Ohio Humans

Page Count, an interview-format podcast presented by Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library, celebrates authors, librarians, booksellers, illustrators, publishing professionals, and literary advocates in and from the state of Ohio. Guests range from internationally recognized and bestselling authors to professionals working on a grassroots level to improve access to books and literacy resources.

This episode was recorded before a live audience at the 2023 Ohioana Book Festival, presented in part by Ohio Humanities, at the Columbus Metropolitan Library on April 22, 2023. A panel of five authors discuss turning points in their writing careers—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the existentially fraught. This conversation covers everything from rejection to reader reactions, imposter syndrome, awards, inspiration, validation, and more.

Featured authors include:
For more information, visit the Ohioana Book Festival website.

And, later this year, join WYSO and Ohio Humanities for the forthcoming series The Ohio Country. Native men and women from different tribes and their allies—plus teachers, artists, scholars, parents, landowners, foresters, young people, and historians, too—will tell their stories about the about the lands above the Ohio River, known as the Ohio Country. You can listen in this feed, at WYSO.org, ohiohumanities.org, and in all those other places where you get podcasts.

What is Ohio Humans?

A podcast that shares stories to spark conversations and inspire ideas.

Mindy McGinnis (00:00):
So this was a turning point in my life when I realized that nothing matters and we're all going to die.

Laura Maylene Walter (00:13):
I'd like to welcome you to the panel Turning Points in a Writing Career. This is also a live recording for Page Count, a literary podcast presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. I'll be your host today, Laura Maylene Walter. I am the Ohio Center for the Book Fellow and thank you all so much for being here. We're so excited to be here back in person for the 2023 Ohioana Book Festival.

Laura Maylene Walter (00:42):
We have five authors with us today, so let's get right to it. I'll introduce them and then we'll dive into our discussion. Ric Sheffield is Professor Emeritus of Legal Studies and Sociology at Kenyon College and is the author of the debut memoir WE GOT BY: A BLACK FAMILY'S JOURNEY IN THE HEARTLAND. Judith Turner-Yamamoto is an art historian, journalist and writer whose work has appeared widely in magazines and literary publications. She's here at the festival with her debut novel, LOVING THE DEAD AND GONE. As an acclaimed children's book author, Andrea Wang is a recipient of the Caldecott Medal and a Newberry Honor among many other awards and prizes. She's here with her new picture book, LULI AND THE LANGUAGE OF TEA. Felicia Zamora is the author of six books of poetry, including I ALWAYS CARRY MY BONES. She is an Assistant Professor of Poetry at the University of Cincinnati and associate poetry editor for the Colorado Review.

Laura Maylene Walter (01:38):
And at the end, Mindy McGinnis is an Edgar Award-winning novelist who writes across multiple genres. She's here at the festival with her new YA mystery, A LONG STRETCH OF BAD DAYS. So thank you all so much for being here today and for participating in this panel and in this podcast. What I really love about this panel and what I find a bit special about it is the authors here represent such a wide range of types of books and genres in age ranges. You know, we have a memoir, we have a YA mystery, we have poetry, we have a picture book. So I think it presents a unique opportunity for discussion. I know that each of these types of books has its own demands and challenges when it comes to writing and publishing, but I also think as writers, everyone here probably has a lot in common or some universal either challenges or joys when it comes to building a writing career or publishing a book.

Laura Maylene Walter (02:34):
So I'd like to start by asking each author to share just a little bit about your book with us. Introduce the audience to your book. And since the topic of this panel is turning points in a writing career, if there's something you'd like to share about the book, a turning point in its process, you can interpret that however you'd like. Maybe a turning point in the writing process, revision, publication, promotion, anything that represented to you a shift in the book that helped you get to where you are today sitting here at this festival on this panel. So Ric, we can start with you.

Ric Sheffield (03:07):
Greetings to everyone and I'm thinking about even the question, pose the question turning point. I think if I have anything to contribute about that I would suggest to you it was coming to understand the importance of audience in writing. That was a major turning point for me. And when I say audience, I'm sure all of my esteemed colleagues here who are real writers, I'm a pretend writer. They understand that well I had to come and understand it better because I realized that audience for me wasn't just writing for writers or writing even just for readers. I was writing for people who enjoy stories. And I imagine that my audience includes people who quite frankly rarely pick up a book and I know that's hard for folks in a gathering like this to imagine. There are people in society who rarely pick up. It's not a part of the habit of mind from any people. So my audience right now is not just for other writers or for people who enjoy reading habitually. It's also for people who rarely read a book and sorry, people who have never read a book.

Judith Turner-Yamamoto (04:17):
I'm Judith Turner-Yamamoto and I'm here at Ohio with my debut novel LOVING THE DEAD AND GONE. It's about how a tragedy upends a small southern town. It's a coral novel and there are four narrators who are each affected by a death. I thought a lot about this question, Laura. Turning Points. This book could be spinning because over a plus 35 year period, I wrote the book, rewrote it five times, had three different agents, published exerted short stories from it, wrote three more novels, won 15 prizes, had fellowships and prospective publishers. And here we are today with the debut novel all these years later in that long career. But for me, the real turning point when things felt safe to feel real was when I heard that my novel would be reviewed by Publishers Weekly. And that was one of the happiest days of my life because finally I had a seat at the table.

Andrea Wang (05:34):
Hi, I'm Andrea Wang and I'm the author of both WATERCRESS and LULI AND THE LANGUAGE OF TEA. And I actually thought I was here to promote WATERCRESS. So I'm doing some quick thinking, but my turning point, I think it's the same for both of them and that is that they were published at all. These are manuscripts that I wrote for myself. WATERCRESS started out as a personal essay and it took me eight years until it morphed into a picture book and I did not think that it would sell at all because it delves into topics. It's about a memory I have of picking watercress by the side of the road in Yellow Springs, Ohio. An experience that I did not enjoy very much and about my immigrant family. And LULI AND THE LANGUAGE OF TEA was inspired by my having heard that the word for tea is very similar in over 200 languages. And because that was my parents' favorite beverage and tea was, you know, theoretically invented in China, I set out to explore whether that was indeed true. And so that is a book that my husband thought was quirky is how he described it. So I didn't think that was going to sell either. And the fact that my editor Neil Porter acquired both in a two book deal was a huge turning point for me to have someone validate and believe in my writing.

Felicia Zamora (06:52):
Hi, I'm Felicia. I am the poet on the panel, apparently. The book that I'm talking the most about today has been I ALWAYS CARRY MY BONES, which is my fifth book of poetry that came out in 2021 and won the Ohioana Book Award in poetry, which I'm unbelievably grateful for. This entire book is a turning point for me personally and also for my career in some ways. My prior books, the four books prior to this, I'm there in the thinking as a human being and as a person, but I am not there when it comes to me in my history and my culture and my lineage. Not until I ALWAYS CARRY MY BONES. How many of you are writers who have a story inside of you that's been brewing but it it's not come to fruition yet? Yeah, sometimes when we have a story inside of us, specifically when we write about trauma or about grief, it takes a really long time to get there and I ALWAYS CARRY MY BONES is the first time I explore having never met my father who was from Mexico and my mom put me and my brother and sister in the car when I was just under a year old and drove from Mexico up to Iowa to live with my grandparents and I have never met him.

Felicia Zamora (08:12):
So when you're estranged from culture, you become this kind of archivist of gaps and it takes a long time to get there. And this particular book is about me and about my family and there are pieces, a couple of them were on the Boston Review website and I had to call my brother and sister and say, are you okay with this? We're going to have family members who are going to find shit out about us that they didn't know before. And of course my supportive siblings were, yes, yes, of course. So this is a huge turning point for me. It's laid bare, sort of all that there is to lay bare, a chest open. And it's also one of my most important books, I think. So, 40 some years in the making for that.

Mindy McGinnis (09:00):
I'm Mindy McGinnis and I'm really glad to hear this is being edited because I never know what's going to come out of my mouth. This is my 12th book I've been publishing for 10 years, I've been around a long time and I have to thank Lisa for bringing a copy of my book to the panel cause I didn't. Thank you Allie, that is to correct myself. So I'm a professional. Hello. And so this is my 12th book. I am published by Harper Collins. I have been really fortunate to have a great career. I've been publishing for 10 years and a turning point for me recently was the release day of this book. I was sitting at my table at home and I got a text from a good friend that's also a writer and she was like, hey, did you know that there's a typo in your writeup on Goodreads?

Mindy McGinnis (09:43):
And I was like, oh no. Right. So this book is about a series of natural disasters and a murder that happened all in the same week in a small town 30 years ago. So there was a flash flood and I go to my Goodreads write up and it said there was flash food. And I was like, what is that? That sounds scary, right? So, so I fixed it and I was like, okay, I have, I have a librarian on Goodreads, it's a lot of power. So I went in and I fixed it and then I was like, I better check my website, right? Because I might have copy pasted that into the Goodreads listing. So I go to my website and it's flash food guys and I was like, that's not a real thing. And I fixed it and then I was like, I better check Amazon.

Mindy McGinnis (10:24):
So I go to Amazon, it's flash food and all of a sudden I'm like, aw shit, because guess what? That's the official copy. So I go to my book closet, on release day and I open up my jacket, it's flash food . So this was a turning point in my life when I realized that nothing matters and we're all going to die. That was, that was a big turning point for me. I was just like, okay, nothing's perfect, nothing will ever be perfect. I have written 10 books and whenever I read the book that I first wrote that came out in 2013, I'm like, dude, whoa, I am 10 years a better writer. Now I have to leave it alone though, right? Because it is something that I put out into the world. It belongs to other people now. It is not mine. I cannot tinker with it any longer. So letting go of perfection, it's hard, but I'm trying.

Laura Maylene Walter (11:18):
First of all, I think flash food sounds fabulous, whatever it is. And I'm a writer myself and whenever I get into conversations with other authors, I feel eventually at some point the conversation comes down to nothing matters and we're all going to die. But thank you for bringing us there.

Mindy McGinnis (11:33):
Yeah, no problem. I walked up to a Ohioana book festival person and I said, Hey, I'm Mindy cause I didn't know where I was supposed to be. I was like, Hey, I'm Mindy, do you know where I'm supposed to be? And he was like, do you mean existentially or do you have a panel? And I was like, if you could hit the first one, that would be great.

Laura Maylene Walter (11:49):
Yeah, thank you. That would save a lot.

Felicia Zamora (11:50):
That's actually one of the best answers that I've ever heard. How many of you when you're writing are thinking of perfection? This idea of perfection is very curious to me because I know that I don't believe in perfection and I, I don't think I would be alive or have survived what I've gone through if I did. But I do know so many artists that I work with are looking for that perfection and don't, I think, is probably where I would come from with that.

Laura Maylene Walter (12:18):
Yeah, absolutely. And I think there's no perfection at any stage, including when the book is finalized and published. But especially if you're in your first draft stage, there is not going to be perfection if you're writing a first draft of a novel or a story or a poem, it's just not going to be perfect. Well, I think Mindy's answer has led us directly into my next question, which is when I was thinking about this topic, turning points in a writing career, I was thinking of it in two different categories in a way. There are the positive turning points, and this might be when you finish your first book, when you get your first agent, when you publish your book, or when you get your first really great review or something along those lines. So something really positive that might make you feel like I am a writer.

Laura Maylene Walter (13:00):
I know you are mostly being tongue in cheek, Ric, about being a pretend writer, but I think so many of us feel that way, even if we've published books that maybe you're a pretend writer and sometimes an external accomplishment can help and serve as a turning point and give you confidence. On the other hand, being a writer is a life full of rejection and failure. And so I think sometimes that rejection and failure can be a turning point as well. So I see it in, there's the kind of positive confidence giving turning points and then there are the turning points when we have gone through something really hard in our writing and have to decide where to go from there or how are we going to handle this. So to try not to go too dark too quickly, why don't we start with the positive side. Who would like to share, not just for a book you're here with, it could be at any point in your writing career, when you think about a really positive turning point, something that you either accomplished or gave you confidence to go on.

Judith Turner-Yamamoto (13:57):
I think one of the first things that happened to me that, you know, it's almost like reading smoke signals or seeing signs in the fog, but when I was first writing and I sent short stories excerpted from this book to the New Yorker and Pat Strachan, the fiction editor at that time would write me personal rejection letters. Her saying to me, please don't stop sending your work here, was something that I held on to for a very long time. This was a time when you would actually write people and send them things and the author Lee Smith, I sent her some excerpts and she was incredibly encouraging. And Jonathan Galassi, who was the editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, wrote me back and said, you've got to keep writing this. Those kinds of things are just, they're like lifelines because it's such an isolated experience to be a writer, you know, except for writing workshops, you're just in your own world. And to have someone come in and offer validation is really what keeps you going.

Andrea Wang (15:11):
And along those lines of validation, I mean it might be the obvious answer, but when WATERCRESS won the Caldecott and the Newberry Honor was a huge, huge turning point. The Caldecott is actually for the illustrations which are by Jason Chin, so I can't take credit for that. But the Newberry Honor is for the text and it is only the fifth picture book to have won Newberry recognition, which is, , oh thank you. It was mind blowing to me. I mean when I got the call from the Newberry committee, I just sat there and was like, no, really no. And they just kept saying yes. And so that was pretty amazing to have that kind of validation for something that I, you know, as I was saying before, didn't think it would get published. It's not often that a picture book goes through themes of shame and has a death in it. And you know, for that to be picked up by the librarians and given this award was pretty amazing. Yeah. And imposter syndrome is something that I definitely have to struggle with. And so to have those awards has been life changing.

Mindy McGinnis (16:20):
I have nothing positive to say.

Felicia Zamora (16:22):
Yeah. I was like, I don't want to go after you.

Mindy McGinnis (16:24):
No, when you're ready for the negatives, I've got you covered

Felicia Zamora (16:28):
This is a segue, this is a negative but positive in my world. So unlike my novelist and memoirist writers next to me, and full length picture books as poets, you know, you can submit individual poems. People I have been rejected over 4,000 times. I keep track of it. 4,000 times. But in those 4,000 times I've published seven books, two chapbooks and hundreds and hundreds of poems. And so even though it seems exhausting and tiring, it's just, it's the way you know the Mandalorian thing, it's the way right now publishing for poetry, you gotta get it out there. And then to do that means you have to be okay with someone saying, we'll pass. It's not personal. Feels personal. It's not. It really isn't. So if you're sad about your 10th rejection, remember Felicia Zamora has, has been rejected 4,000 times. If I can do it, you can.

Mindy McGinnis (17:28):
Yeah, I had 10 years of rejections. I meant 10 years of publishing, but I had 10 years of rejections before that, rejection's part of life. I'm also divorced, twice. So you know, it's like you get used to rejection, it is part of it, right? You have to have a very, very thick skin if you want to do this. And I think that probably the first five years of my rejection was me building that skin and then once I had it, it's a lot easier and the rejection doesn't stop. That's also the thing to know, no matter how illustrious your career is or how wonderful things are, you are still going to get some really nasty reviews and rejection will never stop. I have ideas all the time I pitched into my editor and he is like, Mindy, no, that's a bad idea, right? You have to build up a bit of a callous if you want to be able to do this. And uh, I think that really is like lesson number one for me.

Laura Maylene Walter (18:17):
Yeah, it's funny writers, we hear that all the time. It's so true that you have to have a thick skin to be a writer because you're going to be hit with so much rejection and criticism no matter how great you are. But most writers I know are also very sensitive people. So I think if you are a writer out there and you are feeling hard hit by the rejection, I think that's also pretty normal. And you just have to persevere regardless. Well should we move on to the negative turning points? Bring us down. Let's do it.

Judith Turner-Yamamoto (18:47):
So I was with my third agent and she managed to place the novel with a very respected smaller press. However, the editor wanted revisions so they optioned the novel. And one of the funny things about it was she was complaining about the names, the character names in the novel, you know, they're things like, Berta Mae and Darlene and Emma May and Aurilla. And she said to me, she said, no one's going to believe these names. And I said, these are my family's names , they're real. But long story short, I had conversations with her and I did a rewrite and then they decided that they didn't want the book. So yeah, to get that close, you know, it's like you've almost got your hand on the ring. It was a huge bridesmaid moment.

Mindy McGinnis (19:49):
Do you want me to go? Alright, so 12 books, 10 years, all kinds of negative stories. I'll tell you my most recent one. So I was in Missouri last weekend, I was accepting an award for one of my books, which is called HEROIN. It's about the opioid crisis and it won the Gateway Award in Missouri. Now I wrote a book about drugs and it won the Gateway Award. So I make a lot of jokes about that. But I was standing in line to get registered for the conference and it was a librarian conference and there were two librarians behind me and they were talking about what was going to be going on this weekend and everything. And one of 'em said, you know, are you going to go to anything Mindy McGinnis is in? And the other one was like, no, no, I'm not going to do that. And she said, I really like her writing, but I think she needs to lighten up .

Mindy McGinnis (20:40):
They were directly behind me. So when I went in to check in, they're like, hi, what's your name? Like, it's Mindy McGinnis, that's my name. You know, I don't know if they knew it was me or not, but when you write the type of things that I write, so I write dark things, hard things, difficult things. My books are about things that make people uncomfortable. Quite a few of my books have been challenged and banned. I don't necessarily think of that as a negative. I think it means that I'm talking about things that make people uncomfortable and I'm doing a good job of it. So I don't mind being banned. I don't mind being challenged. What does, I wouldn't say that it bothers me, but in terms of...I win awards, I don't sell a lot of books. That's kind of something that we talk about in the industry a lot.

Mindy McGinnis (21:20):
You can sell really well and you can be on the New York Times or you can win awards. You can do one of those two things. And so I feel like the audience, my audience, the pie chart of readers, 20% of them are my audience. 20% of those people are actually going to like my books. And I'm not going to change. Like I am who I am. I am not going to lighten up. My mom's been asking me to be nicer since I was like three, okay, I'm 44, it's not going to happen. So you do kind of have to accept that what you write and what you do may not be for everyone and you're either going to be true to you or you're going to create a product. And I would rather be true to me.

Andrea Wang (22:07):
Along those lines, before I decided I wanted to write picture books, I was still, you know, taking craft courses and everything and I had gone to China to visit my in-laws and I was there for three weeks and when I came home my neighbor pulled up at our mailboxes, were next to each other, she rolled down her window and she said, welcome back to civilization. And I am, you know, I'm an introvert and I'm non-confrontational. So I just went thanks and ran back into the house and I was furious. And so that actually stoked my fire for writing stories about Asians and Asian Americans. And so that's when I dashed off on the manuscript for my first picture book, THE NIAN MONSTER, which is set in Shanghai, China. And it shows how modern and contemporary and world Class Shanghai is. It's not the dirt floor, thatched hut China that you see in a lot of picture books. And so I think that turning point, that negative comment has really inspired me to continue writing about Asians and Asian Americans.

Ric Sheffield (23:17):
My experience is very different than what I'm hearing and this is all very informative. I don't have examples of unfortunately a lot of rejections and external criticism, which is really strange. You would think if you've been an academic for three decades or more, you write for a very different audience that scholarly writing is very different. You write to the writers, to the scholars. And so it's not the same sort of thing. But I would suggest to you, there's another way of sort of editing and that is an internal editing that takes place. I write about the African American experience in rural Ohio. Now before you say, are there black people in rural Ohio? I just, yeah, that's the editing that I'm talking about is that many of my colleagues said, oh that's really interesting. We've never really thought about that. Are, you know, black people have lives and experiences.

Ric Sheffield (24:08):
Yeah, kind of have for, you know, about 210 years or so in the states. And so I found myself doubting whether or not my subject matter would be worthy, that it wasn't the sort of scholarship, I'm a legal scholar so it was really easy. I knew I could pitch my articles and my chapters and stuff and all that was always accepted. But this was something that was very personal to me. Having been born and raised in a predominantly white rural town. I had never been in a classroom with another black student. I had never been in a classroom with another student of color all the way through 12th grade. And so my experience was very different and I thought, I know there are people who can relate to it, but no one ever tells that story. And apparently Ohio State University Press agreed because they snatched it up right away. And I'm sitting here with these very accomplished people who can tell you a lot about writing that I probably could never even imagine.

Felicia Zamora (25:05):
I'm not shocked. But it's so interesting that there's so much with each of you that resonates with me. I grew up in a small town in Iowa, you know, my brother and sister and I were the first kids of color in the entire town. And then same, there was no other kid of color. The entire K through 12, same, same cohort. And also, you know, the idea of what motivates us, you know, my grandfather on my mom's side was white and he used to call me a dirty little sp*c, and tell me that I would amount to nothing. And you know, at five or six you don't know what that means. You just, you sort of think, okay, I'm going to take that and I'm not going to internalize it and I'm going to decide what to do with it. And I think a turning point for me is, unlike...unlike some other writers on this panel, you don't write poetry to just throw up your hundreds and roll around in them.

Felicia Zamora (25:55):
If you sell like five books, you're like woo-hoo! In poetry. And the reason I bring this up though is you got to really know why you're in it. Why do you write? I write cause I can't, I can't help it. I have to write, it is part of who I am. Lean into you. Leaning into what you know, who you are, your experiences, your research, your thinking, your imagination. Like that's really, in my opinion, how to embrace the artistic spirit. Is to lean into you, not away from, don't try to write like Mindy or me or, any of us you know, write, write like you. And that's always been a turning point for me in poetry is is recognizing that I create to create the publication is part of it. Sure. But that's not why I do it. And remembering that I think is really important.

Laura Maylene Walter (26:50):
Yeah, that's excellent. Thank you. Well although I have a long list of questions that I would love to ask these authors, we do need to have some time for audience questions. So if anyone has a question for our panel, raise your hand and I'll probably repeat your question for the podcast. Okay, great. The question is, what books our panelists are reading right now and what books have influenced their writing. Which I'm sure everyone could talk for an hour about the books that have influenced them, but maybe a top one or two that comes to mind or just what you're reading right now.

Andrea Wang (27:22):
I just finished a middle grade novel by Ellen Oh called FINDING JUNIE KIM, which is excellent, I highly recommend it. And it talks about a Korean American girl who is dealing with racism in her school and she is interviewing her grandparents and she finds out a lot more about the Korean War and what her family went through. And what was the second part of the question? A book that influenced me. So a mentor text for Watercress is A DIFFERENT POND, a picture book by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui. And when I read that, I immediately took out this manuscript and just tossed it out and started from scratch. And that's the version you have in the book today. So it's a huge impact.

Mindy McGinnis (28:04):
So one of the books or an author that I definitely credit with probably a lot of my formative years when I was a kid, I was a kid in the eighties, in the early nineties and all of the books that were written for middle grade and YA at the time with the possible exception of Judy Bloom were very, very clean. So an example of a plot that would've been given to me when I was about 15 years old would be something like, I really want a dog and I can't have a dog because my mom's allergic to dogs and I was walking home from school and I found this puppy and I'm hiding in my basement and I hope nobody finds out. And that was the plot and I was just like, this is ridiculous. So I went into my mom's room and I found another book about a dog that I really liked and it was called CUJO.

Mindy McGinnis (28:43):
And I was like, oh neat, I didn't know you were allowed to write that word down right? And I was just like, oh this is so amazing for me because I always wanted to be a writer. But all of my thoughts were dark, they were disturbing, they were upsetting and I felt like, oh you're not allowed to write those people don't want to read those. Because every representation I had of a book, nobody had cancer, the dog always lived, nobody got divorced, everything was fine all the time. And I was like, that is not life. So when I was introduced to Stephen King, some would argue at too young of an age, but I was like, oh I can be a writer. I am allowed to write those things.

Judith Turner-Yamamoto (29:22):
I'd have to say for me with my book, one of the voices that was really influential were the books of Reynolds Price. He's a native North Carolinian as well, in particular his book KATE VAIDEN. Because I really like to be inside a character inside their thinking process because really writing is the only window that we have into another person's soul. So it's a way to experience the world through a different consciousness. What I'm reading right now is INDIGO FIELD, it's by another North Carolina writer, Marjorie Hudson. It's her debut novel and it's a story of collisions of race and privilege and it's set around this piece of land in North Carolina that contains all this history and experience.

Felicia Zamora (30:22):
Well I put this out here because I'm in the middle of it. It's Han Kang, THE WHITE BOOK and it is hybrid in gorgeous and glorious ways about a meditation on the color white in a multitude. And it is by a novelist, but it is so lyrically delicious. It's what I'm reading right now.

Laura Maylene Walter (30:41):
We have a question right here. The question was about external validation as a writer and how to clear your mind of of some of those expectations. That's a really great question.

Mindy McGinnis (30:52):
One of the things that is great about and awful is that we kind of live in ignorance most of the time. We don't really know how many books we have sold or what is going on. We get a royalty statement once every six months and it's six months behind. So we don't really know how well or bad we are doing. And that can be kind of a relief to be honest with you. I mean I can tell you from opening up my royalty statements and being like, oh that one tanked. But you find out a year later and so it kind of takes the sting out. Validation...so I mean like personally my greatest validation is I was in Missouri this weekend and literally just some people would come up to me and say, you're a good writer. And that's like all it took. I was like, thank you, I'm going to keep doing it for the rest of my life. Even though two hours ago I was like, I guess I need to lighten up. Right? So you know, just really small things and usually personal things and exchanges are what actually make me want to keep doing it.

Andrea Wang (31:52):
Do not read your Goodreads and Amazon reviews ever. I don't. I have friends that it's the first thing they look at in the morning, but I could never do that. And also I think what you were saying earlier, write for yourself, as long as you're happy with what you've written for yourself, then when I do that I'm not looking so much for the external validation.

Laura Maylene Walter (32:12):
Another tip would be have a good friend go through your Goodreads for you and pull out only the most glowing five star reviews. I had friends do that for me cause I do not read anything, but they'll send the ones that compare me to the greatest literature in the world and I'm like, yeah, that sounds about right. Rick, I'd be curious if you have an answer for this question cause I know you say you approach writing but differently from the other panelists. So in terms of your memoir coming out and it's so personal, have you had to address the question of external validation?

Ric Sheffield (32:39):
Well, I like the response about hearing from real people who have read your book and been moved by it. That's been the most touching thing for me. I, I don't know this field, I don't know this area. I don't even know how to find out how many books I've sold. I just trust when the publicist says your book is selling really strongly. I have no point of comparison. What does that mean? I got 10 books sold. I don't have any investment. And again, I have the advantage of having been an academic for most of my career. You don't have to sell anything. You don't, I mean you simply just have it published and it goes on your Vita and everyone says, oh that's, you know, you're amazing. So I don't have to really use an external validation sort of system except if I get real people who say to me, well when I stopped crying after reading your book, then I know I got there. I touched them, it meant something to them. And that's all that mattered to me.

Laura Maylene Walter (33:32):
Absolutely. I do think when it comes to the publishing part of writing ignorance really is bliss. At least for me. Not knowing about the sales, not knowing about negative reviews, anything. I just prefer to stay in the dark and write. So we will have to wrap up because we're running out of time. I do have one last question just for a quick hit answers if anyone wants to shout out and answer. Are there future turning points that you might hope for either with this book or just as a writer in general, anything that you would like to kind of shout out into the universe and see if it comes true?

Felicia Zamora (34:04):
I'm turning right now. I'm constantly turning. I am not the same writer I was last night. And that's great because my interests are always constantly changing. But I have moved into this new project that I'm working on, which has a lot to do with docupoetics and archival research. I was able to go to the Vatican Apostolic Library in Rome and study the Codex Yohualli Ehecatl or Codex Borgia, which is one of the only surviving Mesoamerican documents from the Spanish colonization of Mesoamerica. And it was life changing and working with those images, which I've been given permission to do through the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It's like solving a puzzle that I haven't played around with before. And so just remember that about yourself is you have no idea where you're going to be in your writing, you're reading, you're creating, and be open to realizing that you're not going to be the same person you were from book to book.

Mindy McGinnis (35:02):
That's a really cool like emotional answer. Mine's totally capitalism. I want to hit the New York Times . I would love to hit the New York Times, buy my book. Tell your friends if you're like me, tell your enemies cause you have more of those. Thank you.

Laura Maylene Walter (35:17):
You know what, I think since we are out of time, that might be the best note to end on, which is you can buy all of Mindy's books and all of our panelists' books. Go to the second floor. Please buy their books out of appreciation of their work and their time here on this panel as well. And because their books are fantastic. I would like to thank the Ohioana Library Association for giving us this space at the festival, the Columbus Metropolitan Library, all of you for being here, Ohio Humanities, and of course our panelists. Can we give them a round of applause please? .

Laura Maylene Walter (35:55):
Page Count is presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, and leave a review for Page Count wherever you get your podcast. Learn more online or find a transcript of this episode at ohiocenterforthebook.org, follow us on Twitter @cplocfb, or find us on Facebook. If you'd like to get in touch, email ohiocenterforthebook@cpl.org and put "podcast" in the subject line. Finally, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @LauraMaylene. Thanks for listening, and we'll be back in two weeks for another chapter of Page Count.