When I first started writing, I was looking for a middle grader to read my work- in- progress. My brother volunteered his friend's 12-year-old son, Mark. Perfect. I sent Mark my story and in no time, I got a response. It was a thoughtful, smart, insightful, detailed letter -- I learned a lot from it.
Here he is, my first middle grade reader, standing near my debut novel in an upstate New York bookstore. You might notice he's not exactly a kid anymore. He's a young man who recently graduated from college. (Congrats Mark!) That wip that he read way back when is locked in a drawer someplace, but Mark read the new one and sent me another letter. (Thanks Mark!)
Getting published took a while. A lot of years. A lot of stories.
BTW, while Mark's appearance has changed significantly over the past decade, I can assure you that I look exactly the same as I did ten years ago. Exactly.