Today I'm excited to profile Maya Rock, a freelance editor and former Writer's House literary agent whose debut young adult novel, Scripted, released last week from Putnam. A Princeton grad, Maya's also a journalist who's been published by Marie Claire, Columbia Magazine, and The Writer; she shares writing tips on her personal blog, and television rights to Scripted have been optioned to WBTV!
Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) led you there?
Maya: My day job: I am self-employed, working at my own business, Rock Editorial Services. I got here after working in book publishing, specifically literary agenting, for many years. I left agenting in 2010 to pursue freelance writing. To my happy surprise, I also found a lot of people were interested in having me edit their books. So now I do a mix: journalism, odd-job writing assignments and manuscript editing (for publishing houses and private clients).
My creative writing: I had toyed with the idea of writing a YA novel since graduating college in 2002. I wrote one, but just put it away and forgot about it. From there, I experimented with different kinds of writing and ended up writing a second YA novel, SCRIPTED. I got an agent and book deal for it. It was a two-book deal, and now I’m working on the second book.
Kate: When and how did you decide to commit to your career? How does it intersect with your passions?
Maya: Great question! I wouldn’t say it felt like a decision as much as just going with the flow. I’ve always loved books. When I graduated from college, book publishing was the only thing I felt qualified for. Although I’ve left traditional book publishing, I still occasionally freelance edit for publishing houses and feel very connected to the industry (also because I’ve written a book). The writing part of my career feels like it came mostly from liking to read books. It all felt very natural. I would say, one thing is that I think I have a low capacity for putting up with work that doesn’t interest me. So that sometimes made career decisions a little easy.
Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)?
Maya: Another great question. I don’t think I have many creative outlets. I actually didn’t identify myself as creative most of my life. I think I thought of myself as a critic or interpreter of art. I do listen to a lot of music and like visual art but am not too tempted to create in those mediums.
I feel the only realm in which I create is writing, and even that seems like a stretch to me if I ever bother to compare myself to other people. I don’t think I’m as prolific as other authors, which I feel okay with. I guess when it comes to creativity, I feel like I’m pretty yin and more about showing up if I have an idea, but not about trying to yang myself into producing something.
Kate: What's your biggest challenge?
Maya: Not getting distracted! The internet is a horrible foe of mine.
Kate: How do you stay inspired? Productive?
Maya: Having a steady schedule has been really helpful for me. I read something today where someone said that they listened to their body’s rhythms. I do that too. Otherwise I end up burning myself out and having mini meltdowns.
|Portrait of the Artist|
as a Young Badass
Maya: I call my mother . . . I eat. I gchat my friends. I walk. Also try to think of something that’s going well.
Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.
Maya: Oh gosh. So many to choose from . . . And I notice once they’re over, they don’t really seem like failures anymore.
So things that came to mind were—having drafts I thought were pretty good being raked through the coals; not getting jobs I really wanted; not having romantic situations work out the way I wanted. I think the solution has always been the same—accepting that I didn’t get what I wanted and dealing with what happened instead. I notice what lingers is not the failure a lot of times, but the way I acted immediately afterwards—it can be really hard not to meltdown in the face of a perceived defeat, and then I regret the distress I caused others in that meltdown or just how I wasn’t able to be there for them because I was too consumed with my failures. I used to feel sad for days afterwards. Now I get over it faster, but I do overeat or sometimes dwell on these so-called failures a lot longer than they deserve.
Another thing is that I think sometimes I get so defensive, I’d rather forget the setback/failure ever happened. I try not to do that as much anymore, because sometimes there are really good lessons. With writing, you actually get very specific feedback that can help future writing , for example.
Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?
Maya: I don’t think I felt strongly about being a feminist or supporting feminism until I graduated college and began to see how the workplace was set up . . . It was like walking into a time machine, and this world that I thought was dead and gone was very much alive. I saw how my opinion could be trivialized quite easily, and how certain inappropriate behaviors from people in power were excused or accepted as normal. Of course this didn’t always fall along gender lines, but the fact is men have disproportionate power in this world, and we are very far away from equality. So many people in power tend to be men, and many of them think the position actually means they are better than others. Though I think they’d prefer it “some are more equal than others” or however Animal Farm puts it.
I think I like to write about the pressures society inflicts on people and different ways to respond to them. If you’re part of any oppressed group, it’s easier to see this, and women are one of them.
Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?
Maya: I could really improve on this. I just try to work on how I treat people on an individual level. I have a lot of respect for people who work on collective action, but have never been called to it. But I am constantly working on showing up for the people in my life.
Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?
Maya: Get off the internet! I think that’s the only advice I’m capable of.
Maya Rock is a freelance writer and editor and author of the YA novel SCRIPTED, which released February 5, 2014. She lives in New York, NY. You can learn more about her at www.maya-rock.com or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
Be sure to watch the Badass Ladies You Should Know website for bonus materials later this week!