Social media is a wild ride. Stories abound about connections made, connections lost, and connections we wish would get lost. Once the conversation about social media starts, it doesn’t take long for the topics of cyberbullying, loneliness, detachment, and trolling to rear their heads. In his debut young adult novel, Don’t Read the Comments, author Eric Smith serves up all these issues—the good, the bad, and the ugly—on a silver platter for us to consider.
Divya Sharma (screen name D1V) reigns supreme in the virtual world of this year’s hottest online game, Reclaim the Sun, until a group of online trolls attempt to unseat her from her star status. The stakes of the story climb higher as we learn that her celebrity isn’t a personal ego trip; it’s the engine that drives sponsorship dollars to help her single mother pay their bills. For online gamers, this book hits close to home, and presents their greatest dream and worst nightmare wrapped into one story arc along with an intense look at the devastating personal impact of racism, sexism, and toxic masculinity. For people who aren’t familiar with online gaming, Divya’s story is a heart-wrenching scenario of a daughter willing to risk everything to help her mother who is her everything.
Much of the story focuses on Divya’s online travels with another online gamer, Aaron Jericho, as the trolling skyrockets out-of-control threatening everything, online and off, that Divya and her producer and best friend, Rebekah, have built. Aaron’s online admiration of Divya translates into a friendship and romance IRL. It’s these bittersweet moments, the silver linings that can only be realized through painful growth that precipitates drastic change, that keep readers turning the pages of Smith’s book, wanting to know how, when, and to what end Divya’s online and offline lives will collide. After the last page, we’re left wondering if there truly is or ever could be any separation at all between the world (or in Divya’s case, worlds) on screen and the material world. Or, is that separation a facade in and of itself.
I read Smith’s book in November 2019, and now in January 2020 I’m still thinking of Divya. I’m hoping that her life is working out exactly as she wanted. I’m wondering how things have evolved with Aaron and how her mom is doing with her new lease on life that Divya helped to create. I’m curious if she’s gaming, in the worlds of Reclaim the Sun or otherwise. Without me even realizing it, Divya became as real to me in the pages of Smith’s book as anyone I know. That’s the lesson of Divya’s journey for all of us—we don’t have an online life and real life. It’s all real. It’s all one life, no matter where we live it. And it all matters.
Don’t Read the Comments is published by Inkyard Press. It’s available on Amazon and Indiebound. You can follow Smith’s journey as an author and literary agent through his delightful Twitter feed @ericsmithrocks.
This is the Schitts Creek wisdom every writer needs. I just got the kindest literary agent rejection I’ve ever read and it actually motivated me to keep sending queries. My book’s not right for that agent but it is right for some agent. My quest continues to find them.
The only way your book finds its readers is if you keep believing in your story and keep striving to find the path for it. Literary history is full of rejection stories and authors who refused to give up on their work as the rejections piled up. Be one of them. Keep putting your best work out into the world.
In my last post, I told you I was nervous about raising my client fees and my firm belief that it’s absolutely necessary to know and charge what we’re worth. Despite my trepidation about raising my fees for one of my favorite clients, I submitted that proposal along with justification for the increase.
I’m happy to tell you that my client agreed to the increased rate, calling it thoughtful and more than reasonable given the value I provide to them with my work. Know your worth, have the data to support it, and speak with thoughtful conviction. It’s worth it, and so are you.
My heart’s pumping after hitting send on a consulting statement of work that significantly increases my client fee. It’s challenging to do that, especially for a client I love, and it’s absolutely necessary to price our work for the value it brings. Know your worth, writers, and don’t be afraid to price accordingly.
It’s done! I wrote a full first draft of my first feature-length screenplay in preparation for the ScreenCraft April summit in Chicago. It feels amazing to have done this. Now it goes away for a few weeks before editing begins.
Here are some thing I learned about screenwriting during this process:
1.) The months of research, reading, storyboarding, visualization, and treatment writing were incredibly helpful. More so than any other kind of writing, the planning and organization of a screenplay is critical. It makes the actual writing easier, clearer, cleaner, and faster.
2.) I wrote the first draft of my screenplay in two days, and not because the story poured out of me. It absolutely didn’t! It was the months of pre-work, that was actual work, that made all the difference.
3.) Dialogue is the main vehicle in live-action screenwriting. The look and feel of the live-action film is the director’s domain. The story and dialogue, not the visual rendering, is the domain of the writer, and the screenplay respects and reflects that.
4.) I watched Aaron Sorkin’s excellent Masterclass on screenwriting. He said that most of screenwriting is not writing at all, and that jumping in to writing too soon can complicate a screenplay in problematic ways. I had to fight the urge to jump into writing. I had to force myself to do all the upfront work before I put down a single word. I’m grateful for his advice, and though it was difficult to follow it was absolutely worth it. You can free write for a novel, short story, or journalism piece. Screenplays need a plan.
Have you written a screenplay? What did you learn in that writing process?
MasterClass recently had a Q&A on Instagram Live with Sara Blakely, Founder of SPANX. Sara offered up practical, immediately-actionable advice for anyone who is an entrepreneur, freelancer, or has goals they want to meet. I took notes and posted them over on Medium. If you like this post, please hop over to Medium, and give it some claps!
Thank you to Sara and to Masterclass for organizing this Q&A. It’s exactly the shot in the arm I needed today. Sign up for Masterclass at https://www.masterclass.com/ and follow Sara on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/sarablakely/
This year I’m working on better tracking the books I read. I created a year-long list on Goodreads and every time I hear of a book I want to read, I add it. This tracking is helping me to intentionally set aside more time for reading. If you’re interested in joining me, you can find my Goodreads profile here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17028034.Christa_Avampato
Do you intentionally put time into your calendar to read? Do you have any reading goals for 2020?
“I have a healthy relationship w/ the future. The future hasn’t been written yet…Remember we can do something. People need to show up. You feel terrible about climate change? Then do something about climate change.”
Have anxiety about the future? I’ve got something for you that will help. Listen to this Ologies Podcast episode about futurology with Rose Eveleth of the Flash Forward podcast. She is realistic and optimistic, and I love her message of empowerment and action. You will feel better after listening to this episode. Given the state of the world right now, we have to do everything we can to pick up ourselves and pick up others so we can all keep working together toward a brighter future.
Link to the podcast episode: https://www.alieward.com/ologies/futurology
Are you in the messy middle, at the gateway of contemplation (which is my tattoo!), in the space between “no more” and “not yet”? Then listen to my brilliant and inspiring friend and writing mentor, John Bucher, on the Story Gatherings podcast. Link to podcast episode here: http://storygathering.libsyn.com/a-conversation-with-john-bucher-on-liminal-space
I’ve been a huge fan of Walt Disney’s tenacity ever since I first learned his story. Of all his marvelous quotes about creativity and creative work, this one is my favorite. May you sleep to dream.
“And just like that, after a long wait, a day like any other, I decided to triumph, to look for the opportunities, not to wait. I decided to see every problem as the opportunity to find a solution. I decided to see every desert as the opportunity to find an oasis. I decided to see every night as a mystery to solve. I decided to see every day as a new opportunity to be happy. I stopped caring about who was the winner and who was the loser. Now I care only about knowing more than yesterday. I learned that the best triumph that I can have is to have the right of calling someone ‘my friend’. I discovered that love is a philosophy of life. That day I stopped being a reflection of the few triumphs in my past, and I started to be my own tenuous light of the present. That day I learned that dreams only exist to be made to come true. Since that day I don’t sleep to rest. Now, I dream just for dreams.”