Friday, January 29, 2010

Dream big 2010 - written by L.K. Madigan

The first book I ever wrote was a 78-paged manuscript entitled MERMAIDS FUN. (Please excuse the punctuation error – I was only eight years old.)

The book came complete with illustrations, as you can see. (Full disclosure: my artistic skills never evolved beyond what you see in the photo.)

As I grew up, I kept writing. I remember handing out personalized short stories to my best friends in junior high about their fictional alter egos. In those stories, the girl always got the boy.

In high school my English assignments came back with enthusiastic praise from my teachers, and I even won a few trophies for creative writing. During college, I wrote angst-infused, cryptic poetry and short stories. Happily for the world of literature, my poetry phase did not last long, and I had sense enough to realize that my short stories were nothing special. I started writing my first novel, which was (wait for it) an angst-infused coming-of-age story about a girl who sounded an awful lot like me. (I know … you’re shocked!)

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was serving my apprenticeship in the craft of wordsmithing. (Yes, I said wordsmithing, and no I don’t think it’s pretentious. It makes me think of blacksmiths … muscular guys in leather aprons hammering away at metal. There are times when writing feels just that strenuous.) While I apprenticed, the dream of someday publishing a book kept me going.

Fast forward a number of years. No … we don’t need to be specific.

Okay, A LOT, all right?

I graduated college, got married, got a full-time job, moved from Los Angeles to Portland, got a new full-time job, and had a child. The coming-of-age novel rested quietly in a box (where it belonged). I still wrote short stories, but they were still nothing special. I spent more time writing journal entries to my son and essays about parenthood.

Reading to my son put me in touch with the world of children’s books, and reignited my imagination. I took a summer class in Writing for Children, and I penned a few picture book manuscripts.

But one day, as fully formed as a glimmering pearl, an idea for a teen novel came to me.

It was about a girl who finds a mermaid.

I plunged (forgive the pun) into the writing, and it flowed so easily that I realized, “Ohhhh! Of course I want to write for teens. I don’t have anything new to say to adults, but I have LOTS to say to young adults!”

The mermaid book got written, re-written, and sent out to agents. After several rejections, I set is aside. My apprenticeship continued. I wrote two more novels … they were contemporary realistic books, edgier than the fantasy.

One of them got published a few months ago. It’s doing pretty well. ☺

And in October, this is the book that will finally make it to the shelves:

My childhood self is beaming.

L.K. Madigan is the author of FLASH BURNOUT, winner of the 2010 William C. Morris YA Debut Award, which honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens. She has way too many mermaid tchotchkes, but never too many dreams. You can visit Lisa on the web at


  1. That's an amazing story, well the book and the build up. Nice work. Thanks for posting that Lisa.

  2. I love it! Memories of my young self tapping away at an ancient typewriter are filling my mind...

  3. I love the way you told your writing journey, and the description "wordsmithing" with leather apron.
    A big thank you to both Lisas for putting up this post.

  4. Thanks for this. I laughed through most of it because I could relate so much. I'm going to go check out your blog right now.

  5. Aww, what a great post. It's very inspirational, and I think you should give yourself some credit for your early work in the graphic novel genre.

  6. BEAUTIFUL STORY, Lisa! And very INSPIRING! This makes my Friday!

  7. Great story L.K.! As others have said before me, it was very inspiring. By the way, I love the cover of The Mermaid's Hair! It's stunningly beautiful. :)

  8. THIS is the coolest post I've read all morning!!!!!! So so exciting and fabulous cover!!!!!