Guest article written by author Joy L. Smith
Joy L. Smith is a child care professional living in Queens, New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, she has a bachelor’s degree in human development and differences, with a specialization in communication disorders. She has been writing since her teens and has been mentored by Ibi Zoboi, Radha Blank and Emma Straub through the Girls Write Now program. Turning is his first novel.
I guess I wasn’t born and decided I wanted to be a writer. It took me years to realize that creating was my calling, but I had help to guide me there. Before considering myself a writer, I considered myself a reader. Which I enjoyed reading and in doing so I tried to write stories that captivated me. And now it fills me with happiness to say that my books are in the same stores as these authors are today. I went from being outside their spaces to joining them.
Let’s talk about Sharon M. Draper. When YA authors from my teenage years come to mind, I immediately think of her. And his resume is amazing. Draper has written books that absolutely stand the test of time and a true mastery of what it means to write for teens and young adults. My favorite book by her is copper sun. The story of Amari, an African girl who is captured and sent across the Atlantic through the Middle Passage and given as a gift to her master’s son. What a timeless story, which made me cringe and root for Amari the whole time, as she used her mind to navigate this new world and reclaim her freedom. Talk about a page turner. copper sun has all the best things; stakes, voice, humor, drama and someone to care about. Personally, I’ve read it many times, but the great thing about Draper’s books is that there are so many to fall in love with.
Then there is Laurie Faria Stolarz. Like Sharon M. Draper has a large catalog of books that I looked through as a teenager, but it was her books that made me recognize the importance of a fanbase as a writer. She was the first writer I followed. When his next books will come out etc. After all, how could I not after reading Project 17 in the middle of the night with my sister and having to cover our mouths because we were scared and invested in this world she created. And she was the first author I emailed to tell me how much I loved their writing and how much I wanted to be an author too. She answered me and I will never forget her.
While I was writing my own novel about a black ballerina, it’s now TurningI started to read point by Brandy Colbert, and I remember thinking wow if she could write about a black ballerina, so can I. And like Laurie, I started following Brandy’s career, and I haven’t read all the books she’s published since. point. There’s something about reading books about black girls written by someone who was a black girl. And it’s nice that each story is so different. The black girl experience isn’t just one thing. I learn so much, I laugh so much, I get so stressed out, and I’m a better writer because of his words. I’m so glad she shared them.
I remember when I thought to myself that I would start reading more adult novels, after all I was an adult and I could live longer and longer to still be a huge YA fan. So I asked for recommendations and got one for Kiley Reid Such a fun age. I mean wow, I have never felt more seen than reading this book. And not in the writer’s sense but in the human sense. I have told so much. And that never really happened in the adult books I read, or even in YA. It was the first time I felt like I was the main character in a novel instead of watching it. The latter is always nice, but I felt like it could have been me. And that inspires me to write characters that are as authentic as possible. Maybe someone will see themselves in my stories.
Again I was recommended, Celeste Ng, Everything that I never told you and wow can she weave a bunch of characters together! As I was reading I had to stop because it was a storytelling masterclass and all I could think was that I hoped to be such a great writer one day. It was like watching the Olympics, but in literary form. How some people have obvious natural abilities and work so hard to hone their skills and just create something that looks very flawless.