Monday, September 2, 2013

A Secret Handshake from Alex Yuschik: The Writer Who Interned

Hey, guys! I'm Alex, one of two new additions to the Secret Life of Writers talking to you this week. I write YA contemporary and fantasy (because polar opposites are the best, obvs) and I intern at Entangled Publishing.

Also, I promised a handshake, so let's handshake:

handshake handshake handshake hi I'm just so excited
Now that we're besties, it's time for the secret-spilling portion of this broadcast:

 I've always loved writing (duh), but I didn't treat it as a career until much later.

I mean, your eyes do not deceive you. I'm a publishing intern preparing to query my own manuscript, but it took me a long time and some pretty dire straits to realize that this writing thing I loved was also the thing I wanted to do. Which should sound like a no-brainer, but stay with me. 

My original career of choice was rock star. Like, you know, gold-tasseled leather jackets, hip, philosophical lyrics, power ballads screaming out on electric guitars, crowd-surfing victoriously into the sunset. 

That didn't pan out. (Just kidding! It totally did and I'm a super famous musician. Haha, no.) I spent eleven years playing cello, never moved up to guitar like I'd planned, forgot about singing, and my parents started encouraging me to join youth orchestras and gently suggested that I get an amp for my cello so my wounded pride and I could at least play something electric. 

I wrote a lot, too, and I was pretty good, but I really only wrote when I felt like it. With any musical instrument, there's this idea of constant practice. I played cello at least half an hour each day, unless I had overwhelming homework or I was like projectile vomiting or something equally attractive, because it was supposed to further my dream career. Writing was just a for fun thing back then. 

After I graduated college, I took a gap year and worked a job that I wasn't that into. I realized pretty fast that I wasn't okay with this, I wasn't doing what I loved, and I sure as hell wasn't a rock star, unless it was a one-hit-wonder tracing out a sad, lonely downspiral that tabloids follow with scare headlines. 

It was, hands down, the worst year of my life.

it went just like this, even the shark (metaphorically)
But, happy ending: that year made me think about what career really meant, so I rolled up my sleeves and hopped on the do-what-you-love train for reals. I'd always written stuff before, whether it was fanfic or NaNo projects, but now I started working with a career goal in mind. I wanted to submit my stuff to agents, but the more I researched, the more I saw that none of what I'd written was close to ready.

(Seriously, my flagship manuscript was about a corporeal specter. I'm going to give you a moment to try to wrap your head around that one.)

I started keeping musician's hours again, only this time with writing and from 8pm-2am instead of half hours in the afternoon. By the time I'd quit my job and moved to my new grad school, I'd also started an internship with literary agent Mary Kole, which meant a lot more reading and a lot more analyzing what worked and what wasn't working in a submission. 

The experience taught me a lot, not only about what goes on behind the scenes in slush, but also that if you want something, you go after it with everything you've got. The key for me was seeing my writing more as its own career and less like something I did when I felt like it. Having internships showed me what standard I had to aspire to, how much time I needed to put in, and reaffirmed that it isn't all peaches and sunshine. This fall, I'll finally be ready to query.

Maybe I didn't end up a rock star, but it's not like that original dream was all that far off. When you get down to it, writers and musicians aren't that different. We're all entertainers trying to connect with a group of people out there who might dig the things we've created. And we're willing to work damn hard to make our dreams happen.

Alright! To celebrate becoming part of the blog, I'm doing a giveaway! UNSPOKEN has so many of the elements in stories that I love, snappy dialogue, cool characters, and it's not afraid to break your heart, which has made it one of my favorite YA reads (and it's a hardcover copy, oooh~). I'm also offering up a chapter critique. The giveaway goes until Friday and we'll have two winners, so get in there and enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

6 secret replies:

  1. Welcome Alex!!
    I wish so much that I had realized my stuff wasn't ready. Well, I knew, but I wish I had listened. Good luck with your story!

    1. You know, there's something to be said also for having the guts to just go for it! :) I was wicked nervous about anyone reading anything of mine. So I think it's actually pretty brave to take the leap and send anything out, period. (Basically, don't get down on yourself, you're awesome. ;) )

      And thanks so much! I'll keep everyone posted with what happens!

  2. Welcome!

    I don't write much( and not that well, since I'm a beginner :D), but when I read a really inspirational book, or maybe see a really cool picture(like fantasy pictures that are so realistic and beautiful), I always feel like writing about it!

    Thanks for the giveaway :)

    1. Hey, doing any writing is awesome. :) And thanks for the warm welcome!

  3. Excited to see you here Alex! Love the GIFs. :)

    1. Thanks! Oh man, the dog and cat one makes me crack up (and how could I do anything without Severus Snape). :)