Just an Author Blog

Reflections on the Journey to Publication and Beyond...

The Author’s Life Cycle

For a conference last year I developed a presentation about my experience as a debut author. I call it “My Journey with The Rock and the River,” and it’s all about the phenomenon I’ve dubbed The Author’s Life Cycle. The evolution of this presentation was pretty unusual, because the topic they had asked me to present on was “My Journey to the NAACP Image Awards,” which initially gave me the eemy-squeamy feeling of tooting my own horn a little too hard. But as I thought more about it, I realized there actually was an important journey I could speak about. A journey that wasn’t about the award itself (such things are windfall, entirely beyond our personal control), but about my transformation from being a person who wrote a novel once to being a person whose book was out in the world, rapidly gaining attention and reaching new readers every day.

The Author’s Life Cycle is an ongoing process, one that renews itself with each and every book. It’s not singular, or static, or a thing that you move through in a linear fashion, graduating from one stage to the next, never to return. It is practically a living entity that exists alongside you, grows with you and changes with you, always keeping you on your toes. If you’re lucky. If you’re not, it can just as easily spin you into despair or dissolution.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

I. Alone in my room: The exciting, independent creative process of developing your manuscript.
II. Publish me, pretty please: The long road to publication; the queries, rejections, hope and despair.
III. My baby, all grown up: The publication experience; the transition from manuscript to actual book.
IV. Feedback: Receiving reviews, meeting your readers, releasing ownership of your material to your audience.
V. Interfacing and Inspiration: Drawing on new activities and interactions for renewed inspiration.

I have a LOT to say about this journey and its stages (hence the decision to blog), but for now I leave you with this:

Once I began to understand this cycle, it explained so much about the roller coaster of emotions I experienced along with The Rock and the River. The overwhelming, preoccupying joy at one end of the spectrum, down to the deep, unsettling anxiety of feeling overexposed and vulnerable.

It was so hard to talk about all those emotions, especially because I couldn’t figure out who to talk about them to. Friends and family care about my well-being, but they just don’t fully get it. (“You’re published. You’ve arrived. What’s the problem?”) Writer friends got some of it, but because I was one of the first among my inner circle to publish, it was hard sometimes to talk about the ups and downs without feeling like I was bragging about what I’d achieved. (“You’re nervous about talking to your new editor? You mean the editor for your soon-to-be-published novel? Boo, hoo.”) So, I ended up shouldering these feelings mostly alone.

I suspect that says more about me and my own little hang-ups than it does about the people in my life, who have been unfailingly supportive and sympathetic. It’s simply my way of speaking about some of the isolating aspects of authorhood. We start out in our private little worlds, writing up a storm, but there comes a point (somewhere around your first book birthday) where it’s time to step out of our heads and into the world. And it’s so much scarier than putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Turns out, that was the easy part.

Starting the Journey

The genesis for my new blog focus is somewhat sprawling. It’s taken me a long time to figure out what I want to say about the real world (fiction comes easy). But I like to think that when a course of action is the right fit, there will be multiple paths leading you to it. Even if you make some strange choices along the way, if you’re paying close attention those paths will wind you right back to where you’re supposed to be going.

I started thinking about “the author’s journey” about a year ago, during a period of time when I found myself answering lots of questions from debut authors. Questions like:

How do I prepare for a school visit? How much do I need to self-promote? How do you deal with a bad review? How important is a blog, and do I have to get on Twitter? How do I explain to my friends that writing is a real job, not just a hobby? What kinds of questions are my readers likely to ask? Where can I order cheap bookmarks? I’m dying to see my book on a bookstore shelf–how do I get bookstores to carry it? Will it ever stop being really cool to see my book on a bookstore shelf?

I could never purport myself to be a true authority on any of these things, but I found that I had answers to the questions, and a perspective to share based on my experiences. It seemed to be helpful to people. And I wanted to continue talking, because it felt reassuring to know that the years of struggle since my debut novel sold might actually be relevant to someone other than me. In other words, I’m starting to feel a lot less alone in the world, and the best thing I can think to do with that feeling is to share it.

I found this video of myself at an SCBWI conference almost two years ago, and it pretty much sums up my feelings…

…even though I didn’t immediately recognize the full meaning of what I was trying to express. At the time, it was one of my first video appearances, and I was just happy that I didn’t come across looking or sounding like a total idiot!

Many paths, same destination.

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women’s Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!
The Women’s Mosaic is a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides education, inspiration, and motivation for women to rise up and rock the world! The Women’s Mosaic unites and empowers women through programs that promote intercultural understanding and personal growth. We are a community of diverse, dynamic women interested in expanding our horizons by creating positive change that can individually and collectively enrich the world.

The ARCs are here!


I just got my Advanced Reader Copies for 37 Things I Love, due out from Henry Holt in May 2012.

People sometimes ask if things like this get old after you’ve done a few books. Well, NOT FOR ME!!! It’s differently exciting for each book, but still very exciting to see a project that was years in the making finally coming to fruition.

Happy day.

Find out more about the book, or pre-order it, at IndieBound.

Camo Girl Chat

In the spirit of posting video links, here is a short video of me talking about Camo Girl. There are a lot of random clips of me talking about The Rock and the River; I figured Camo Girl was due its turn in the spotlight.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why the still image at the opening looks the way it does, I have no idea. Kind of cool, kind of weird. Not on purpose. That is how these things go. I’m new to online video.

Camo Girl from Kekla Magoon on Vimeo.

Author Kekla Magoon discusses her inspirations for her middle grade novel Camo Girl (Aladdin 2011).

On Violence and Racism, Then and Now

I’ve just been reminded of this video interview that I did for Zetta Elliott more than a year ago, after a panel at the New York Public Library. This is one of my favorite videos to date of me talking about the motivations behind writing The Rock and the River.

Plus, after my part, Zetta filmed Rita Williams-Garcia and Tonya Cherie Hegamin. Never hurts to share billing with fabulous ladies like them. This was a great panel! I have a feeling that one day soon it’s going to be time for us to take our show on the road….

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women’s Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!
The Women’s Mosaic is a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides education, inspiration, and motivation for women to rise up and rock the world! The Women’s Mosaic unites and empowers women through programs that promote intercultural understanding and personal growth. We are a community of diverse, dynamic women interested in expanding our horizons by creating positive change that can individually and collectively enrich the world.

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women’s Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!
The Women’s Mosaic is a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides education, inspiration, and motivation for women to rise up and rock the world! The Women’s Mosaic unites and empowers women through programs that promote intercultural understanding and personal growth. We are a community of diverse, dynamic women interested in expanding our horizons by creating positive change that can individually and collectively enrich the world.

Cynsational Me

My guest post was featured yesterday on Cynsations, author Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s awesome all-things-kidlit blog.

I blogged about my inspirations for writing Camo Girl, my novel about friendship and fitting in in middle school.

Camo Girl deals with some hot-button issues of the day, like bullying, but mainly it is about learning to recognize real friendship and accepting yourself even when you are different from everyone around you.

Here’s a teaser from my guest post.:

What’s your inspiration?” is a question that most authors I know get asked a lot—by friends, by child readers, by fellow writers.

Like most authors (I suspect), I’ve developed semi-canned answers to this question—answers which are based on truth, but which always leave me feeling a bit squirmy. I never can get to the bottom of something as unwieldy as my inspiration in a sound bite….”

…which is why I had to write an entire article about it. Read the rest here.

New Year, New Directions

Okay, so it isn’t the new year yet, but I can’t believe how fast the summer disappeared, and how quickly the fall seems to be getting chomped up, too. It’s already mid-October (eek!) and I’m sure I’ll be dragging out my snowboots and singing Auld Lang Syne much sooner than I can possibly imagine.

So, I just wanted to share a quick update about some changes that I’m planning and some new ideas that I’m forming about my online presence. In short: I need to step it up a notch! I started this blog when my first book was published, believing that it would be a good way to keep people informed of my activities. It is, but I’ve felt for a while now that I can’t be an effective blogger until I find a focus and direction for my posts that is larger than myself and more content-rich than simple self-promotion.

Happy news: After only three years, I finally figured out what I want to blog about! Hooray!

The new focus for my blog (as yet untitled) is going to be the author’s journey. I’ll share my reflections on the experience of transitioning from being a person who aspires to publish, to a person with a book contract in hand, to a person who is a published author, especially focusing on all the steps along the journey from being a debut novelist to being an established and successful author. Writers view publication as the epitome of success, but there’s also a profound personal and professional journey that begins when you get your first contract. Sometimes it feels like you’ve been thrust into no-man’s-land, and we don’t talk enough about how to negotiate the “after.” I hope this blog can become a gathering place for authors to share their experiences and struggles (personal and professional) as well as a place to welcome debut writers into the fold with resources, advice and support that will help them get off to a great start.

I’m updating my website design now, and it will all launch in January, so I’ll do some cross-posting at that time and try to drum up new traffic and start a broader conversation. In the meantime, for the benefit of my few but faithful followers, I’m going to be posting some initial material on these topics so that when the brand new blog (yay!) goes live, I’ll already have some things posted for people to look at.

Basically, this is a warning to my existing fans (you are few, but you are loyal!): Don’t freak out when I start posting more than once a week! I truly hope you’ll join me when I move to the new and improved keklamagoon.com, and that you’ll add your insights to the conversation there.

Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net