Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Overcoming All Odds: Lauren Myracle

The dust has begun to settle on the National Book Awards scandal. Lauren Myracle was in the running, then pulled, and once Thanhha Lai won in the Young People's Literature category on Wednesday, few people have mentioned Myracle. But her novel, Shine, basked in the National Book Awards news coverage (a.k.a. free publicity), and as an author, Myracle is selling books more than ever before.

Throughout high school, college, and even post-graduation, Myracle met people who insisted she should forget writing. A professor once told her not to bother joining an advanced English course because she wasn't good enough. But Myracle wouldn't take it. "I decided that teacher could tell me I couldn't take her class," Myracle told a Chicago audience at Anderson's Bookshop on Sunday. "But she couldn't tell me not to become a writer."

After graduate school, the Examiner wrote, the author was rejected 118 times before she found an editor who would pay attention to her work. "I wrote [that first novel] five times in a two-year period," Myracle said. Finally, she got a piece of good news: Abrams Books for Young Readers publisher, Susan Van Metre, offered the Shine author a contract. The novel, Kissing Kate, hit bookstores in 2003.

In the last nine years, Myracle has published over twenty works, including ttyl, the first novel ever to be written entirely in instant messages. In 2009, the American Library Association said that the author's books were the most challenged of the year due to their real and often intense scenes of alcohol abuse, sexual encounters, and homosexuality. Even without the added scandal associated with the National Book Awards, Myracle's latest novel, Shine, continues to ruffle feathers in it's own way. Librarians and parents have already protested the book's story line - a teenage girl who tries to discover the who/where/when/why of her gay best friend's murder.

Forget controversy. Forget discouragement. Myracle's two- cents? "Other people tell you you're foolish to want to do [something], but don't give up." With the number of factors working against her, Myracle writes what she wants no matter who says it won't sell, and still manages to give many YA authors a run for their money.

"I live in my own little world," the author says. "But its ok, they know me here."

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