Guest Post: Melanie J. Fishbane on What Maud Taught Me

Melanie at Mabel’s Fables in Toronto.

By Melanie J. Fishbane
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

This month, Maud (Penguin, 2017) is releasing in paperback. And I feel one thing…Gratitude.

In this unstable publishing climate, not all books go to paperback.

It isn’t the natural progression it once was.

My publisher—Penguin Random House of Canada and its imprint, Penguin Teen—continue to support the book with digital ads and worked hard on the paperback edition.

It looks beautiful.

I’m also grateful for what the Maud taught me about the process of publication, of having something now out in the world for people to read and how to step into one’s “author self”—whatever that is supposed to mean for you.

Grateful because I had hoped that the book would become part of the conversation about Montgomery, to encourage new readership and it has. To inspire readers to “keep climbing” to whatever goal they want to pursue.

Grateful because I’ve been able to travel and talk to people about Montgomery across North America, people who didn’t know of their personal connections to her, or about her struggles as a woman to be educated and get published in late 19th century Canada.

Grateful because through the wonders of online shipping, Maud has been read in Canada and the United States, and has found its way to Australia, Japan, Poland and Brazil.

I discovered one day that it was being reviewed on an Italian blog!

These things are extraordinary to me—that someone cared enough to want to read my book and have it shipped across the world.

Grateful because Maud connected with young readers in ways I never could have anticipated.

One reader I met at a book signing later contacted me to do an interview for a book report she was doing for school and, later, told me she received an “A!”

Grateful because a group of teen readers from Saskatchewan told me that they had passed the book around and had questions about what happened to my characters, about L.M. Montgomery and her books, and where they could find out most of these details. (I did have these things on my website, but it was lovely to see that the book inspired such passionate questions!)

When I was signing at a bookstore in PEI, a tourist from Croatia had heard from the woman who runs the birthplace that I was going to be there and had her parents drive her to Summerside to meet me. 

Melanie signing books at the L.M. Montgomery Conference.

And grateful because last June at the L.M. Montgomery Institute Conference, a graduate student spoke about Maud for 20 minutes—giving me permission to stay in the room while she did. And she said nice things! The book is now included in her master’s thesis. (I hope she’ll let me read it!)

It has been an honor to connect to these people. It was nervous-making putting a creation out into the world, having no control over what it was going to do. But Maud has shown me that when you allow things to unfold, beautiful things emerge.

Cynsational Notes

Author photo by Ayelet Tsabari

Reporter Melanie J. Fishbane covers Canadian publishing for Cynsations. She holds an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and an M.A. in History from Concordia University.

With more than seventeen years’ experience in children’s publishing, she lectures internationally on children’s literature. A freelance writer and social media consultant, her work can be found in magazines, such as The Quill & Quire.

Melanie also loves writing essays and her first one, “My Pen Shall Heal, Not Hurt:” Writing as Therapy in L.M. Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside and The Blythes Are Quoted,” is included in L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years 1911-1942 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015). And her short story, “The New Girl,” was published in the Zoetic NonBinary Review.

Her first YA novel, Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery, was published by Penguin Teen in 2017. The novel was featured on the Huffington Post’s Summer Reading List, a top pick for the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading Kids Summer Reading and winner of Hamilton Public Library’s Next Top Novel.

Melanie lives in Toronto with her partner and their very entertaining cat, Merlin.

Follow Melanie on Twitter @MelanieFishbane and like her on Facebook. Read an article by Melanie on Earning & Celebrating Success.

Guest Post: Melanie J. Fishbane, author of Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery, on Earning & Celebrating Success

By Melanie Fishbane
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Confession. I have a difficult time celebrating my success. When it comes to my accomplishments there is a little voice in my head that suggests, as the Kirsty MacColl song goes, “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby.”

Perhaps it is also because my path to publication is a bit unconventional. I couldn’t believe it when I was approached by Lynne Missen of Penguin Canada (now Penguin Random House of Canada) with the possibility of writing a YA novel about my favourite author, L.M. Montgomery.

I hadn’t finished my MFA yet at Vermont College of Fine Arts, I didn’t have an agent (and still don’t), and was still deep in another book that had a mind of its own.

Melanie delivers her graduate lecture at VCFA

What had Lynne seen in my writing that made her think I could do this? Sure, I had been lecturing on L.M. Montgomery at conferences, and had wanted to write historical fiction for kids ever since I learned it was a thing you could do…but there had to be other, way more established authors, who could do this better than I.

Lynne asked me to put together a proposal with an outline and a few sample chapters that would demonstrate my vision for the novel. Three months later, I sent a ten-page proposal and the first forty pages and waited. And waited.

After about a month or so (see, didn’t wait all that long!) I was asked to revise those chapters; I suspect to see how well I took editorial feedback. I went home and worked on the revisions, seeking to prove to Lynne that she hadn’t put her faith in the wrong person, and to myself that this was possible. About a month after that I sent her the revisions. And waited.

After about a month or so (see patience is a practice!) I was given an offer. As I didn’t have an agent, and I think too new to understand that I could have found one to help me negotiate the deal, I hired an entertainment lawyer, who helped me navigate all of those non-writerly things that can make us uncomfortable.

Over the next four and a half years I devoted myself to the book.

I also learned how to trust the process and see the editor as a partner who wanted what was best for me and the book. Lynne allowed me to explore characters and scenes that ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor, but also asked the right (sometimes annoying) questions, encouraging me to go deeper, find Maud’s character, as well as craft the world in which she would live.

I kept wondering if I was taking too long writing the book, but Lynne assured me that we wanted it to be the best book it could be. So, I trusted her and kept writing.

When the ARC of Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery, arrived on my doorstep a few months ago, there was a little postcard from Lynne congratulating me. And while I couldn’t quite believe that this was my success, I trusted (again) she knew something I didn’t.

Wrapping it in a plastic bag and then a padded computer case (because it was my only copy) I carried it around with me, showing it to people, and stepping into the idea that this was something to be celebrated. That whatever our path to publication is, honor it, hold it close, and then set it free.