Tag: christine day

Author Guest Post: Finding Your Voice In Kidlit Publishing

As she prepares for the release of her first novel, I Can Make This Promise, author Christine Day reflects on the hurdles, realizations, and soul-searching that led her to this moment.


 

Five years ago, I received my first email from a literary agent. It was a novel moment, opening my inbox and seeing her message there, after weeks of form rejections and unimpressed silences. I had learned about this agent through the Acknowledgments section of a recent New York Times bestseller, a YA novel with a beautiful—yet somewhat lonely-looking—blonde girl on its cover, the first installment in a trilogy. I knew these books would continue to sell, that this author and this series would reign on the center tables and endcaps at Barnes & Noble. And here was their agent, talking to me. Taking time out of her busy day, to share her thoughts on my work:

“I love the voice here, but this kind of dystopian novel is a tough sell these days, plus I honestly think your voice feels more contemporary than dystopian. By chance are you working on anything else you could show me right now?”

I had nothing else. Nothing more than outlines and ideas, vague glimmers of possibility. I wrote back to thank her for her kind words and her time, and I told her I would be in touch with a contemporary manuscript.

In the storytelling business, we call moments like these “false victories.” A false victory is, essentially, a protagonist’s missed opportunity to confront their problems. It’s a moment when various plot threads have come together, and the story’s momentum is moving forward, inching towards resolution. However, the real ending can’t happen yet, because the stubborn protagonist hasn’t learned the theme (or universal lesson) of their own personal journey. 

That was me. I misinterpreted the lesson that presented itself here. I thought this positive interaction with a successful agent was my breakthrough. I thought that I’d entered Act Three, the book deal of my dreams within sight, just waiting for me to prove myself and reach out and take it.

But I had a lot of soul-searching left to do. And there were plenty of false victories and defeats on the path ahead of me. 

I would go on to write three more manuscripts, and interact with dozens of agents. I eventually switched email accounts, opting to contact them from the .edu address issued by my university, because I felt anxious and inexperienced and desperate for legitimacy. I pictured these agents as polished professionals, skimming my work in their chic offices in New York City, while I lurked around in sweatpants, stress-drinking coffee.

I’m so close, I kept thinking. All I need is the right idea.

I tried to be original and marketable. I wrote hard and fast. I spun undeniably high-concept, plot-driven gibberish. I raised the narrative stakes, and cut the quieter storytelling moments, despite how much I loved writing introspective characters and literary scenery. I worried about holding their attention. I wondered if these words would be enough.

I still hadn’t learned my lesson. 

Here’s the thing about writing to get published: You tend to lose sight of the stories you want to tell. The stories that burn brightest inside of you. This happens because the prospect of breaking into the industry starts to feel like a game of chance. Every query letter sent feels like a lottery ticket purchased. Every twist and turn in the market feels relevant to the imagined value of your manuscript.

But you are not operating purely on luck. And you are not trading in stocks. You are not a business, or a brand, or a serial number; you are a person. You are a writer. You are here to tell the stories that need to be told. 

I spent several years writing to get published. Writing what I believed the market wanted. 

Now here I am, five years later, holding a final copy of my first novel—an MG novel, with a beautiful Native girl staring determinedly into the distance on its cover. And I can’t help but wonder why I ever thought dystopian novels were for me, when I am so clearly suited to this. To hope. To optimistic and radiant futures. 

 

Featured Images Via HarperCollins

 

Christine Day’s debut novel for middle-grade readers, I Can Make This Promise, is out October 1st from HarperCollins.

This Beautiful Middle-Grade Novel About Native American Identity Is a Game Changer

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day doesn’t come out until October 1st, but it’s already making waves. Day’s debut is inspired by her own family’s history and follows a girl named Edie Green who uncovers her family’s secrets, and discovers her true identity as Native American.

Christine Day and I Can Make This Promise | Images Via HarperCollins

 

Tackling themes of identity, coming-of-age and First Nations family separations, Christine Day, who is Upper Skagit, has written a beautiful, sensitive and hopeful debut, and in doing so has added some much needed First Nations representation to the middle-grade reading pool.

All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. So, no matter how curious she might be about her Native American heritage, Edie is sure her family doesn’t have any answers.

Until the day when she and her friends discover a box hidden in the attic—a box full of letters signed “Love, Edith,” and photos of a woman who looks just like her.

Suddenly, Edie has a flurry of new questions about this woman who shares her name. Could she belong to the Native family that Edie never knew about? But if her mom and dad have kept this secret from her all her life, how can she trust them to tell her the truth now?

While the story is inspired by Day’s own family history, the book is not autobiographical. In an interview with The Horn Book Inc., Day stated:

In earlier drafts of this book, the family’s story was almost identical to mine. When I finally departed from the full, absolute truth of my personal history, I fell in love with the revision process. It was so liberating and inspiring to blur the lines between fact and fiction. Everything in this book still feels like it could be true to me. But it no longer feels like I’ve said too much.

I Can Make This Promise has received starred reviews from both Kirkus Reviews, who calls it, “enlightening and a must-read for anyone interested in issues surrounding identity and adoption”, and Publishers Weekly who have dubbed it “an affecting novel [that] also considers historical truths about how Native Americans have been treated throughout U.S. history, particularly underlining family separations.” Cherokee Nation’s Traci Sorell, award-winning author of We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, says “Day’s novel brings an accessible, much-needed perspective about the very real consequences of Indigenous children being taken from their families and Native Nations. The absence of one’s tribal community, loss of culture and lack of connection to relatives have ripple effects for generations.”

Described by Hayley Chewins, author of The Turnaway Girls, as a book that “manages to be both deeply sad and brightly hopeful”, I Can Make This Promise approaches difficult subject matter with the sensitivity and skill required by any great children’s author, which is what Day undoubtedly is.

Day holds a master’s degree from the University of Washington, where she wrote her thesis on Coast Salish weaving traditions. A huge ice cream fan, (her favorite flavors are Rainbow Sherbet by Baskin-Robbins and Half Baked by Ben & Jerry’s, for those wondering), Day is also super into Harry Potter (rating Prisoner of Azkaban as her number one!) and the Marvel Comics Universe.  You can find her online at bychristineday.com, where she has writing tips, a discussion guide for educators, a blog, fun facts and more! You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with her news, as there is sure to be lots to come!