I remember the phone call in vivid detail. “We have an offer,” said my agent, “for Deadly Stranger.” With goosebumps on my arms and my heart racing, I jotted notes as she talked. Then I hung up and burst into tears. That morning remains one of the high points of my life.
I’d previously sold plays, short stories, two adult nonfiction books, and Winning Monologs for Young Actors, but Deadly Stranger was my first novel for children, the book where I finally found my voice and discovered my life’s work. It impacted my entire way of life.
Soon after Deadly Stranger was published, a teacher asked me to speak at her school. I was astonished. It had never occurred to me that anyone might want me to be a speaker. I’ve since talked at schools, libraries, and conferences all across the country. These events provided fresh ideas, introduced new friends, and fed my creativity. What a fantastic adventure!
But the biggest impact from the sale of that first novel was internal. It was the shining knowledge that I had aimed for what seemed unattainable, and I had achieved it. That glow remains. It allows me to take chances, to write what interests me regardless of what’s currently popular. It keeps me slogging through sagging first drafts because I know the end result will be worth the drudgery. It is the sure, constant awareness that being a writer of books for kids is not just what I do as a career. It is who I am.
No matter how many times it happens, it is still a thrill when a book is published, and every book reinforces the commitment and the joy created by that first one.
Note: A version of this blog was written when I was a guest blogger for my talented friend, Kirby Larson.