Late in the summer of 2013, I had just finished up taking part in a great contest called The Writer’s Voice. I had also just signed with my agent, was ready to dive into submission of the first novel, about to start my MFA, and testing the waters in the YA community, a community in which I felt like everyone knew each other but me.
Alongside me in this contest was another writer called Anna-Marie McLemore. I knew nothing about her, except the first hundred words of her novel and the pitch. Which I think I read a dozen times. “Wow, I wish this was a book I could read right now,” I remember thinking. “Wow, that Anna-Marie McLemore seems so cool and awesome and talented. I’ll be she is the bomb diggity.” I then proceeded to shyly internet stalk her. Like the big creep that I am.
So imagine my surprise when a few months later, I got a direct message on Twitter from here which read, nearly in its entirety, “Wanna CP/beta?” (for those of you who are not writers, she was asking me if I wanted to be critique partners, meaning people who send their manuscripts to each other and trade feedback).
That’s right–this writer whose work I had had a big old crush on for MONTHS was asking ME if I wanted to be HER critique partner?
I think I fainted.
I wrote her back an email that was crafted with all the attention and care and redrafting of asking someone out on a date. I did my best to make myself appear far more interesting and intelligent than I actually am. This was the equivalent of the taped-glasses math club nerd getting asked to the prom by the dreamy captain of the football team.
I was not going to screw this up. I wanted this girl to like me.
So I sent my new friend a draft of the book that would become This Monstrous Thing. She read it. She had great and helpful things to say about it. Turns out she was also smart, funny, articulate, and kind.
“Damn,” I thought, “This girl is even cooler than initially anticipated.”
We kept reading each other’s writing. We traded more personal emails with that writing. We started talking about things other than books, and we eased slowly into friendship. We went from being CPs to pen pals to proper friends in opposite time zones. Over the past two years I’ve known her, Anna-Marie has been an incredible source of strength and inspiration for me–both as a writer and a human being. And one time she drove me around western Mass and I was pretty sure we were going to die. Also her and her cute husband are the kind of pair that make you believe in true love. That has nothing to do with anything. I just wanted to mention it.
I remember exactly where I was when I heard This Monstrous Thing sold–it was such a special moment, I’ll never forget it. I also remember exactly where I was when I read that Anna-Marie’s first novel, The Weight of Feathers, had sold to St. Martin’s. It was also a pretty freaking special moment. Probably moreso for her than me. But I pretended I was a part of it.
Today, that exquisite book by this exquisite human being, is released into the wild.
The Weight of Feathers is an astonishing book. Of course I am biased because I know and love the author, but also I am a person with fantastic taste and I would think this book is gold whether or not I knew her. It is magical and evocative and lush and delicious and gorgeous. It is about inherited hatred and impossible love, about performing mermaids and tree climbers, about family and abuse and learning how to love others and yourself. It is about magic and culture and the way our families make us who we are, and how we break free of that and make ourselves. And the prose is so beautiful and sweet it will give you a cavity.
So here are some recommendations for you:
- Get yourself a friend like Anna-Marie McLemore.
- Get yourself a copy of The Weight of Feathers.
Here are some helpful links to make it even easier for you to obtain this book:
GET YOURSELF THIS BOOK. I promise you will love it. And if you don’t, we can’t be friends anymore. Simple as that.