Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thirteen Reasons Why

Here are 13 reasons why Jay Asher is my hero:

1. Before Thirteen Reasons Why, his best-selling YA book about a girl who commits suicide, his first 11 manuscripts were rejected by publishers, but he never stopped writing.
2. He understands “edgy.” (See Robin’s March 4th post.)
3. He quit college to pursue a writing career and actually succeeded.
4. Before he sold 13RW, he had a great team blog called Disco Mermaids (DM), which was an inspiration for The Paper Wait. He posted a lot about rejections but ultimately about “the joy and tears of selling a first book.”
5. A few years before he sold 13RW, he started a thread on the Verla Kay blue boards called “Ready to Quit!” He didn’t, which is how he got where he is now.
6. Even though he crossed to the other side, he hasn’t forgotten pre-published writers like myself, including gifting a scholarship to SCBWI.
7. It took him 12 years to sell his first book. Knowing this, I’m giving myself permission to take 15 (12 + 3 for the bad economy), if necessary.
8. Not one but three editors wanted to buy 13RW, so the book went to auction, with the stipulation that he could speak with each editor by phone to choose the one who was right for him. He said this made him feel like Goldilocks, looking for the editor who was “just right.”
9. 13RW was the first non-humorous YA book he ever wrote. The 12 years before that he spent trying to sell humorous books for younger readers, so switching genres paid off.
10. He’s a 30-something guy who mastered a teen girl’s p.o.v.
11. His book is No. 3 on today’s NY Times chapter-book best-seller list. He was also featured in a NY Times article last week.
12. In a DM audio interview, he said that after three and a half years of writing the manuscript, he finally had his critique group read it. Their critiques were so harsh, he felt he needed a more positive critique that would make him feel comfortable sending it out to editors...
13. ...So he sent the manuscript to his Mom. (I have two sons, so the fact that he looked to her for inspiration really ups his hero status.) When Mom said, “This is beautiful honey, a real piece of art,” out it went. You know the rest. (Hmm. What does this say about critique groups?)


  1. Wow, #12 is pretty interesting. I wonder how much the manuscript changed in the editing process? Jay Asher's publishing history certainly gives me hope!! Belief in yourself and what you do is so important. Very inspiring!

  2. I'm at something like twelve years now...

  3. One of the best books I read last year, and I am not a teenage girl.

  4. In an interview with Laura Backes, Asher says the voice of Hannah came to him first and was so strong he wrote her story all the way through first. Then he went back and constructed Clay's story as a reaction to Hannah's narrative.

  5. I loved this book and so admire Jay Asher's perseverance. I had not heard the story about sending the manuscript to his mother. That's hysterical.

  6. If anyone ever gets the urge to quit, go to Verla Kay and search for Jay Asher's "Ready to Quit!" thread. The blueboarders who talked him out of it are an amazing bunch.

    Paul, I see from your pic that it's true, you're not a teenage girl. Keep visiting, we need some more male perspective on this blog!

    Gale, he's a good study for anyone trying to write from more than one p.o.v.

    Hi Meg, see comment above. :-)

  7. Janice - don't worry, I'm not going anywhere...I'm just kvetching.

  8. Meg, in my prior comment, I was thinking more about myself than you. Kidding. Like Hillary C., I'm in it to win it. Wait, look what happened to her...

  9. Meg, It's me again. Now I see what your comment meant. When I said "see above" I was talking about the multiple p.o.v. part (like in one of your WIPs, not the quitting part.