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December 15, 2009

Sophomore Slump -OR- The Writing Biz as High School

Kate Hart

So far as writing communities go, I'm no longer a freshman n00b. I've got the lingo, I've made some friends, and I follow the big agents' blogs and Twitter feeds. I'm in the know, to the extent that someone outside the business can be in the know.

Not having published a debut novel, I'm obviously not in a sophomore slump in the traditional sense of the word. But I'm between drafts, gathering information while I wait for my MS to get polished enough to send into query hell, sitting on the sidelines feeling for all the world like I'm wasting! valuable! time! and what if someone else! writes my book! while I'm waiting!!!

(I just used more exclamation points in that sentence than I've used in a month.)

I can't join the cool kids-- the juniors who are busy trying out for varsity with their shiny manuscripts and queries-- and I sure can't join the seniors, who are driving around with their agents, cruising for publishers. So I follow them around the internet and comment on their blogs. Thanks to Twitter, I can be pen pals with the kids that have gone off to college and are waiting for their grades to come back in the form of sales and reviews. I can even take some AP classes from professorial-type absolute sages like Uncle Jim.

Still in the meantime, I'm a JV sophomore with no driver's license, warming the bench, cheering on the rest of the team and sighing impatiently as the older kids tell me that the wait is worth it. Character building, even.

It's tempting to slack off. Come on! Nothing exciting is happening! This year isn't that important!

But then I think back on my actual sophomore year of high school. It was horrendous, for various reasons I don't care to list here, and on occasion I've been tempted to wipe it from my memory completely. However, one minor detail was a little "unimportant" test called the PSAT, given on a day I actually considered skipping. Good thing I didn't: The score on that test was a qualifier for becoming a National Merit Scholar as a senior. And because I qualified as a NMS, I got a scholarship to college-- a big one, to a school we couldn't afford otherwise. The AP History class I took that year gave me a credit in college that put me one step closer to successfully completing a double major. I went on a date "as friends" with a guy who, years later, I fell madly in love with and, a few more years later, ended up marrying.

So I might bitch and moan a little, but I'll warm the bench awhile longer, and pay my dues until it's my turn to pay more dues at another level.

Someone toss me some pom poms.

*No, I wasn't a cheerleader. Yes, I was on the dance team as a HS freshman, and again as a sophomore in college.

**True story: I was on the literary magazine staff in high school. Our main fundraiser was selling pizza by the slice at lunch, and we made posters to advertise. I made one that said "Sophmores! Come buy pizza-- you can't leave campus anyway!" My AP Literature teacher took the poster and without outing me as the artist, hung it in his room to point out that a) I was being a snot and b) I misspelled "sophomore." Amazing how public humiliation drives a lesson home. (I've forgiven the teacher, seeing as he was awesome in every other respect, not to mention right.)


  1. *tosses you some pom poms*

    This is a fabulous post, with hilarious and so very true analogies. I am still a 'fish' (a freshman), and the journey through the high school of writing/publishing seems very daunting. But yes, I've got to pay my dues here and now in order to get to the next level. :)


    1. I am editor-in-chief of my school's lit mag, whatwhat! This year I actually want to hang some snarky posters convincing students to enter work, with messages like "Help your soul feel less crushed" and "We want your emo poems." The advisor is so far undecided on doing this. I have to convince him.

    2. I know exactly how you feel. UGH. I actually might put off making a Twitter account until I get an agent... which could be never. I guess I need validation, haha.

    3. We can be sophomores together. Even though I'm a HS junior IRL. Does that make me a middle schooler inside your analogy? ;)

    4. I took the PSAT last week and made 99 percentile & the average cut for my state! Come to me, $2,500 scholarship :D

    5. That is such a cute love story. I wish it would happen to me. Sigh. SOMEDAY.

  3. This post is so funny and informative at the same time.

    Its okay, I'm still a freshman.

  4. OMG that was fantastic. So true. I am right there with you, Kate.

    p.s. Emilia, you should totally get a twitter and hang out with us sophomores too!

  5. Hi! I just read your post on YA Highway and decided to come check out your blog :) I'm glad I did. I loved this post, too.

  6. Thanks everyone! And welcome, Bethany, thanks for coming over! :)

    Emilia, somehow I doubt you'll have trouble finding your own love story or two...

  7. This is too freaking cute. AND accurate. Me = right in sophomore slump land. Almost made it to Junior territory with a few requests on the first novel. Writing a new book is like failing high school and starting all over again!

  8. Hee! The beauty of being a writer is you're never in the same place for very long. I think that place you're talking about? The sophomore slump? I know an awful lot of writers who return there as a default, between books -- even after obtaining that elusive and mythical beast known as an agent!

    Cheers, and a very happy New Year spent writing!


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