As promised at the beginning of June (or the end of May, I can’t recall any more), I’m going to spend today talking about my recent trip to Asheville to see Sarah Dessen’s book tour for Saint Anything.
You may recall me telling you about my experience reading the book (if not, refresh your memory). It was a great book, so Emily and I were very excited to hear her talk about it.
I believe that reading the work of living authors is extremely important. The classics are almost untouchable. You read them, and that’s all you have. I don’t think you can realize what you’re truly missing out on until you actually hear an author speak. Sarah (can I call her Sarah? is that too familiar?) didn’t only discuss this success, but also the book that she abandoned before she wrote Saint Anything. She talked about her process, about how she gets herself into “work mode,” and about the role her agent, editors, and publishers have in the book. She also told us that behind the twelve books she has published, there are thirteen that failed.
That is powerful for “aspiring writers” everywhere. We read the published works and forget that even our favorite authors, the ones whose words make us weep and laugh and make our hearts swell with joy, once began where we are. Hearing my favorite author say that she has bad writing days and projects that were better off abandoned is a comfort on the days that I feel like I am dragging the words out of a ten foot hole with nothing but a piece of floss, just like Neil Gaiman’s answer to my ask on Tumblr made me feel that much more secure about my career choice.
Reading classics is important, to show both the timelessness of human nature and a photograph of the time period in which it was written, but living artists breathe life into new artists. Living writers will inspire the next great novel more than anything written a hundred years ago can.
It is with Sarah Dessen’s words in mind that I go back to write the second draft of my own novel tomorrow. I hope I will do the story justice, that it will touch people like her books touched me, and that it too will become an inspiration. But if it does fail, these two things will comfort me: that I have done well enough by putting in the time and work, and that I am in good company, even in my failures.
(By the way, if you want to hear about some other times I interacted with living authors, check out this blog post here.)
And today’s the last day to vote for July’s Reader-Voted Project!