Thursday, January 24, 2013

What I learned from Marissa Meyer

Last year my library had the best event ever. Marissa Meyer, live and in person, read the first chapter of Cinder, shared her road to the printing press, and opened the floor to questions. Since we live in the same town, I ended up sitting next to her neighbors, or her family's neighbors, or something along those lines. The room filled quickly. Moms and their daughters. Women toting their pristine, shiny hardback books. An old white guy.

In walked Meyer with a red high heeled shoe stapler. The library coordinator gave a brief and adoring intro, then yielded the floor. And that's when my preconceived future as an author changed forever. She spoke about her education, BA in Creative Writing and Children's Literature. Yikes! Master's in Publishing. Holy smack! I have a degree in Studio Art. That's right. My nervous meter started humming.

She went on to talk about her post education work. Freelance writer and proofreader. Crap. My post education consisted of working at an abandoned warehouse painting scenes for the Nutcracker. That lasted until the flea outbreak forced my hand to quit. After that, more of the same, waitressing, failing miserably at barista-ville with Starbucks, temping. 

By this time, I took a few peaks at the exit. Could I afford to hear anymore? She moved on to talk about her Sailor Moon fan-fiction days. And bam, instant desperate connection. When I was a kid I loved all things Japanese anime (I know manga and anime are different media, but I made it work in my head). I might not have written any stories, but I did skip a day of school in third grade just to watch my favorite Japanese cartoon.

I'm hanging on by a thread, hoping she'll mention some fatal flaw she had to overcome. Wish granted. She brought up entering and failing literary contests. Yes! I'm hooked now. She sucks at contests. I had just submitted my novel to a few contests and I knew I'd suck at them too. In one contest there were only two entries and she came in second. I didn't do a fist pump, but in my head I did one of those girly hip dances with the thumbs.

Finally, she discussed creating Cinder. The first go around she tossed completely. Her extensive outline process took on a life of its own. The insanity that is creating something out of nothing, loving it, hating it, obsessing over it, sometimes required watching Firefly just to stick with it. She lost me at outlines.

When she opened the floor for questions, all I heard was my mom's voice in my head, "Ask her something, Robyn." The mind-verson of my mom likes to keep it simple. People asked about finding an agent. I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears. Her transition from unpublished author to published author was...quick. "So you're a little like Cinderella too," the one old guy in attendance (that I noticed) said after she told us a little about the small children's publisher she chose. The statement cut through my personal freak out. To me, it sounded bitter, and I suddenly wanted to defend Meyer even though minutes earlier I cheered about her less than successful writer moments.

Someone asked her to describe a typical day. Mornings were spent catching up online. Inspiration hit and I raised my hand. "How important is having an online community?" That very morning a popular author had mentioned her in a tweet and her sales soared.

Marketing online plays a huge role in today's book world. That's the second biggest lesson I learned from Marissa Meyer. The first? Love your fellow author. In the beginning, my mind wallowed in a game of compare and contrast. Then it searched for ways I could relate. Then all thoughts went to staring down the old guy for making her accomplishments sound so effortless, like she stepped into a magic shoe and everything fell into place. All those years of schooling, her post grad work, her days writing fan-fiction, but possibly wanting to write her own stuff, then writing her own stuff only to trash it, she earned her success.

So all you writers out there, even the ones who only secretly dream of being a writer, forget trying to fit the perfect mold. Get out there online and love your fellow author. That's what I'm doing!

Meyer will be in town again in March promoting Scarlet. Any suggestions for what I should ask when my mom's voice pops into my head next time?


  1. I can't even imagine all that goes into publishing your very own book. I would fail under the pressure because I am not good with critism--given or distributed out. I often tune-out haters and dream of being anywhere but in the presense of said company. It's a harsh statement...but bless those who can write and are true champions of entrhalling and caputuring the audience with their work.--(Robyn Jones).

    1. When you decide to catch up on my blog you really catch up. Thanks for the nice words, Shan. And I'm very aware of your dreamland, girly. "la-lee-la, I don't hear you!" Something like that?

  2. I finally got my ipod working...listening to Paloma Faith (get her music). Look, I just can't help it. :>)

  3. I loved reading this very open confession from someone jumping off the cliff into a new endeavor and all the fears, hopes a d trepidation that goes with it. That 'meet the author' experience gave you the insight you needed to square your shoulders & dive in! Good job overcoming your fears,