How Other Author Friends Have Helped/Influenced Me
By David Arnold
In 2010, I attended my first professional writing conference. It was the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Midsouth conference in Nashville. Armed with a sure-fire bestselling picture book (rhyming, of course, because obviously), a checklist of agents to meet, and a can-do attitude, I waltzed right into that Hilton like I owned the place. I was going to get published, see, and nothing could stop me.
Things did stop me—namely myself. Because what I couldn’t have known then was that I was missing the point.
Enjoy the process. This is a pretty common phrase, usually applied to something that is difficult to achieve, something that takes massive amounts of time and energy, but if you put in the work, if you prove to have the requisite amounts of skill and sticktoitiveness, then in the end, your rainbow leads to a pot of gold. Enjoying the process means looking up every now and then, because hey, there’s a rainbow, like, right there.
Okay, truth: while I love everything about writing—including the rainbow—I don’t necessarily feel the same way about publishing. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been massively blessed with the best professional team: from my agent to my publisher to my editor to my publicist and everyone in between, I could not ask for more. But if I’m honest with myself, I sometimes forget to look up. I’m so focused on the pot of gold, I forget about the rainbow. Because what people don’t tell you (or at least, if people told me, I chose not to listen, which, okay, totally my bad, but hey, all I asked was to publish a book and then all my dreams would come true, not a cloud in the sky, a carefree life from here on in) is that it’s a scary thing putting yourself out there like that.
There’s this scene in the movie Jerry Maguire that I often think about. Tom Cruise’s character has just written a mission statement (not a memo) that basically suggests turning his particular industry on its head. In a fit of inspiration, he rushes to an office supply store and prints up over a hundred copies of this mission statement, one for everybody in his office. While it’s printing, a random longhaired employee slowly nods his head, and says, “That’s how you become great, man. Hang your balls out there.” Now I don’t care if you’re writing mission statements, contemporary YA, fantasy, romance, memoir, poetry, or fan-fiction—if you’re writing creatively, that longhaired employee has some sage advice for you. (True, Jerry Maguire goes on to get fired and fall into a downward spiral of poor decision-making and drunken monologues, but… sage advice, nonetheless.)
So what does any of this have to do with friendship among authors? Well, my friends are the ones who smile and nod when that’s what I need, and they’re the ones who offer advice when that’s what I need, but more often than not, they’re the ones who point up and say, “Hey. Check out that rainbow.”
I’m still pretty new at this, so I don’t have a ton of advice to offer. But here’s one thing. To all you pre-published writers who are attending conferences and workshops, researching which agents are looking for which genres, and which houses accept unsolicited manuscripts, etcetera, etcetera: stop. Put down your pen. Take a second. All those things you’re doing are good. Important, even. But let me tell you in a sentence what took me over two years to figure out: people are more important. Than writing, than publishing, than every last thing on your conference checklist. The relationships you build early on are the ones you’ll have for the rest of your life. And you cannot manufacture that kind of history. You can check every last thing off your list, and maybe you’ll even get published. But if you don’t have someone next to you, someone who nudges you every once in a while and says, “Hey, check out that rainbow,” well—you’ve missed the point.
Hi. I’m David.
I write stories and songs. I like pesto, Arcade Fire, indie bookstores, Middle-Earth, GARP, Elliott Smith, Christmastime, and all things Sorkin. I don’t like olives, liars, or wet socks. My debut novel, MOSQUITOLAND, is out now from Viking/Penguin, and is available wherever books are sold. My second book, KIDS OF APPETITE, will be released on September 20, 2016. I am represented by Dan Lazar at Writers House.
“I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange.”
After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.
So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.
Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, “Mosquitoland” is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.
Kids of Appetite
Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.
It begins with the death of Vic’s father.
It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle.
The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it.
But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.
This is a story about:
1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.
2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.
3. One dormant submarine.
4. Two songs about flowers.
5. Being cool in the traditional sense.
6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.
7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.
8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.
9. A story collector.
10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.
11. Falling in love with a painting.
12. Falling in love with a song.
13. Falling in love.
Available September 20, 2016 from Viking Books for Young Readers
Thank you, David for your kick ass reference to Jerry Maguire and RAINBOWS!! In all seriousness, I agree it’s important to surround yourself with friends who’ll be there to support you by keeping you on task, provide critical feedback, and above all else drag you away from your work to prevent you from over working yourself.
As always, a huge thank you to all of the authors who have, are, and will be participating in this feature. Your continued advice, tips, and stories help so many more people than you can know. You all are extremely loved and appreciated.
We hope everyone has a great rest of your week!