Children’s author Lauren Myracle may be the only person who can lay claim to the title of being a former National Book Award finalist. After her teen novel, Shine, was identified in a live October 12 broadcast as one of five finalists for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, the National Book Foundation later admitted the announcement was made in error and asked Myracle to withdraw her book from consideration.
BookPage contacted Myracle at her home in Colorado to find out more about how she was coping with the events of the controversy.
How did it feel to be the person at the center of a media maelstrom?
Ha. This question makes me laugh. It felt . . . familiar! And also bizarre, as it always does, because I swear to Bob, I don't seek out these maelstroms. And regarding this one in particular, I did not make it happen! My mom was like, "Oh, Lauren, controversy follows you wherever you go, doesn't it?" And I said, "But, Mom. I DID NOTHING THIS TIME, I PROMISE!" :)
Were you surprised by the outpouring of support you received from the book community after the news broke?
I was, yes, because of how much love was beamed my way. It was crazy and beautiful and made me cry. But more than surprise, my primary response was, Oh, wow. I love the KidLit community SO much. I love people (most of 'em) SO much. I am one blessed woman to have the support of old friends, new friends and even yet-to-be friends. Again and again, I have to just stop, breathe and honor the gratitude that has made my heart grow at least three times bigger. I am one lucky, awed and very humbled Lauren.
Do you think all the attention might end up being better for your career than a National Book Award would have been?
Well, given that it is what it is, and I don't have a time machine with which to go back and change anything, I'm going to go with . . . YES! Why not? I mean, it stunk big time at first. It did, and no denying that. But I'm tough(ish). I've seen my share of ickiness, and I always come out on the other side. Not only that, but this experience has reinforced an important lesson for me, a lesson I learned early on in my path toward being a writer. When I was a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill, I was told that I wasn't "good enough" to major in Creative Writing, as the Creative Writing major was based on a selection process. Then, in grad school, I was told again that my creative writing wasn't up to "graduate level" standards, and my request to take a creative writing workshop was denied. What I realized in both of those cases—after tears, tears, tears—was, "Okay, these professors can tell me that I can't take their writing classes, but they can't tell me I can't write." The corollary here is, "Okay, the NBF peeps can tell me I'm not 'worthy' of being a NBA finalist, but they can't tell me what my true worth is. No way, no how, no sir." With that in mind, yes, I think my career will benefit, because I as a human have benefited . . . by being forced to do a little growing, you know?
Again and again, I have to just stop, breathe and honor the gratitude that has made my heart grow at least three times bigger. I am one lucky, awed and very humbled Lauren.
Have you spoken to Franny Billingsley about what happened? If not, what would you want to say to her if you had the opportunity?
Ah, Franny and I are good. She's a dear—and Chime, which happens to be the only one of the NBA finalists I've read (yet!), is lyrical, gorgeous, moody as can be (and I LOVE moody), and I am SO delighted for her that her book as been given this well-deserved recognition. She and I have plans to drink champagne together the next time we're in the same city at the same time. We will drink champagne, laugh, and raise our glasses to the awesomeness of life, books and friends.
What's the most important lesson you've learned from this series of events?
Oh my. Aside from re-remembering NOT TO RELY ON EXTERNAL VALIDATION? I'll go with listening to my brilliant editor, Susan Van Metre, and taking the time to sleep on things instead of making knee-jerk emotional responses. And you know what else? As a child, I was scared to DEATH of crying in public. As an adult, I've come to believe that letting out your emotions is healthy, while keeping them in is the path to bitter crabby-patties. So I've tried to let myself cry when I need to, and to let others comfort me and hug me and send me cookies when they need to, or just want to. I have yet to master that lesson, but this experience has helped me get closer!
How has all of this affected your writing routine?
Hahahahaha. What's that? My writing routine? Oh yeah, I used to have one of those. Um, I have been OFF MY GAME for over two weeks now. It is madness and must stop! (Tomorrow . . . tomorrow!)
Though all the attention is on Shine right now, your next book, Oopsy Daisy, due out in January, is the third in your Flower Power series for tweens. Have your real-life friendships inspired the Flower Power girls?
Oh, always, just as my real-life friendships and experiences inspired Shine. Listen: I like people. I like people A LOT. Not everyone does; I get that. But one of the key themes in *all* of my books is the importance of finding your tribe, learning how to be a friend, learning how to lean on your friends. So my answer to this question is an unequivocal YES.
Do you think it's harder to be a teenager or a grownup?
Funny question! I like it. Forgive me for splitting my answer, but: I think it's harder to be a teenager because everything is so . . . there, so present, so pressing and dramatic, so potentially heartbreaking at every turn. (It's also AWESOME to be a teenager, though, yah?) But in terms of BORINGNESS like mortgages and preparing meals, grown-ups have it harder. (My kids KEEP wanting dinner. Every single night they want dinner, and in the mornings, they have the gall to want oatmeal, or homemade cinnamon buns. What's up with that? And laundry, oh good golly. Don't even get me started.) At the end of the day, life is glorious at all ages, and life is hard at all ages. That's just the way of it.
Looking a couple of years down the road, if someone calls to inform you that you're a finalist for a major literary award, how will you react?
I will tell said caller to call my publisher, who will go to the ends of the earth and back to make sure that it's EFFING REAL. Then . . . then I will throw 5,000 gumdrops into the air and twirl around until I'm so dizzy I fall to the floor.
What's the funniest thing anyone has said to you about this unfortunate mistake?Someone retweeted this, from @michaelschaub: OH MY GOD LAUREN MYRACLE CONGRATULATIONS ON THE BOOKER oh wait nevermind sorry. That made me laugh, as did this one from my dear friend @SarahMlynowski: NBA is missing out. Lauren is best part of a party! Because she's right. I am an excellent party attendee. But guess what? I will celebrate regardless. It'll just be life I'm celebrating, and writing good books, and being blessed with all the amazing people in my little/big world.