Hi I’m writing this from the floor of my new apartment! I just moved places, and so naturally I decided that instead of putting together any working furniture I will start a newsletter. (I did acquire a secondhand globular lamp. I love it dearly.)
Thank you for tuning in to this first edition! As a quick introduction: I’m Christina, I’m a children’s book author (middle grade and young adult) and I’m not quite sure what direction my newsletter will take, but it’s likely going to be updates on my writing, updates on my life, with generous oversharing in both categories. I very much want this to be like a letter to a friend.
So, onto some updates from my corner of the internet…
What is Christina Up To?
I just turned in my line edits for my second middle grade book, which is coming out in late spring of 2023 (I can’t wait to share details on soon — I haven’t said much on the internet about it but I love it and mean it when I say it’s the book I truly wrote for my kid self). I also am surfacing from drafting my college YA, True Love and Other Impossible Odds (which is on Goodreads!).
I was reading this article where Madeline Miller compared drafting to a very deep dive. Which feels apt to me, because when I draft, I’m in a very immersive, surreal headspace. Time passes weirdly in there. I’m really bad at keeping up with things. I think about my characters all the time and get very into their heads. I find myself weepy on a Tuesday morning. And so when I do finally finish drafting, it really does feel like I’m emerging from my own head and into very bright and loud sunlight. But drafting this YA was a very cathartic, emotional, and at times joyful experience that I’m grateful for. It explores love of all forms — romantic love, familial love, the platonic and slightly-more-than-platonic love you have for your friends, love that comes from a math algorithm made up to determine your most compatible match (I digress), set against the backdrop of a wintry college. I can’t wait for you to meet Grace Tang and her crew in 2024.
So. Those are my life and writing updates! Onto the heart of this edition!
What I Learned from a Decade-ish in Publishing
I’ve actually been wanting to start this newsletter for a while. I know I haven’t been published for ten years, per se, but I did spend a decade of my life around and involved in publishing, so I hope that counts for something. Ten years ago, when I went from loving books to seriously dreaming of seeing my book on a shelf someday, I made a blog. It’s very endearing and sort of funny to look back on now. I specifically remember writing those posts on a cup of coffee at 11 PM (???) at night after finishing my homework, hunched over on my tiny school-borrowed laptop, blasting some kind of movie soundtrack in my ears while all I could think about was seeing my book on shelves. I used a lot of dramatic verbiage in those posts. I made shitty graphics. I miss her!
Anyway, it’s ten years down the line, which feels like twenty-five in book industry years. I’ve acquired a more ergonomic laptop. I can only drink decaf now because my anxiety will overcome my body at any hint of caffeine. I did, in fact, publish a book (which, !!!) I accumulated a good amount of stress. I feel like I’ve muddled my way through and come out of it with things I’ve learned that I would love to share. Ten things, in fact, because I feel like it’s fitting with the theme of this post.
There is never wasted work - There’s nothing more frustrating than having a story be rejected, or having written something that you weren’t satisfied with, and to have poured all the time and labor into it to have come up with nothing. But I guess if there is ever a semi-redeeming thing about it all, it’s that even work that will never see the light of day has a funny way of coming back to you. Sometimes I crack a story years down the line, or finally get to work in a snippet I’d scrapped from a manuscript. Sometimes I have to know how not to write a character to be able to do it right later on. And when that happens, it feels like you’re running into your old self the way you would a good high school friend of yours. You feel how much you’ve grown.
There are a lot of good resources online - The fundamentals of a lot of writing — how to write a query letter, how going on submission works, how to set up a revision system that works for you — I basically learned through Googling. You can put together a very decent and free education through poking around the internet — there’s a treasure trove of information out there (and I always, always recommend Pub(lishing) Crawl as a pit stop! Thank you, Pub Crawl, for raising me.)
Be judicious with feedback - Feedback is immensely important for writing. I’m a very strong believer of that. I also believe that there are a lot of kinds of feedback. The right kind of feedback can change the whole trajectory of your work, or illuminate the message you’re trying to embed in there. Notice that I’m not categorizing this as positive or constructive feedback — sometimes incredibly helpful notes will sting! I’m rather trying to point out that not only learning to take feedback but also learning to discern which feedback aligns with your vision and which feedback doesn’t has been important to me in my writing journey as well.
There are different types of rejection - This goes along with the above. There is a lot rejection in this industry. And they all hurt. What I’ve learned to try to manage that hurt is know which rejections to let in and take personally. There are a lot of rejections that are genuinely a, “hey, I appreciate this, but not my fit” type of pass. The ones to even think about letting in are the longer rejections with the but — the ones where an agent really expressed some kind of interest or praised your writing, but had some kind of reservation. Agents and editors are super busy! So when an agent or an editor takes the time out of their day to write you a longer rejection, then that means they feel strongly about your manuscript, and there is a good chance of decent feedback or potential to be gleaned from there.
Kindness goes a long, long way — My agent says something along the lines of “a rising tide lifts all boats”, and that has been incredibly true to me throughout this journey. I still remember authors who were super kind and encouraging to me when I was just starting out. They had no reason to. I had no accomplishments or anything to my name. But they still stuck a hand out for me. I remember friends who helped me when I was directionless and had no faith in myself. I remember bloggers and reviewers who shouted out Clues and took time out of their day to spread the word about it (which, bloggers and reviewers and booksellers deserve the world. The backbone of the industry fr). Publishing is a brutal industry with a long memory. It’s a slog. The friendships and relationships I’ve encountered that were unreservedly encouraging and supportive are by far what make this journey even remotely worth it. And these days, even though I really am just starting out as an author, I very much try to pay it forward however I can as well.
Protect your mental health — I took a complete social media hiatus from 2017-2019. As in, I did not go on twitter at all, which is truly remarkable for someone who simply could rattle off every bit of writing twitter discourse since 2012 from memory. There were a lot of reasons I took that break — I was burnt out and depressed, I had flopped on sub and had no idea where to go with my career, etc. etc. — but that break was immensely helpful for me. I realized that at the end of the day, I wanted to protect and take care of my brain as much as I could so that it could do what it really loved best — which was write stories, and enjoy things, and be present in my life. My brain and I touched grass for two years, essentially. And it was fucking great. And now I prioritize my mental health so much more. I realized that though very valid and important discourse happens on the internet, taking breaks and protecting your mental space is also important as well.
And while we’re on that subject, take care of your body, too — I had a go-go-go hustle mentality when I started out trying to get published. It was the Hamilton era, so it was very much along the lines of “why do you write like you’re running out of time”. Which is kind of valid. I loved writing and wanted to be published, and to do so you have to be so motivated that it’s a little unhinged sometimes. But what happened is that I compromised my own health a lot. I cut sleep to force myself through 10k days. I thought I could blaze through on sheer willpower and “spite those who don’t believe in you” energy, which, again, valid! But turns out the body does keep track! I burned out, big time. My right wrist is still wonky. Even my writing suffered for it. These days I’m trying to have a much kinder conversation with myself. I’m still writing, but in a way that listens to my body. It’s much more sustainable, I think.
Be open and adaptive to changing things up — once upon a time, I was a YA fantasy writer. lmfaoooo. I even got repped for it! I thought I would be a YA fantasy writer forever. That was all I read. I had a very restricted idea of what I thought I liked and was capable of creating. But after flopping on sub a bit and burning out a bit (see 6 and 7), I was just entirely lost for a year or two. And what brought me back to my love for books and writing was a middle grade contemporary. I fell in love with the genre, and started thinking about these two twelve-year-old characters who were building a rocket. And the rest is history. I am very much a contemporary writer now. I love writing for kids. And I’m dabbling in other genres as well and having a great time.
Do the things that give you joy — There’s so much advice on how to be a writer in general: write every day, get Scrivener, get a Save the Cat beat sheet, get an aesthetic instagram, get on TikTok and market yourself. And so much of that is really solid advice, because, they all have a great track record of working. But I think the important question is whether they work for you or not. I’m really bad at keeping a routine. I can’t take aesthetic book photos for my life (although I am trying to get better about that). I mostly upload Phoebe Bridgers shitposts to TikTok. I know I can always be technically better at writing or marketing myself or my book, but again, I only really want to do the things that I like and want to be good at. I want to do things that give me serotonin, and feed back into the happy brain -> healthy headspace for writing loop.
Celebrate what you’ve done, no matter how large or small — Please do this. Finishing a book is a big fucking deal! So is finishing that query letter, or that pitch, or synopsis, or finally cracking that story open. This is partially a self-reminder as well. It is so so easy to slip onto that hamster wheel of worrying about the next big thing instead of taking the time and space to celebrate yourself the way you’d once dreamed of celebrating once you hit that point. You did that!
Those are my biggest takeaways so far, or kernels of wisdom, I guess. The word wisdom I use lightly because I feel like so much has changed and the industry I entered is, in a lot of ways, different from the one I’m in these days. It’s always changing, and I’m always learning one thing or another. Which I very much want to keep doing.
What’s Currently on my Mind
Currently reading: Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation by Sylvia Liu (which is an absolutely brilliant, inventive, and imaginative sci-fi and I’m loving it so far) and Pachinko (finally getting around to it after unanimous recommendations)
Currently listening to: The Cause by Tommy Lefroy, Lift Off by Labrinth, Grow Up by Stray Kids, and CUFF IT by Beyonce
Okay, thank you for making it to the end of this novel of a first newsletter. I promise my next installments will be shorter! And I will continue to overshare but also hopefully more succinctly! Thanks for stopping by :)
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reading this felt like a warm hug
you are an icon, a legend, the absolute light of my life