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  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Ali Standish Guest Post and The Ethan I Was Before Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author Ali Standish here with a guest post and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE. It sounds like a great middle grade story about a boy that I think many of your kids or you will like.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from Boston to the small town of Palm Knot, Georgia.

Palm Knot may be tiny, but it’s the home of possibility and second chances. It’s also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, except Ethan isn’t the only one with secrets. Coralee’s are catching up with her, and what she’s hiding might be putting both their lives at risk.

Now here's Ali!

I’ve found that it is pretty common in conversations with other authors to hear them talk about the many rejections they received from agents, then editors, before they finally heard the word “yes.” Sometimes, another author will chime in to proudly one-up the first. “Dozens? I got hundreds!”

I generally find myself nodding along with these conversations and making that sympathetic face that says “I feel your pain.”

In truth though, I had an exceptionally smooth journey from first page to first edition. I wrote the first draft of The Ethan I Was Before in the spring of 2014. By January of 2015, I had an agent, and by March, I had a two-book deal. This January, just under two years since I wrote the first word of the first page, my debut novel hit shelves.

Before you think me too terribly self-important, let me say that I had a lot of circumstantial things working in my favor at the time that put me at quite an advantage. In 2014 I was enrolled in a children’s writing MFA program, where I had a handful of preternaturally talented readers whose critiques of my first draft were instrumental to my revision process. And because I was living in the UK, where I didn’t yet even have a work visa, I had no pesky day job to distract me from chasing my bliss.

Still, I admit, I never quite understood the boastful tones of authors when they swapped slush-pile
stats. Wasn’t rejection something people generally preferred not to talk about with others? Wasn’t it just a bit…unseemly?

Then, this past fall, I got my first negative review. And I was shattered. The self confidence that had resulted from my expedient path to publication took all of sixty seconds to evaporate into thin air.

Ah, I thought. So this is what real rejection feels like. It feels like failure.

After a few other stumbling blocks in the fall left me feeling uncertain about my future as a writer, my wonderful agents counseled me that publishing is rarely a smooth ride for long. And I realized that of course they were right. Being a children’s author is my wildest dream. And your wildest dreams do not come true without struggle, without setbacks.

I realized something else, too. Those authors who had slogged through months, years, or even decades of rejections from agents and editors—they had known this already. They knew rejection to be an inevitable part of this job. They had been knocked back, and they had gotten up, dusted themselves off, and gone back to work. They understood, much earlier along than I, that rejection is only the end of the world if you let it be.

This is why, I suspect, some authors wear each rejection as a badge of honor. Because every one strengthens your resolve and makes you more resilient. Every door that slams in your face makes you a better writer, more prepared for the challenges that will certainly lie ahead. Had I had to reckon with a bit more rejection at the outset, I might not have been so ready to throw in the towel at the first sign that my book would not be universally adored.

So my difficult (and possibly maddening) advice for aspiring authors is this: Try not to get too discouraged by rejection when it comes. Use it as an opportunity to reflect and grow, and yes, perhaps as an excuse to wallow in front of Netflix for a while, but do not confuse it with failure. Know that you will one day encounter rejection again. Maybe a reviewer hates your book, or ignores it altogether, or a major retailer doesn’t want to stock it, or your second manuscript doesn’t sell. And when that happens, you will be able to look back and say: “I have been rejected before. It made me better. So, too, will this.”

Ali Standish grew up in North Carolina and spent several years as an educator in the Washington, DC, public school system. She has a BA in English from Pomona College, an MFA in children’s writing from Hollins University and an MPhil in children’s literature from Cambridge University. Her debut novel, The Ethan I Was Before, received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and has been honored as a Spring 2017 Junior Library Guild Selection, Winter/Spring 2017 Indies Introduce and Indies Next pick, and Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Winter 2017 Okra Pick. Find her online at www.alistandish.com and @alistandish on Twitter.

Ali has generously offered a copy of THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through March 4th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. The giveaway is for U.S. and Canada.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, February 22nd, I have an agent spotlight with Linda Camacho with a query critique giveaway

Monday February 27th, I have a guest post by debut author Stephanie Garber about her new YA fantasy CARAVAL

Wednesday March 1st I have an IWSG post and an interview with Caroline Starr Rose and a giveaway of her new MG historical adventure JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY'S MINE

Monday March 6th I have a guest post by debut author Michael Miller and a giveaway of his YA science fiction SHADOW RUN

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Stephanie Faris said...

Congratulations to Ali!!! I've seen several authors have great success after going through an MFA program. It definitely sounds like a good route to take.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There's going to be a bumpy ride somewhere, whether it's sooner or later. Just keep powering through it, Ali.

S.P. Bowers said...

Rejection is part of every author's journey, no matter how it comes or when.

Greg Pattridge said...

I always loved this quote by Bo Bennett: "A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success." Congrats, Ali.

Bish Denham said...

If we are honest with ourselves, rejection comes in all forms throughout our lives. Your books sounds wonderful, Ali. Congratulations!

I've tweeted about the giveaway.

Christine Rains said...

Congratulations to Ali! I completely agree. Rejections must strengthen us or the dream will crumble.

Michael G-G said...

One thing one realizes as one reads writers' stories about their journeys to publication is that each and every path is different. Personally, my writer's anthem is Chumbawamba's "I get knocked down But I get up again You're never going to keep me down." Tweeting about the giveaway!https://twitter.com/MGMafioso/status/833725097298890752

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Thanks for this. It's good to know I can wear my many rejections as a badge of honor! Usually I don't talk about them. Congrats on the book.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post! Rejection is such a big part of this business!

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for sharing your publication journey today. Your book sounds really fun to read and i'm looking orward to doing just so. I shared on twitter.

Karen Lange said...

Ali, nice to meet you and hear a little about your journey. Wish you well with your book!

Natalie, thanks for hosting. You are such a gracious hostess. :) I'll pass on the giveaway this time. Have a great week!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Congrats to Ali. Sounds like an interesting story. And, yes, rejection can eat us alive or we can use it to fire us up.

Unknown said...

Great post. I always love to hear about an author's journey. Sounds like a great book.

Kirsti Call said...

This sounds like such a fun book! I can't wait to check it out!

Julie R said...

This book sounds kind of heartbreaking and kind of beautiful. Really excited to read it.

Unknown said...

Would love to win this book! monicachess26(@)gmail(.)com. Shared on twitter: https://twitter.com/ChessmoreMonica/status/834086264374689797

jpetroroy said...

Congrats, Ali!

Suzanne Warr said...

I've heard so many great things about The Ethan I Was Before that it's great to learn a bit more about the author behind the story. Thanks so much for a great post, Natalie and Ali!

Valerie Bodden said...

Congratulations, and thanks for the reminder about how to see rejection in a positive light! valbodden(at)gmail(dot)com

Beth said...

Great interview - this sounds like a charming book!

Rosi said...

Another fascinating interview. Thanks for this. I will pass on the giveaway. I have so many books just now I have to read.

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed Ali's guest post! Her book sounds clever and deep. I think the rejection badge of honor is because of the saying: "The successful writer is the one who didn't give up." Saying you've gotten 100 rejections but are still writing means you're tough and determined to persevere!

mary said...

Thanks for the advice. Your book sounds wonderful, I'm looking forward to reading it and hoping I will win it!

DMS said...

Congrats to Ali on her smooth ride to publication. I can only imagine how lovely that would be!

Rejection is definitely tough and as writers our skin keeps getting tougher. Still, each rejection or negative review can still be hard to take at first. Great advice, Ali!

The Ethan I was Before sounds interesting. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. :)