I am very excited to have J. Anderson Coats here with us today. Ms. Coats is the author of the book The Wicked and The Just.
What advice would you give to a young teen who dreams of becoming an author?
Read. Read widely. Read new books, old books, articles. Read the back of the cereal box. Immerse yourself in language. Listen for how different writers sound in your head. Read in the genre you want to write in. Read outside of it. Read things that are praised and things that are panned. Read. Everything. It all has something to teach you.
Write. Write every day, even if it’s a scribble on a grocery store receipt you pull out of the bottom of your backpack. Develop the habit of producing words on a story, poem, novel, song each and every day. So much of writing is discipline. It’s butt-in-chair. You can have the best ideas in the world, but when they’re in your head and not on the page, the only person who can enjoy them is you.
Listen. Listen to feedback especially. Find someone you trust who’ll read what you write and give honest, useful – and most of all – constructive feedback. Maybe it’s your sister. Maybe it’s a teacher. Maybe it’s someone in your writers’ group who lives in Iowa City. Listen to what he or she has to say. Nothing any of us write is ever perfect the first time, and the only way to figure out how to make it better to be open to feedback and revise until sings off the page.
Give yourself permission to write crap. Everyone’s first drafts suck. Your favorite writer? Her first drafts suck. Your other favorite writer? His first drafts suck. It’s more important to just write. Get it on the page and repeat after me: “It’s a first draft. It’s supposed to suck.” You can fix things in a crappily-written first draft, but it’s impossible to fix what doesn’t exist.
Don’t let yourself get stuck. If a story isn’t working, don’t be afraid to leave it for awhile and start something new. (Equally important: try to finish everything. Just don’t feel like you have to finish it all at once.) Read books on craft if you need to, but don’t get hung up on rules. There are no rules. There are only tools. There are things that work and things that don’t. Write something every day. Learn from what you read. Learn from who you talk to. But the only way to be a writer is to write.
Published April 17th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.
Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.
While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.
Thank you to Ms. Coats for being here today and best of luck with your new book!
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