterwards, I started reading as many young adult novels as possible. It was astonishing how many brilliant books there were in this gem of a genre by authors such as Laurie Halse Andersen, Libba Bray, E. Lockhart and many more. From their words, I became inspired to write my own, stumbling at first with two novels that have since grow dusty on a forgotten shelf. But those failed manuscripts were lessons learned and they taught me how to write an endearing story that became my first published book.
It’s been over twelve years since that novel, Beauty Shop for Rent, had sold and my writing career has taking many ups and downs … more downs than up, I must confess. And there are moments when regret over those downs slams me in the face harder than a 747 at takeoff, especially when I see other authors whose books have also debuted in 2007 go on to great literary success whereas I’ve only managed to sell one more book.
But then again … my life has been pretty awesome. I’ve been married to a wonderful guy who puts up with my array of crap for 24 years. We’ve raised two amazing kids and helped them endure their own ups and downs. I’ve developed a great love of running and established relationships with amazing friends. With some of those friends, we’ve also created Joyful Miles with a mission to inspire others to enjoy life, one mile at a time.
So, would I give all that up in order to have more sold books on a shelf?
Because that’s the thing with envy. You can’t just envy another writer for the amount of books they’ve had published. You have to envy their entire life, and ask yourself if you’re willing to give up yours in exchange.
My answer? No. Heck no.
That doesn’t mean I can excuse the procrastination, laziness, fear, doubt, and a thousand other demons I’ve allowed to keep me from writing. Nor does that mean I’m not willing to give my writing career another shot and in order to do so, I seriously need to get my crap together, if only one day at a time.
But in the meanwhile … I’m happy.
And happiness is a pretty damn good thing.
Back to THAT BOOK, though, which was supposed to be the topic of today’s lunchtime ramblings. Reading the amazing Hope Was Here was the catalyst to me falling in love with the young adult genre. And there’s another book that also taught me a major lesson, Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts. Her story taught me how it’s okay to embrace your own voice, however quirky and simple it may be. And how the best thing you can do is this:
Create dynamic characters and tell their story.
And now, I’m pulling both novels from my shelves of favorites and giving them another read. I’m also blowing the dust off this blog and giving it some love and attention by simply telling my story … sometimes edited, sometimes just tossed to the world. So even though there’s a chance that nobody will read my wandering thoughts with all its imperfections … welcome. I’m glad you’re here and thanks for reading!