No matter how my writing students define “success” – perhaps beginning a picture book, completing a novel, earning an advanced degree or maybe winning a grant, their stories of success gladden my heart.
Today I share my former student Stefanie Lyons’ Success Story to celebrate this month’s publication of her debut novel DATING DOWN (Flux), a YA novel in verse, with hopes her story will gladden your heart too.
Thanks to Flux’s generosity, one lucky TeachingAuthor reader can win a copy of DATING DOWN simply by entering our Book Giveaway which runs from today May 4 through midnight May 15.
(Please see details at the end of Stefanie’s Q & A).
I first worked with Stefanie independently almost 15 years ago on a middle grade novel that still plays in my head. We worked together again in 2008 in my University of Chicago’s Writer’s Studio Novel Workshop. I was honored to recommend her to the Vermont College’s MFA in Writing for Children program in 2009 and of course, cheer her on as she completed her graduate degree.
Stefanie describes herself on her website as a writer of all things young adultish.
The tag line for DATING DOWN is a grabber: When a good girl falls for a bad boy.
“She thought she loved him. She thought she could change him. She thought if she just believed in him enough, his cheating and his drugs and his lying would stop, and she'd be his and he'd be hers and they'd love each other forever.
But for Samantha Henderson, X--the boy she will not name--is trouble. He's older, edgier, bohemian . . . and when he starts paying attention to Sam, she can't resist him. Samantha's family and friends try to warn her, but still she stays with him, risking her future and everything that really matters.”
The Booklist review lauded Stefanie’s musical, poignant verse, calling the story “lyrical and heart-wrenching, exploring the emotional vicissitudes of love, sex, and drugs.”
Kirkus recommended the book to fans of Ellen Hopkins. “Turbulent love via turbulent poems.”
Stefanie is an active member of the debut MG and YA authors blog FearlessFifteeners.
She’s also appearing on my First-Timers Panel at the Chicago Printers Row Lit Fest the weekend of June 7 and 8.
Take heart and hope from my interview with Stefanie and be sure to enter our Book Giveaway for a free copy of Stefanie’s DATING DOWN.
And thanks to Stefanie who's out and about connecting with her readers for taking time to share her Success Story with our readers.
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Your unswerving focus from the year 2000 on to learn and hone your craft coupled with your non-stop efforts to grow as a writer, is note-worthy. What’s kept you going all these years? How did you come to know and believe what I shared in my 2009 VCFA recommendation: i.e. Stefanie Lyons was seated on the Right Pew in the Right Church.
What has kept me going all these years was the thought that I couldn’t quit. I’m a very
stubborn person when I want to be! Also, writing was something that took ahold of me from a young age and never let go. (Maybe it’s more stubborn than I am.) Writing is how I find fulfillment. It’s my joy. As for me being seated in the Right Pew in the Right Church, as you put it, I would rephrase it to say that I made sure I was in the Church and never got up from the Pew. It’s a story of tenacity, mostly.
Can you share with our readers how DATING DOWN, a YA novel in verse, came to be – and the revisions it underwent, under the guidance of first your agent and then your editor?
I was in grad school when I started DATING DOWN. I needed something to turn in and found this in a folder in my house. I pulled it out and thought, “Well, this isn’t as bad as I remember.” I revisited it and sent it in. My advisor loved it and helped me pare the voice into a more traditional verse novel. At the time, it was a prose/verse hybrid. My agent didn’t weigh in on this novel because it was already in the hands of Flux when we met. But that’s another story.
You’re an enthusiastic member of the debut 2015 debut author blog Fearless Fifteeners. How has this group helped you grow as an author now out in the world bringing her book to readers?
I’ve learned so much from them. Honestly, they’ve made this journey so fun. Having a group of writers going through the same debut experience at the same time has made the scary stuff a bonding experience and the highs that much higher. They provided a place where I could ask the dumb questions without bugging my editor or agent. How do I request my book be stocked in independent bookstores? Where do I go to make bookmarks? How do you sign your name to readers? Stuff like that. And the cheer-leading on release day. Banding together to do panels. These things have made all the difference. It has been the #1 most defining thing that has shaped my debut year. And that’s saying a lot.
You – also – have a solid career in advertising! How do you balance your days so you have time to write – and – promote?
Priorities. Some things are more important than others. Like sleep. Who needs it?
What’s that One Thing You Wished You’d Known when you began your Writer’s Journey?
How truly wonderful the Children’s Writer’s community is. And how much I’d grow just by befriending them. I always considered writing as a solo sport. It is quite the opposite, actually.
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