Turning Points: Choose Your Own Adventure by Jon Skovron

headshot-color_featuredThis guest post is part of the Turning Points series here on distraction no. 99—in which I asked authors the question: What was your turning point as a writer? Now, to celebrate the release of his new YA novel, Man Made Boy, out in stores on October 3, here is Jon Skovron sharing his…

Guest post by Jon Skovron

MAN MADE BOY is on sale October 3!
MAN MADE BOY is on sale October 3!

When I was sixteen, I was going to be a rock star. Of course, it would have helped if I’d been able to keep a band together for more than about ten months. Teen punk bands come with a lot of drama. And I lost a lot of friends during that time. To drugs and alcohol. To car crashes or suicides. A couple even to religious cults. That whole “Hope I die before I get old” thing was very real for us. I didn’t plan to live past 25. And I might not have, if it weren’t for a high school theater director who instilled in me a passion, discipline, and dedication to the arts. He also taught me how to be a good enough actor that I was accepted into a prestigious theater conservatory and given a grant.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

When I was twenty, I was going to be a movie star. I ate, slept, and breathed nothing but theater. I was past dedication. I was utterly consumed to the point where I had no life. Then one night, with trembling voice and outstretched hand, I confessed my long secret crush to a female friend of mine. She turned me down. As I walked home that cold rainy night, heartbroken and miserable, it suddenly occurred to me that these sorts of moments would make me a better artist. This is what my acting had been missing! Life experience! So I stopped on the corner of 5th and Shady, looked up at the uncaring stars, and said aloud, “Go ahead then! Give me everything you’ve got. I can take it.” There have been many times since then when I’ve thought back ruefully on the foolishness of that challenge. I’ve never regretted it, though.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

When I was twenty-three, I didn’t know what the hell I was going to be. Not an actor, that was for sure. I’d met the Hollywood machine and found it not to my liking at all. I’d tried to go back to theater, but as I sat there sweating backstage in an un-air-conditioned 90-degree warehouse waiting to go onstage and play yet another fool in a Shakespeare comedy directed by yet another arrogant megalomaniac, I decided it was not to my liking either. I looked down at the copy of World According to Garp in my lap and with the arrogance that only a twenty-three-year-old can muster, thought, “I can’t do that! I’m going to write books!” And from that moment on, I dedicated myself to becoming a professional writer.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

When I was twenty-nine, I wasn’t worried about what I was going to do because I was just trying to survive. I was supporting a wife and two kids by working in a warehouse, dragging half-ton pallets of computer hardware around. I barely made enough for us to live. By then I had two failed manuscripts under my belt. I’d tried “serious literary fiction,” I’d tried “popular fiction.” Nothing seemed to click, and I wondered if maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a writer after all. But my agent suggested I take a look at this new thing called “Young Adult.” I picked up Holly Black’s Valiant and Gabrielle Zevin’s Elsewhere. I read them both in a day and knew I’d found my place.

But even that’s not what I want to talk about.

This is what I want to talk about:

When I was thirty-two, I decided I didn’t really need to know what I was going to do. I was up visiting a friend in New York. I’d finished my first YA manuscript and it was out making the rounds with publishers. So far, there’d been no takers, or even much interest. I sat there in this dingy bar in Manhattan drinking with one of my closest friends, a man I’ve known since I was eighteen, and I said to him, “You know, I don’t care if this book gets published. I love it, and that’s good enough. And I don’t care if I ever get published. I’m just going to keep writing anyway. Because I love it.”

A month later, I got a call from my agent that not one, but two publishers had made an offer on Struts & Frets. Which seems to support my long held belief that only when you truly accept failure can you embrace success.

We each have many turning points, like chapter headings on the journey of our lives. It’s up to us to choose them. Sure, the events themselves are concrete, but our interpretation of them is always subjective. Our lives are stories and we decide which bits are most important. In that way, we determine our own personal narrative. Every day, you’re out there interacting with friends and strangers, making choices, living your life, telling the story of you. Why not make it a story you like?

headshot-colorJon Skovron has been an actor, musician, lifeguard, Broadway theater ticket seller, warehouse grunt, technical writer, and web developer. Now he is the author of Young Adult novels Struts & Frets, Misfit, and Man Made Boy (Oct 3rd, Viking Penguin). He lives just outside Washington DC with his two sons.

There’s more in the Turning Points series. Catch up with any posts you may have missed here.

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