Dear Twentysomething: Lenore Appelhans
I started drafting a letter to my 20-something self, and she kept answering back, so here’s the full convo, uncensored:
30-something me: What the heck 20-something me? You always knew you wanted to write a novel someday – why didn’t you just write one?
20-something me: Hey – I was busy gaining life experience. I wasn’t ready to commit yet, and I had still had a ton to learn. You should thank me! Where did you draw inspiration from while you were writing if it wasn’t what I lived through for you?
30-something me: I guess you’re right. While I was drafting LEVEL 2, I often took some kernel from a trip I took …
20-something me: (interrupts)… yeah, and I’m the one who got food poisoning, altitude sickness, sun rashes, tons of mosquito bites (including one on my eyelid that prevented me from opening my left eye for days) and that painful shot against typhoid, just so you could have nice memories of climbing snow covered peaks in the Andes and ancient jungle temples in Central America and Asia, walking with lions in Zimbabwe and swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos, etc, etc …
30-something me: … or some book I read, or a conversation I had once, and spun it out in new ways to see where it took me. None of the scenes and situations in the novel actually happened to me, but I think they feel so real and immediate because I took the emotional core from my own experiences and translated them to give life to my characters.
20-something me: You’re welcome. You can also thank me for joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). You would have been lost without them.
30-something me: Very true. SCBWI resources and conferences paved the way for my book deals, and for my husband Daniel’s.
20-something me: Oh and what about when you got your 25 page edit letter for LEVEL 2, did you cry and tell yourself that you suck?
30-something me: No, actually I loved that letter. It helped me see so many ways I could strengthen characterization, clarify plot points, and generally make the book as kick-ass as it could be.
20-something me: Well, all the advertising copywriting hours I’ve put in have done wonders to thicken your skin, have given you a willingness to listen to and integrate feedback, and have contributed to your ability to be a team player. Think your skin is thick enough to take a whole world of readers discussing the literary merits of your debut?
30-something me: Yikes! I hope so. But you know, there’s someone else I can ask about that …. paging 40-something me … hello? Are you out there?
Lenore Appelhans blogs at Presenting Lenore and tweets at @lenoreva. She is also the author of Level Two, coming Fall 2012 from Simon & Schuster.