author of Worth A Thousand Words (August 14, 2018)
Author, I Never is a segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.
Question the first: Brigit, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I knew I loved writing by fifth grade when I wrote a story about a turkey who runs away during Thanksgiving season and forms the Turkey Supremes. But I knew I wanted to be a writer many, many years later, around the age of 21, when I was a frustrated young actress in NYC, scribbling away on poems and short stories when I wasn’t hostessing and auditioning, and the process satisfied me creatively in a way that theater never had.
The Turkey Supremes sounds pretty amazing, FYI. Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?
It’s a tie! I can’t choose between the first time a story of mine got accepted for publication, and the day I got my first offer for my debut middle grade novel WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. Both were incredibly exciting moments. External validation certainly shouldn’t rule our emotions, right? But at the same time, that validation can provide a much-needed moment of respite from self-doubt. And those events filled me with the wonder of possibility as a writer. I could picture more- more stories and more characters out there in the world, and that’s such a gift.
It really is! And at the risk of revealing myself to be a pantsing non-genius, external validation is grossly underrated. Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?
I know people often say they’ll never feel like they’ve “made it,” and that’s partly because “making it” is such a changeable thing. We constantly adjust our own definition of what that means for our lives. So, for me, to be entirely honest, getting a book published is “making it.” Any time I worry about my future as a writer, I think, “Wow. I’m getting a book published. That’s been my dream for so long. Don’t forget that, ever.”
I love that! Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?
Yes! First of all, I attended college in my mid-20s, and a professor and wonderful kid lit writer there, Pamela Laskin, helped me through the first incarnation of what is now my debut novel. Additionally, the prolific and delightful author, poet and playwright Jacob M. Appel convinced me that I had what it took to live life as a writer, and he encouraged me every step of the way. He also taught me to never stop submitting my work. Without him, I would not be having this interview with you right now!
That's wonderful to hear. Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?
All the time. I mean, just today I said to my husband “I can’t finish this book” (book #2). “I’m inadequate! I’m too distracted! I can’t do it!” So in that sense, I feel like giving up constantly. But I am able to live through that emotional state while simultaneously knowing that I will not and cannot give up. But in terms of my journey in the publishing process, there was a period of time in which my first novel had been rejected everywhere, and an older draft of WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS wasn’t picking up steam with agents, and I looked into other fields that would require less focus on creative writing. And I’m glad that instead of doing that I followed my gut, which told me that focusing on my creative work had to be a priority. I’m also lucky in that I have a husband who literally told me in his vows, “I vow to make sure to you have writing time every day.” So there’s that mensch to thank…
I LOVE that this was written in your wedding vows. Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?
On the subway. With an uncharged phone. And no seat. And a writing tool I could not reach because to do so I would have to inappropriately reach around and between various human parts. This has happened many times…
This series isn't a contest, but that might be the winning answer. Question the seventh: Can you give us hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?
Hmmm. Well, there’s a reference to Destiny’s Child that everyone wanted me to cut in every draft, and I held onto it with gusto because it just had to be there. It had to. Does that count?
Everything counts. And speaking of everything counting, it's time for the...
I Never Round
The basic rules of I Never- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.
I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting.
I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.
Oh, I have definitely done this. I’ve taken the bait of sleepiness. I’ve thought, “I’ll remember the great idea in the morning. I have a toddler. I must sleep. I deserve this sleep.” Well, guess what? I wake up in the morning and the brilliance is no longer in my head.
Toddlers do change the equation, don't they? I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.
Bahaha. I am the looking-in-the-mirror-as-opener queen.
It would be fun to mix it up with reflective storefronts or puddles, or sunglasses, or very large bubbles. I never worked on two manuscripts at once.
I did, I do, I want to again.
I never went several days or even weeks without writing.
I am no Stephen King. I don’t have his (diagnosable?) compulsion to write. And I say this with some shame. My fear of failure and perfectionism stops me from writing sometimes, and keeps me watching Netflix for way too many days in a row.
I never wrote "for a long moment."
This is probably one of my most used first draft phrases. Along with, “She nodded.” And “She shook her head.” I write about people moving their heads a lot.
I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.
Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?
My website is brigityoung.com. My Twitter handle is @BrigitYoung and my Instagram is @BrigitYoungBooks. You can preorder my book on Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781626729209
Also, here’s me on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31835519-worth-a-thousand-words?from_search=true
Bonus question: If your book had a theme song, what would it be?
I love this question. My book’s theme song is definitely Wilco’s (featuring Fiest) “You and I.” It’s a love song, but, for me, the lyrics of the song apply to the father-child relationships in the book as well as the friendship between my protagonists. I listened to it all throughout the writing process, tears streaming down my face the whole time!
Hold it together, D.J. Spotify.