Robin Antalek is the author of The Summer We Fell Apart. Her nonfiction writing has been published in literary journals and in several collections, including The Beautiful Anthology; Writing off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema; and The Weeklings: Revolution #1 Selected Essays 2012-1013. Her short fiction has appeared in 52 Stories, Five Chapters, Sun Dog, The Southeast Review, and Literary Mama among others. She lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.
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Ten Things That Prepare You To Be A Writer
Experience a broken heart. Yes, this is awful. But for every great love story out there – a tale of heartbreak exists. You must put yourself out there and open yourself up in order to be hurt. I’m not just talking about romantic relationships. Pets die, friends betray us, sports teams reject us, crushes don’t reciprocate, mean girls/guys, all of life’s disappointments can break your heart.
Break a heart. You must experience the flip side to understand the depth of the human experience. I don’t mean to tell you to leave a great relationship, or to be mean on purpose. How the heart is broken is totally up to you. But hey – we all have things we are ashamed of – the girl you excluded from your slumber party in seventh grade? The boy who worked up his nerve to ask you out and you said no? That time you forgot your mom’s birthday? Chances are we’ve all made someone hurt.
Keep the word No to a minimum. Barring physical harm, try to be open to experiences – to meeting people- to taking chances – to embracing the unknown. Make a human connection. There is no substitute.
Eavesdrop – Cell phones have made eavesdropping waaaay too easy – but here’s the thing – if you are going to stand in line at the post office and talk to your best friend about something your boyfriend is doing that is really upsetting you – I have no choice but to listen to you. I’m waiting in line for stamps what else am I going to do?
Embrace the quiet. On the flip side put your ear buds in without music and go for a walk or ride the subway or go to the grocery store – I don’t care what it is but do something. The world looks and feels differently when you aren’t picking up all the distractions. Pay attention to body language, the look on someone’s face, their hands as they pull a wallet from their bag. There are short stories everywhere.
Take yourself out for breakfast/lunch/dinner/a drink. Go alone to a favorite spot. Try not to use your phone for a distraction. Pay attention to your surroundings. People watch. Really taste that food/drink/experience. Learn to be alone. It’s great practice for all that time you are going to put in at your desk writing.
Allow for Failure and Hard Work Writing is hard. Writing also means you will get rejected. Or maybe your hard drive crashes and you have no back up? Your best friend/lover/mother/sister doesn’t get your work-in-progress? The more comfortable you get with rejection, the less personal it becomes. I promise if you are at this long enough you will begin to see words of encouragement. Lost everything? Devastated about a critique or rejection? Cry, don’t take your anger to social media, and then get back to writing. I’m talking from personal experience here.
Work a lot of different jobs from an early age I worked in a drugstore (snack counter, pill counter, photo developer), bartender, waitress, retail, PR, nanny, lifeguard, artist assistant, sailing instructor, and on and on and on… It might have seemed like my “career path” was more a slalom course, but the experiences were well worth it to my writing life. Something I didn’t know in the moment.
Travel Alone even if it’s a day trip – push yourself out of your comfort zone and experience a place entirely on your own. See number 7.
Take a Chance Put yourself out there. Submit your work. Join a writer’s group. Ask yourself: What if? You never know. You just never know. And you won’t unless you take that chance.
From Robin Antalek, author of The Summer We Fell Apart, comes an evocative and emotionally resonant coming-of-age novel involving three friends who explore what it means to be happy, what it means to grow up, and the difficulties in doing both together. Spanning over a decade, and told in alternating voices, The Grown Ups explores the indelible bonds between friends and family and the challenges that threaten to divide them. It is the addictive and moving story of these old friends who wind up confronting their past in order to find happiness in their adult lives that make this novel an anticipated winter release.
Sam Turner, the summer he turns 15, feels lucky enough to enjoy the unexpected attention of his friend Suzie Epstein, even though it’s only a few secret months. For reasons Sam doesn’t entirely understand—and will never question—the budding relationship is kept hidden from their close circle of friends. But before their summer tans can even start to fade, Sam’s world unexpectedly shatters twice: Suzie’s parents are moving away to save their marriage, and his own mother has suddenly left the house, leaving Sam’s father alone to raise two sons.
Watching as her parents’ marital troubles escalate, Suzie Epstein takes on the responsibility of raising her two younger brothers while simultaneously planning an early escape to college to seek independence. Though she occasionally thinks of Sam, it’s her oldest friend Bella Spade she finds herself missing. Embarrassed by the destructive wake of her parents as they left the only place Suzie could call home, Suzie makes no attempt to reconnect with the one person she needs. Its years later that a chance meeting with Sam’s older brother Michael will reunite her with both Sam and Bella—finally forcing her to confront her friends, her past and what she left behind.
After losing Suzie, Bella surprisingly finds her first real love in Sam. But his inability to commit to her or even his own future eventually drives them apart. Watching Suzie and Michael as they seem to have worked it all out, Bella’s only to wonder where she went wrong and how to make it right.
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