To motivate all the young writers out there, we checked in with three YA authors: Melissa de la Cruz (author of the Blue Bloods series, The Queen’s Assassin, and more), Ashley Woodfolk (author of The Beauty That Remains and When You Were Everything), and Jenny Torres Sanchez (author of We Are Not From Here and more) to hear what they’d tell their teen selves and more.
Calling all high school seniors at public high schools in the U.S.! Submissions for the Creative Writing Awards are now open. Five winners will receive $10,000 each in scholarship funds!
What is the most effective piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Melissa de la Cruz: Never give up. At some point, if you keep knocking on the doors long enough, one of them will open for you. Writing means rejection, so you have to keep going until you find acceptance, and you will!
Jenny Torres Sanchez: It might sound strange, but someone told me once to produce and it became my mantra. This was when I was pretty discouraged about writing. I wanted so badly to be a writer but I wasn’t doing much actual writing. Any sentence I wrote seemed wrong and terrible and I’d give up right away. Then someone said produce. And I don’t know, something about that word freed me—made it seem like it didn’t matter what came out—bad, generic, whatever— as long as something did.
Ashley Woodfolk: If you want writing to be your job, you have to write like it’s your job.
What would you tell high school seniors looking to embark on a publishing career?
Melissa de la Cruz: To read as many books as they can. Writing means reading. Also, keep your day job. But also: Learn how to live on less. I kept my day job for nine years and then quit and made about a fourth of what I was making as a computer programmer as a published writer, but it was worth it!
Jenny Torres Sanchez: I’d give them a high five and say, yes! And I’d tell them how much I admire them pursuing their art. It’s not easy. It is often a long, painful journey but if you persist, you can do it. It’s okay to be afraid as you go along but persist. And produce. The world needs your voice and your art.
Ashley Woodfolk: Be relentless. Persistence is key when pursuing a profession in any industry, but especially so in publishing. And beyond persisting, you’ll need to be relentless. You’ll get plenty of no’s, but keep in mind that all you need is one yes.
What would you go back and tell your high school self about your life now?
Melissa de la Cruz: All our dreams came true. Keep going!
Jenny Torres Sanchez: My high school self was a girl weighed down with a lot of anger and sadness so I’d tell her, You made something beautiful out of your pain. Your books (yes, books!) touch the hearts of others and make them feel less lonely. You find your community. You have the kind of happiness in your life you never let yourself imagine. Then I’d give myself a hug and tell myself everything really will be okay.
Ashley Woodfolk: The dreams you were afraid to believe in? They all came true. Everything is within reach if you want it badly enough.