When I saw the descriptions for the books at Harper Collins Canada’s June 21st Summer Reading event, I knew I had to be there. It was a wonderful opportunity to check out Harper Collins Canada’s beautiful new office (which has huge windows and an incredible view of downtown Toronto), and learn about some of the hottest books this summer.
Karma Brown, Tish Cohen and Uzma Jalaluddin were all very warm and friendly. They spoke about their books, their writing process, and the importance of having friends who are also writers to support you in your work.
The authors had a lot of great advice for aspiring writers. Some highlights below:
1. Write at your own pace.
Uzma said Ayesha at Last took 8 years to write. She’s a teacher and a mother as well as a writer, and there were times when she’d put the work down intending to get back to it soon, then not get back to it until a year later.
2. Don’t be afraid to start over.
Karma said she had written about 20,000 words of her manuscript when she realized it wasn’t working. So she took two shots of bourbon and decided to start from scratch. (Mini-tip: bourbon helps!) Luckily, that was about the time she heard about a case of someone with false memory syndrome, and she realized she had the hook she needed for her novel.
3. Develop your voice.
Language is a huge part of being a writer, and Tish said that developing your distinct voice as a writer is essential. “It’s what sets you apart from other writers,” she said, and it’s true. It’s hard to come up with a story that hasn’t been told before, but if you can tell it in a way that’s uniquely your own, the story can still feel fresh.
4. The first draft will never be perfect.
The writers agreed that before they started writing, they thought what you read on the page is how the author conceived of the story from the beginning. But the reality is, the final product has already gone through countless revisions, and often bears very little resemblance to the very first draft. Karma and Tish talked about the importance of listening to your editor, as they’ll often have almost as deep an understanding of your book as you do.
Uzma, as a debut author, talked about how it was like to revise her work even before she found an agent and editor. She said she wrote the very first draft of Ayesha at Last in three months, and was very proud of herself, until she showed it to some friends and learned that “it sucked.”
All three authors also talked about books they’ve written that they know are bad and will never submit for publication. They said every author likely has at least one similar manuscript at home, and it just reinforces how much work is done before a book is ready for publication.
5. Find a writing community.
All three women talked about how important it was to find other writers to support them as they wrote. Your non-writer friends and family can be supportive, but they won’t understand your frustration and insecurities as much as a fellow writer can.
Uzma highly recommends signing up for a writing class and making friends on Twitter.
Karma said she found writer friends by entering writing contests online. She said she writes at 5 am every morning, and that there’s a Twitter hashtag for authors who write at the same time, for them to support each other and cheer each other on. She also adds that if 5 am is too early for you, you can also try writing at midnight.
Tish added that everyone is at different points in their writing journey, and that writers are often very supportive regardless of where you are in your own journey. “We’re not scary,” she said. Karma agreed, adding that they’ve received so much support themselves from other writers that they’re often happy to pay it forward.
About the Books
All the books sound fascinating, and immediately made it to the top of my To-Be-Read list!
1. The Life Lucy Knew by Karma Brown
After a head injury, Lucy wakes up to find she’s developed a condition called ‘false memory’ or ‘honest lying.’ Apparently, it’s a true, but rare condition, where your mind cobbles together real bits of memory to create false ones, and it’s impossible to tell which memories are real and which aren’t. Unlike amnesia (a common literary device where another head injury brings the memories back), this condition is permanent. How do you live with that? How does it impact your loved ones? And how can you find someone you trust to tell you whether something you remember actually did or didn’t happen? In Lucy’s case, she wakes up convinced she’s married to a man (who’s actually an ex-boyfriend), but learns she’s actually not married, and her current boyfriend is someone she knows only as a co-worker.
2. Little Green by Tish Cohen
Olympic athlete Elise Sorensen confronts long-simmering marital tensions when she and her husband Matt go to Lake Placid to sell off Matt’s family’s cabin. Matt is a lawyer who has made huge sacrifices in his career to be the primary caregiver for their daughter Gracie.
3. Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
A modern day Pride and Prejudice in a Toronto Muslim community. Enough said.
Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for a fun event, and copies of the featured books.
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