Author of the week
Lisa Ko is a model of authorial persistence, said Sarah Seltzer in Flavorwire.com. Though The Leavers, her debut novel, has a plot tailored for our current political moment, the book is the product of seven years of often disheartening work—plus an unconventional gambit. Ko started writing the novel in 2009, after reading news stories about undocumented immigrants being separated from their U.S.- born children. She decided to focus her story on a Chinese- American boy adopted by a white family after authorities deport his mother. “Early, optimistic, and wildly delusional plans were to finish it in two years,” she says. Five years in, she was still writing, and still didn’t have a manuscript that any publisher liked. So, as she neared 40, she decided to make it her goal to score 50 rejections a year— just to keep herself going.
A funny thing happened near the end of that first year, said Melissa Hung in NBCNews.com. Running up against her own deadline after sending out dozens of short stories and grant applications, she chose to submit the unfinished novel as a candidate for the PEN/ Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction—figuring the rejection would pad her tally. Instead, she won the prize, and the book contract that came with it. In truth, though, she had already pushed through her low point, the moment when she realized that the novel, as structured, was fatally flawed. She saw no other choice but to start over. “Even if the thought of having to start from scratch felt impossible,” she says, “I knew I would regret giving up more than having to plow through the work again.” ■