In 2011, I was sitting in the audience of the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City when National Book Award Finalist and seriously cool human Zarr got up to give the keynote speech. She said, "The time between when you are no longer a beginner but you are not yet in the business is the hardest ... and one of the biggest frustrations is no one can tell you how long this phase will last. There’s going to be a lot of waiting and you are going to have to decide what you are going to do while you are waiting.”
The problem was that this opening became cemented in my psyche, a completely immovable part of my conception of the book. And once you become so married to a particular aspect of a work that you’re unable to see other choices, you’re in dangerous territory. Until the final, final draft, when others around you—an editor, a writing group, trusted readers—have affirmed that yes, you are near the end, you should be working with clay, not casting in bronze.
Right. Clay, not bronze. I was looking at my piece as if it were indelible metal. Immovable. Resistant. But really, I was the one being resistant. I needed to trust those around me, the agent who was working hard to help me get to the finish line. Her comments about too many plot lines and how the story was overly complicated was definitely an ego-buster, but looking again at the manuscript, I could see what she meant. Those first 80 pages she enjoyed so much held a rawness, a truth that got lost as things twisted and turned and knotted through the rest of the story. Sara mentioned this too, speaking again in her
interview, where she talked of letting go of the unnecessary: Hunger Mountain
Every time I loosened my grip, something fell away that had at one point seemed permanent. There are things I miss, but it’s easier to take those losses when I know that the core of the story I wanted to tell remains and can now shine in unfiltered light. That’s where the “don’t let go” part of the process comes in. Hold on to the heart of what first makes you want to tell a story—that seed of inspiration, that character that haunts you, the moments you long to crystallize and bring to life.
So I’m picked up and running again with my manuscript. I’m not to the finish line yet, but I can see it. Sara said in NYC while delivering her keynote, "It takes a tremendous amount of faith to live a creative life - especially before you are published because there is no tangible evidence of its worth." I’ve learned worth won’t come at all if I don’t continue to go back to my “seeds of inspiration” to focus and create scenes that laugh, cry, scream and shudder with the truth at the heart of the story. I’m learning not to shut down and shove my work away when I get critical yet invaluable feedback from others. I’m learning to have faith in myself as a writer. And I can partly thank Sara Zarr for that.
To read Sara’s full interview on
, go to http://www.hungermtn.org/hold-on-loosely/ Hunger Mountain
For a summary of Sara’s brilliant keynote speech at the 2011 SCBWI Winter Conference, go to http://scbwiconference.blogspot.com/2011/01/sara-zarr-keynote.html
And in Sara’s honor, I am giving one lucky YA Fusion reader a copy of her upcoming title, THE LUCY VARIATIONS, to be released on May 7. Simply post a comment below about Sara, her books, or how frustrating this biz can be, and you will be entered in a random drawing for this hardcover book. Please include your name and email in the post. The winner will be announced Saturday, May 11. *****PLEASE NOTE: Only residents of the
U.S. and are eligible****** Good Luck!!! Canada
*****BOOK GIVEAWAY UPDATE*****
Lisa Gail Green is the winner of Sara Zarr's new book, THE LUCY VARIATIONS!! Congratulations, Lisa, and thank you to all who commented for being YA Fusion readers!!