On meeting Angie Thomas

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give, at our local SCBWI LA/MS JambaLAya conference.

As you can see, I was fangirling a little bit, and I hadn’t even read her book yet! I still regret not making intelligent conversation at the signing or later, at dinner. Sigh.

Angie and our regional SCBWI coordinator Cheryl Mathis held an inspiring conversation about Angie’s incredible road to publication (and subsequent best-selling status and film-in-production).

Though her story sounds like a fairy tale, I was struck by her discussion of the book she’d written before The Hate U Give–which had been rejected 60 (did I write that down correctly?) times. After banging her head against that wall, her mom said, “Why don’t you work on that other one?” meaning what became The Hate U Give. Way to go, Mom!

Obviously, Angie was not a neophyte: she’d earned a BFA in writing, submitted drafts of her queries to Query Shark for feedback, and researched her “dream agent,” “stalked” him through Twitter, and contacted him through his agency’s Q & A with her idea. As a writer, hearing that her success came after hard work, struggle, and disappointment made it seem even more impressive (and, potentially, achievable for the rest of us!).

In her talk, Angie addressed the trolling she experienced after starting a diversity hashtag. Speaking to a young black writer who had expressed her admiration for Angie, she said, “What helped me was knowing girls like you would have my book in a few months.” Angie’s humor, strength, and grace in the face of overwhelming success as well as mean-spirited criticism will stay with me a long time.

To her readers, as well as other writers, Angie Thomas offers “light in the darkness.” Many thanks for her visit, and blessings for her continued success.

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