Resources > Turn Tragedies into YA with Joy L. Smith
Learn how exploring complex emotions associated with tragedy can create a poignant story with author and mentee alum, Joy L. Smith.
[Writing Turning] was a really long journey, but I appreciate what it taught me: patience, believing in yourself, and having the right person to back you.Joy L. Smith
What’s in Store:
- Learn how to transform tragedy into a powerful story
- Practice writing your own truths and engage in a lively discussion about self-kindness, recognizing unhealthy relationships, and being open to different routes to achieving your dreams
Prompt #1: A Long Time
Write a scene where your character hasn’t talked to their best friend in a long time.
Prompt #2: Pain
Write a scene where your character gets hurt.
Prompt #3: Fear
Write a scene where your character is afraid.
Q&A with Joy L. Smith
- How did you find an agent? Also, how long did you edit your story before showing it to anyone else?
- Those are good questions. So, I found my agent through a Twitter pitch contest called #DVPit and basically it was a pitch contest for marginalized authors, you know, and things like that. And I did a pitch, you know, several pitches about my story and my agent liked the pitches and that meant that I could query her, which for those who don’t know, querying means you send a very specific letter about your story and a little bit about you and why you want the agent to read more of your story and/or assign you. And I got lucky— my agent, she told me at first to do a revise and resubmit, which is basically, she liked my story but wasn’t quite ready to sign me. And if I worked on the stories and her edits, you know, and get back to her. So I did that. And that took about six months or so. And then once I did that, she was like, “Now I’m ready.” I did the edits and she liked it and she signed me. So that’s how I found my agent. And what was the second part of that? How long did I edit before showing it to anyone else? I’m a part of a website called Scribophile, which is a critique website, and you critique other writers’ stories and in turn you get karma and that karma allows you to post stories for people to critique for you. And so I would post, like, chapters of my story and I would get, you know, edits and, you know, thoughts about it from other writers. And so it pretty much got right away— I shared as much as I wanted to share, you know, I shared the whole story and I got help with the whole story before I submitted it to my agent.
- How did you find out about Girls Write Now and what was the process to getting in?
- So it was my ninth grade high school class. We were doing these personal narrative stories and my school did a book— I went to arts and media high school, so we wrote these narratives and they were going into a book, like an actual book that the school was making for us. And a group of people came in, not a group… They were from Columbia, Columbia University Teachers College, I think. And they were like, “There’s this program…” You know, me and my sister, I have a twin sister, we wrote — I guess our narratives were just so great. And they were like, “These girls are writers!” and they were like, “There’s this program called Girls Write Now, the deadline passed, but we’re going to talk to the people and see if you can put in the application for it. And my sister and I were just like, “Okay, like fine, that’s fine.” And we, you know, it’s so crazy. We did the application together like it’s the one person because we were working on a story together. And so now I think about it, I’m like, “That was a little weird,” but they went with it. Thank you, Girls Write Now. So we did that and it was this application. They went into a little bit of our writing and a little bit about us and things like that. And then we had to come in for an interview and then I was like, “Wait, an interview, what?” and it was just like a small group of girls, you know, just kind of talking about like what the, what the program is and things like that. And a little bit more writing. And then they decided, I guess on that group, if you fit the larger group and that was it. I’m not sure that’s the same now, but that was it back then, it’s a pretty similar process… We spend a lot of time on our pairing process making sure that you can play with an awesome mentor who’s going to highlight your strengths, help you with your weaknesses, and yeah, that’s pretty much it.
- Have you danced yourself ballet or another genre?
- I don’t dance. No, I am a fraud. I took dance lessons when I was like seven or eight. And it was just like a mix of like a little bit of ballet. Nothing too crazy, a little bit of African dance, a little hip hop, little tap, you know, sort of like recital type dancing. And I liked it, but I didn’t like, like it like it. So I mean, I like to dance, but not really. I like to watch it, but I don’t dance. I appreciate it. I’m a big like, I love to, like, watch stuff. So, like, you know, take my money, I’ll just sit here for three hours and watch a ballet. That’s fine. That’s fine.
- Does your book have any romance?
- Well, friendmance a little bit? A little bit. I mean, there’s Kyle. I guess I did not explain the synopsis of my book that well, sorry. Here we go. So my character, Genie, is in physical therapy throughout the story, and she is in physical therapy at the same time as this guy named Kyle. You know, he’s going to be a freshman in college. And also he was a gymnast at one point, so they kind of were both really into like, you know, these big physical activities. And, you know, finally she realizes that he’s kind of cute. She’s kind of annoyed by him because he’s actually trying in therapy and she’s not. But, you know, it’s a little bit of a friendmance going on. You know, there’s a mutual liking of each other there. But yeah, a little bit. Just a tad bit. Not too, nothing too crazy.
Joy L. Smith
Joy L. Smith is a childcare professional and lives in Queens, New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, she has a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Differences, with a specialization in communication disorders. She’s been writing since she was a teenager and has bee… Read Full Bio
This event was originally recorded on August 13th, 2021.
Joy L. Smith is a childcare professional and lives in Queens, New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, she has a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Differences, with a specialization in communication disorders. She’s been writing since she was a teenager and has been mentored by Ibi Zoboi, Radha Blank, and Emma Straub through the Girls Write Now program. Turning is her debut novel.