We had the good fortune of connecting with Lily Meade and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Lily, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
Multiple times in my life, I’ve had to face either taking a big chance or giving up on a dream. When faced with that type of ultimatum the answer is always clear. I come from a background of extreme poverty. I’ve been homeless twice. Never in my life have I felt financially stable enough to prioritize my chosen career of writing novels.

I used to hide in the bathroom at work just to write a few extra sentences on my phone and balanced all my required duties with an undercurrent of imagination transporting me to two places at once. That’s not an uncommon experience for the working creative. Stolen moments are a currency even full time writers or artists still trade in.

But when faced with the reality of your industry–that few ever make it to a book deal at all–it feels almost irresponsible to allow even those fractured pockets of your limited time to something that has yet to pay off. I said as much in my first video about becoming homeless. I took a risk to admit that I was less terrified of sleeping on the street than I was of losing momentum in my career yet again. I’d watched entire careers launch, rise, and fall while I was stuck on the sidelines being forced back to the starting line by personal and financial setbacks.

I was terrified of admitting my weakness publicly, of sharing my fears of inadequacy. But being vulnerable helped me. My community embraced me and supported me until I was on my feet again. Taking the risk of honesty allowed me to build my platform on a foundation of transparency, that has allowed me to advocate not only stand up for myself but others. I was embarrassed, and still am sometimes, about admitting the cracks in my presentation. Everyone wants to come off as polished and meant for greatness as the most envied names, but I’m proud and most days relieved I chose authenticity.

I always want to be an example for people like me. Warts and all, it is important to me to show that success is possible no matter your starting point even if the road takes longer to travel.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a speculative young adult novelist and writing advice YouTuber. I write books for teenagers (and anyone else interested) about extraordinary problems rooted in real world issues. Writing has always been my personal therapy. It’s how I work through my trauma and pain, reshape and reinvent it into something that I can face and conquer. Some issues in life, like racism or institutional discrimination and poverty, are not easily defeated by conquering a single villain. Through writing I can take the things I can’t control and redefine them so they no longer control me either.

I am an agented author with a book on submission (perhaps I’ll have a deal by the time this publishes!). It was not an easy or typical road here. I actually queried my agent after connecting with a separate company when I was homeless that promised to work with me to create and pitch a book to publishers together to launch my career. I worked with them on two ideas, the second of with I queried and signed my agent with to negotiate my best interests in a future joint publishing effort with the company. However, after the third idea I workshopped with them yet again fell apart, my agent helped me get out of my contract with them so we could attempt publishing my original work on my own.

But I didn’t feel confident in my original work for a long time after that. Though I left in 2018, I would not learn until June 2020 that the issues that led me to want to leave the company were not isolated–nor my fault and failure, as I had been conditioned and gaslit into believing–but part of a pattern of abuse that other authors and editors of color had faced while working with this company. In those two years of isolation, I went through intensive therapy to rebuild my trust in myself, my writing, and my community again. What had always been a tool of healing for me had become my source of trauma and I had no idea how or if I would ever write again.

What gave me the strength to be creative again was the confidence to reject judgement. I have always been a people pleaser. Part of what hurt me so badly when with that company was my terror of standing up for myself. When I felt uncomfortable about the trajectory of the work we were doing, I voiced it but was met with dismissal and twisted words. I was made to feel like speaking up about how I felt we should write about my lived experiences as a Black woman was disrespecting my editor’s education and experience over me in our industry.

I was taught to doubt myself, to second guess what was appropriate for me to say about ideas I wrote inspired by my own life. Only when I gained the confidence to write my most honest and unapologetic truths did I finally complete a new novel and go on submission to publishers for the first time with a book that was entirely mine. I was so confident in my new work that I submitted it to an award program before it was even finished and placed runner up for the 2021 Eleanor Taylor Bland Award by Sisters In Crime.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m actually not from LA, but I’m hoping to visit a best friend who lives there in the new year. I asked her for advice on answering these questions. She said that because I love books she’ll take me to The Last Bookstore downtown. We share a mutual passion for music we’d also go to the Grammy museum. That’s only a single afternoon, but now we’re texting back and forth about hiking spots and silly photo opps. I think the best itineraries are personalized. I know that the most memorable spots to take any tourist are never the expected, but the places you’d go to anyway. It’s a lot more fun to have your own personal experience at a spot you can recommend to future visitors than just another landmark to check off the list.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d have to dedicate my shoutout to the young adult author and reading community. Every time I’ve been faced with peril and fear over the past five years (which has been more than anyone would wish it to be), my friends and peers in my chosen industry have come behind me. Even when I felt ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated, or ready to give up–they never stopped believing in me. I’m really looking forward to my own opportunity to support others like I’ve been supported.

Website: http://lilymeade.com

Instagram: http://instagram.com/lilymeade

Twitter: http://twittter.com/lilymeade

Facebook: http://facebook.com/lily.meade

Youtube: http://youtube.com/c/LilyMeadeBooks

Image Credits
Laurie Meade

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