In the same room with YA authors Veronica Roth & Margaret Stohl

My daughter Grace had read Veronica Roth’s first book, Divergent, in junior high and talked about it so much that I read it before she loaned it to Emmali, her college freshman sister. When I heard Roth would be in Denver on July 15, 2014, at the release of Four, the fourth book in the series, I splurged on three autographed copies of it and three of Margaret Stohl’s latest release, Idols, in order to secure three vouchers for us to attend the event where both authors would be speaking.

By the time we arrived at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Highlands Ranch, all the good seats were filled, so my two daughters and I snaked our way through the crowd toward the front and discovered a small area without chairs to the left of the first two rows. We scrunched against bookshelves which put us within a dozen feet of the podium. The authors entered the bookstore to the quick rise of phone cameras amidst a sea of a few hundred cheering preteen and teenage girls, with an occasional boy, mom or dad mixed in. I also snapped some pictures before putting my phone down and grabbing a small notebook and pen from my purse.  I ended up scribbling 10 takeaways from these writers who’d made it big.

Veronica Roth took phone pics of her fans when she visited Denver in 2014 with fellow YA author Margaret Stohl.

1)      Writing is lonely.

“We volunteered for a job where you sit alone in your house for a year.”  Veronica Roth on the benefits of being withdrawn.

2)      Writing can be surreal.

“I just walked into my brain.” Veronica Roth on being on the movie sets of her first and second novels where the world she had created in her mind rose up around her.

3)      Inspiration can come from desperation.

“I wrote my first book on a dare from my teenage daughters to show them that when you laugh in my face, I will show you I can do what you don’t think I can do.” Margaret Stohl on why she wrote Beautiful Creatures.

4)      Writing isn’t for the weak.

“I think it’s important to be brave when you write; to put characters in challenging situations to find their strengths.” Veronica Roth on writing outside of your sense of security.

5)      To be good, you have to be bad.

“One way of creating high stakes is by making people really bad.” Veronica Roth on antagonists, referencing J.K. Rowling’s bad guy, Voldemort, as an example of this done at its best. “The fear that I felt for the characters I loved, and the anger I had toward Voldemort, made me care for Harry.”

6)      First drafts can’t be flawless.

“My least favorite part is writing the first draft. I don’t like things messy and it’s hard not to go back and keep fixing things. You have to learn to be imperfect.” Veronica Roth on starting a novel.

7)      You’ve got to put it all out there.

“Make it big and ugly and gross and you can go back and fix it later.” Veronica Roth on moving her writing along, using a lesson she said that she learned from a high school singing coach.

8)      It’s okay to be different.

“Nothing has to work every time. I have no process. One book I wrote without an outline, another with some outline and another with a detailed outline. It’s not even the same every day.” Veronica Roth on how she writes.

9)      Not all words can stay.

“I have to start working from a place where things are not all figured out and I may even throw away 100 pages.” Margaret Stohl on how she writes. And discards.

10)   To write well, you must read great books.

“It makes me wonder about books that take you away.” Veronica Roth on why she rereads her favorite book as a teenager, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, every summer.

When the event ended, I left in awe that we’d been in such close proximity to these wildly popular and accomplished writers and how I got to take away so much from the experience, including the six autographed books.  Write on.