He was an author on the rise – a star in the making. And I was lucky enough to be in the room with him.
His speech was passionate, funny, warm and encouraging. He told the inside scoop about how he had been inspired to write Thirteen Reasons Why. But I really loved when he showed a picture of his wife after she found out about his book deal. I succumbed to a big, fat creative crush.
Something else happened during his speech. He shared a tip, but I felt like it was a secret, spoken directly to me: Write. I was surprised to learn that Jay Asher was a picture book writer and a super-funny guy. He never imagined he’d write dark, powerful YA.
I walked out of that ballroom newly inspired. Until that point, I had only ever attempted to write picture book texts. Thanks to Jay Asher, I wrote and sold my first personal essay. And just like that, I was a writer – a validated, getting-paid-for-my-work writer. Finally! Once I’d published something, I didn’t feel as shy about asking for babysitting help so I’d have more time to write.
Not getting rejected really put me in a good mood so I published more articles. I learned a lot from the newspaper, magazine and on-line editors who acquired my writing. Collecting confidence with each acceptance was fun, too.
When I was lucky enough to meet Quinlan Lee from Adams Literary at the WPA SCBWI a couple years later, I think my writing experience helped us connect. She didn’t fall for the manuscript I had submitted for review, but I think she liked that I was a writer. A couple chit-chats and revisions later – and, boom – she offered me representation.
So I’m going to steal from Jay Asher and encourage you to try a new genre, too. Why not? It just might lead to success!