YA novelist kicks off Walton Arts and Ideas Series Community Education Program

Release Date: 1/21/2010

Clarksville, Ark. --- W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three secrets to writing a novel: unfortunately nobody knows what any of them are!"

Anna Myers, however, has a clue.

Myers, author of 19 award-winning young adult novels, presented “How to Write and Sell Your First Novel” at the first meeting of the Walton Arts and Ideas Series Community Education Program for 2010 at the Walton Fine Arts Center.

“This I believe firmly,” Myers began her talk. “Anyone can learn to write.” Myers, who regularly gives presentations on writing to classrooms and other groups, succinctly distilled her two decades of publishing experience for her listeners. “Actually, I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since the age of six,” she explained. “I think ‘story’ is the most important thing there is, except for love. Because of ‘story,’ we get religion, history, a sense of family.” She said her first story, The Long-Bearded Man, was dictated to her older sister when she was six. She then charged her siblings, including the sister, a quarter apiece to read it. “That was big money in those days!” she said.

Myers attributed much of her early success to the support of her late husband Paul, also a writer, to whom she was married for 30 years, and with whom she had three children. “I did invest in myself and my writing career over the years, going to seminars and workshops,” she said. “Because I knew that those three little children we had one right after the other were all going to need to go to college, one right after the other. And thanks to the books I wrote and sold, they aren’t paying off student loans now.” Her first book was published in 1992, and she has published a book every year since then.

During the lecture, Myers discussed techniques for getting started on a successful writing career, including tips on writing (“Brainstorm a plot. Know the beginning and how you want the main character to be at the end. Get a first draft done as quickly as you can”), suggestions for marketing (“They used to say you should only send your manuscript to one publisher at a time, but that takes a long time. Send it around”), how to work with agent and publishers, dealing with rejection, and real-life success (“I make a decent living writing and speaking. I can support myself. But I don’t make a lot of money.”)

She discussed in detail how to get through a first draft, which included giving yourself permission “to write poorly. If you get to the end of the first draft,” she said, “you’re ahead of 95 percent of people who say they want to write a novel.”

“Your first page or two make or break your book,” she said. “You have to grab them right away.” She illustrated the point by reading the openings from three different novels. “These issues you figure out when you rewrite,” she said. “Is the beginning right? You don’t sit and wait for the right beginning. You start to write, and later you figure it out.”

Her most important pieces of advice were to continue to learn, and never to give up. “It took me seven years to sell my first novel,” she said. “Use what you can from your own life in your first book. Not the actual events, but the emotions that go with events. And write a story that demands to be told, not a story that teaches something. The purpose of the story is the story itself.”

The Community Education Program will continue on Monday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. when Tom and Hobbit Singleton host a discussion on long distance walking and running. For more information on upcoming programs, contact Ginny Sain at gsain@ozarks.edu or 979-1346.