Fan Fiction Takes Flight

Fan Fiction Takes Flight

Many years before Harry Potter was born, his parents, Lily and James, met and fell in love at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At first, Lily thought James was nothing more than an annoying show-off, but then she got to know the boy behind the bravado. Their romance was shaped by tribulations, triumphs, and the understanding that they were destined for something tremendous.

About that last part…really? Yes, according to Those Green Eyes, a work of online fan fiction by Summer Sellers, a Massachusetts teenager.

Sellers penned her tale about James and Lily as a way of working through a tough time in eighth and ninth grade. She posted Those Green Eyes on Figment, an online writing community for young adults, at her mother’s urging. She could not have anticipated that it would become the “Most Hearted” fan fiction post on Figment, but it did.

Now a senior, Sellers is still writing—and deeply immersed in the fan fiction, or “fanfic,” universe, where fans craft stories that borrow characters, settings, and/or elements from books, movies, TV shows, cartoons, comics, manga, games, and even the lives of celebrities. The vast majority of fan fiction writers don’t make money or become famous. For Sellers and other teens, the reward is being in the company of fellow writers they admire and respect. “The fan fiction community is so diverse…you can really see the fans giving back to the authors,” she said. “The people who write fan fiction commit to it and finish their fan fiction—they’re authors to me.”

Fan fiction sites—including Fiction Alley, a huge online Harry Potter fan fiction archive, and Twilighted, hosting all-“Twilight” fanfic—have been around for years. But it took a publishing phenomenon for fanfic to hit the mainstream radar. In 2012, the extraordinary success of E. L. James’s “Fifty Shades” trilogy (Viking), erotic fan fiction inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, brought fanfic to the world’s attention. Since then, Amazon has launched a fan fiction publishing program, Kindle Worlds; authors have confessed to fanfic writing pasts; and fanfic-centered novels have become bestsellers.

The generation of teens who grew up reading “Harry Potter” is embracing fandom and fueling events such as LeakyCon, an annual convention for fans of many stripes that convened in Orlando, Florida, from July 30–August 3. These young people don’t see fan fiction as something residing in a murky corner of the Internet but as a creative outlet: a way to express love for an author’s work, a venue for exploring sexuality and emotions, and a liberating space to share and receive feedback on writing. As Robin Brenner, a teen librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts, said, “My teens all know about [fan fiction], talk about it, and don’t particularly judge each other for being involved (or not involved) in fan culture. It’s ordinary, even expected, now, if you love a thing.”

Fan fiction has its own ethos and language. “Worlds” are the many different fandoms to which one could belong (e.g., “Lord of the Rings” or “Vampire Diaries”), while “The Powers That Be” are copyright holders (more on that later). People who act as editors—correcting grammar, refining dialogue and plot—are called “betas.” There’s the “canon”—the official, original story of the work being written about—and “head canon”—the plot lines, backgrounds, character pairings, etc., that a fan makes up in her imagination. For many, fanfic’s allure is being part of this community of shared enthusiasms. It’s about reading, analyzing, and asking, “What if?”

A Place to Explore

Once upon a time, fans shared their stories at conventions and in zines. Today, they post on Tumblr and sites such as FanFiction.net, Livejournal, and Wattpad, which boast millions of users. The fan-run nonprofit site Archive of Our Own has nearly 350,000 registered fans, and Figment includes roughly 100,000 teen contributors.

“In various ways, fan fiction resembles all storytelling,” says Anne Jamison, an academic who both studies and writes fanfic, in the introduction to her book Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking over the World (BenBella/Smart Pop, 2014). “People like to swap stories, period, and the Internet is like a big electronic campfire.”

Fan fiction has its own ethos and language. “Worlds” are the many different fandoms to which one could belong (e.g., “Lord of the Rings” or “Vampire Diaries”), while “The Powers That Be” are copyright holders (more on that later). People who act as editors—correcting grammar, refining dialogue and plot—are called “betas.” There’s the “canon”—the official, original story of the work being written about—and “head canon”—the plotlines, backgrounds, character pairings, etc., that a fan makes up in her imagination. For many, fanfic’s allure is being part of this community of shared enthusiasms. It’s about reading, analyzing, and asking, “What if?”

There are no taboos or rules in fan fiction, and much of it can be sexually explicit, shocking, and/or avant-garde. While this raises issues for the under-18 set, the lack of regulation also makes fan fiction welcoming for the LGBTQ community and teens examining their sexuality. “I can write a story in which I can imagine other kinds of relationships, and no one says, ‘Oh, that’s your sexuality,’” said Henry Jenkins, Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at USC Annenberg. “Instead it’s a story I wrote.”

“Slash” fanfic, focusing on same-sex relationships, is one way that young adults can explore. Jamison notes in Fic that “‘Harry Potter’ slash helped shape and challenge attitudes toward sexual diversity among the generation that grew up reading it and arguing about it (a lot) online.”

At the same time, Jamison said, “the sexual life some fan fiction imagines for ‘Harry Potter’’s underage characters has long been a source of discomfort for their creator.” On most fanfic sites, young people can sign up for accounts at age 13. Which means, Jenkins said, that “you have space that exposes underage kids to sexually explicit material without a lot of adult supervision. It’s such a loaded category.”

The genre is also a venue for teens to probe their emotional lives, as Sellers did with Those Green Eyes. “Writing was a great outlet for me. I just portrayed my characters and the love that Lily and James felt for each other as the epitome of what I want for my life,” she said. “I made them go through difficult things and always come out scarred, but alive, because that’s how I felt a lot of the time.”

A Place to Grow

golden-dots-1071143_1920

“What I love about fan fiction is that there are no rules. There are no storytelling rules.”
Rainbow Rowell

abstract-1850416_1920

Seventeen-year-old Alaskan teen Maggie Clark devotes up to 10 hours a week to her fan fiction. “I spent a lot more time reading fan fiction than books,” she said. However, Clark, who has been writing fanfic since she was 15, said that she “wanted to get involved in fandom partially to become a better writer.” She believes her hours crafting stories, interacting with fans, and reading fanfic have helped her do just that.

Fan communities also offer young writers a place to share work without fear of judgment. “It creates a space where young people get real, enthusiastic, critical responses to what they write,” said Jenkins, “as opposed to getting a paper back with an ‘A’ written in red on the top and ‘good job’ next to it.”

Seventeen-year-old Daphney Diaz, a high school student in Queens, New York, also felt that her time on fanfiction.net made her a stronger writer. “The fandom community was really friendly. Most of the other writers and readers would comment on my stories with encouraging words or tips on how to make the story and my writing better,” she said. “Of course, there was the occasional hater, but they would be ignored.”

“What I love about fan fiction is that there are no rules. There are no storytelling rules,” said Printz Honor-winning Rainbow Rowell, author of Fangirl (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013), a young adult novel about a college freshman immersed in fandom. In fact, Rowell said, reading fan fiction inspires her to be more daring in her own work. “It’s incredibly experimental, and it’s very exciting for me as a writer to read a story that maybe I would never write or it would never occur to me to write…it’s very invigorating.” Rowell was scheduled to read from a “Harry Potter”- inspired novella she wrote at LeakyCon last month.

Fielding Copyright Issues

Legal matters are an issue for fanfic writers of any age. Complicated copyright and trademark laws are made even more so once companies have a stake in an author’s work. The website Chilling Effects provides information about what’s legal in fanfic and how to face challenges.

However, “I can’t think of very many cases where individual authors have sought legal recourse against fans,” said Jenkins. “I can think of many where legal regimes become much tougher once corporations take over.”

A campaign by Warner Bros. to protect the Harry Potter franchise exemplifies Jenkins’s point. Although Rowling released a statement in 2004 that she was “flattered” by the writing her books inspired, the studio behind the Harry Potter films sent cease-and-desist (C&D) letters to hundreds of “Harry Potter” fanfic sites in the early 2000s, requesting that they remove content and/or shut down. The letters resulted in domain names being confiscated, but they also caused a public relations disaster and uproar from fans threatening to boycott the films.

Some writers just don’t want fans playing with their characters, as Game of Thrones (Bantam, 1996) author George R. R. Martin made very clear during a November 2013 press conference. “I would rather they made up their own characters and their own stories,” he said.

Going from fanfic to professional writer can be tumultuous. Sarah Rees Brennan, the author of “The Demon’s Lexicon” trilogy (S. & S.), has been accused of everything from plagiarism to selling out. “I wrote a ton of free stories for fun and if people enjoyed it they don’t owe me anything—except that I would truly appreciate it if they would just quit torturing me,” Brennan wrote in a heartfelt February 2014 Tumblr post, explaining how her teen fanfic past has hurt her professionally. “It was years ago. I’m sorry I did it.”

No Longer Underground

Other authors’ openness about their fanfic affiliations has helped to erode the stigma. Neil Gaiman, author of the 2009 Newberry Medal winner, The Graveyard Book (HarperCollins, 2008), has written H. P. Lovecraft and “Chronicles of Narnia” fanfic. “Princess Diaries” series (HarperTeen) author Meg Cabot confessed to writing “Star Wars” fan fiction when she was a tween. Cassandra Claire, author of the bestselling “Mortal Instruments” series (S. & S./McElderry), was once a hugely popular fanfic writer. Her “Harry Potter”based “Draco Trilogy” and “Lord of the Rings” parody, “The Very Secret Diaries,” are now legendary. S. E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders (Viking, 1967), has written fanfic about the paranormal TV show Supernatural, visited the set, and even made a cameo in a season seven episode.

Rowell’s critically acclaimed Fangirl, which has sold 250,000 copies worldwide, has inspired its own fanworks—something that Rowell embraces. “It leaves me awed to think that people are invested in my stories and my characters so much that they want to make their own art and their own stories about them,” she said.

The Magicians (Viking, 2009), the first novel in Lev Grossman’s best-selling “Magicians” trilogy, involves a boy who is admitted to a secret college of magic in upstate New York and has been compared to “Harry Potter” in many laudatory reviews. While Grossman was worried about “people dismissing [my books] as knock-offs or works of plagiarism,” he said, “There’s been very little. People have been very receptive.”

The trilogy’s homage to Rowling’s series, C. S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia,” and other works of fiction, from T. H. White’s The Once and Future King to Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, is deliberate, Grossman explained. “The line between the ‘Magicians’ and ‘Harry Potter’ fan fiction? There’s no line. It’s part of that continuum,” he said. “I’m certainly comfortable thinking of it as fan fiction.” The Magician’s Land (Viking), the trilogy’s final title, is out this month.

Profiting from Fanfic

Meanwhile, some organizations are still striving to make a profit without alienating the fanfic community. In April, Wattpad announced that it had raised $46 million, bringing the company’s total funding to more than $60 million. Investors believe the site, which is free for contributors, will one day make a lot of money. How this will impact Wattpad’s more than 25 million users is uncertain.

It also remains to be seen how Kindle Worlds, Amazon’s fanfic publishing platform, will affect fandom. The venture is unique in that fanfic writers can earn royalties, and the “worlds” are sanctioned by rights holders. Since its June 2013 launch, Kindle Worlds has published more than 500 stories. Its current focus is on expansion and providing opportunities for newbie writers, general manager Nick Loeffler said in an email exchange. “Every rock [and] roll superstar guitarist started as an air guitarist, idealizing and mimicking their favorite musician and in many cases wishing they could learn and collaborate directly with their idols,” said Loeffler. “Storytelling and prose are similar. We want to take this engagement to a new level.”

What's Next?

In March 2014, the Organization for Transformative Works, a nonprofit run by and for fans, hosted a series of online chats about “The Future of Fanworks.” Fan studies scholar Dr. Paul Booth expressed restrained optimism about fandom’s path toward legitimization. “I’m not sure if the geeks shall inherent the Earth yet—but it’s getting close.”

Rowell expressed a similar sentiment. “I think there’s going to be a real shift, where fanfiction is not this niche thing, and we all sort of know what fanfiction is,” she said. “It’s where these young writers are first trying it out.”

Kaila Hale-Stern, a trust and safety ambassador at Tumblr as well as a novelist and journalist, believes her nearly 20 years of “trying it out” by writing fan fiction led to her professional writing career. “I give more credit to having written this stuff and read it as a kid; I think that’s what made me a writer,” she said. “More than writing classes or being an English major, it was engaging with the incredible writers I was reading at 14 and 15, learning from them, writing in these communities, and reading comments and feedback and support. It’s invaluable.”

This article appeared in the August 2014 issue of School Library Journal. 

“I’m not sure if the geeks shall inherent the Earth yet—but it’s getting close.”
Dr. Paul Booth

YA Authors Who Give Back

YA Authors Who Give Back

Judy Blume is not a woman with a lot of free time on her hands, yet she serves on the board of directors for the National Coalition Against Censorship. Linzi Glass, author of Ruby Red (Penguin, 2008), has won awards for her philanthropic work and is a cofounder of the Forgotten Dog Foundation, dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating dogs in need. Cammie McGovern, whose YA debut novel Say What You Will (HarperCollins) publishes this month, is also the founder of Whole Children, an organization offering programs for young people with special needs and disabilities.

These are only a few examples of the philanthropic endeavors that young adult authors have embraced. They support charities, start nonprofits, and donate their talent as well as their time to numerous causes. Other writers who give include Deborah Ellis, a peace activist and author of the bestselling “Breadwinner” series (Groundwood), about a girl in Afghanistan who disguises herself as a boy under Taliban rule. Ellis donates most of her royalties to charities, including Street Kids International and UNICEF.

Author A. S. King, known for Everybody Sees the Ants (Little, Brown, 2011) and editor of Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperCollins, 2011), has traveled the country to engage with teens and adults about issues such as bullying, drinking and driving, and drug use. Lady Gaga got behind King’s message last year, when she made an appearance at the St. Paul Public Library during “Read Brave,” the library’s community-wide event that embraced Everybody Sees the Ants to raise awareness about bullying.

Melissa Walker, who wrote Ashes to Ashes (HarperCollins, 2014), encourages readers to celebrate their wonderful, awkward years by submitting photos to her “Before You Were Hot” project. On a larger scale, YA superstar John Green, author of Looking for Alaska (2005) and The Fault in Our Stars (2012, both Dutton) and a prolific vlogger, codirects, with his brother, Hank Green, the Foundation to Decrease World Suck, which raises and contributes money to charitable causes.

The altruism generated in this community goes far beyond the writers: activism extends to their fans, as well. Much of the YA world, from publishers to tweens on Twitter, inspires, encourages, and supports altruism. Here is just a sampling of some of the good things these authors do.

It Hurts to See Kids in Need

Ellen Hopkins is best known for her novels in verse, including Crank (2004), Glass (2007), and Fallout (2010, all S. & S.), that take on gritty, dark, and difficult topics, such as prostitution, drugs, and sexual abuse. As a New York Times bestselling author, Hopkins does many school visits, during which her readers share their often-heartrending stories with her. “It hurts to see kids in need….a lot of their stories are ‘I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to find help,’” said Hopkins.

Inspired by such encounters, in 2012, Hopkins and her daughter Kelly Foutz launched Ventana Sierra, a nonprofit organization that gives young people who have aged out of the foster care system a place to live. Their first home opened in Carson City, NV, in June 2013. Since then, they have experienced successes as well as failures. Residents struggled with rules about drugs and drinking. Toxic romantic relationships lured some girls away. Not all residents have been willing to work or go to school. “You start with a big idea,” said Hopkins. “And then you have to fine-tune it as you go.”

Nineteen-year-old Alyssa Rowley is one of the beneficiaries of this “fine-tuning” and of Ventana Sierra’s swift growth from one house to two homes and an apartment. Despite graduating with honors, Rowley found herself homeless after high school. Her parents were doing drugs again, and her dad had sabotaged her chance to go to college. About four months ago, the Reno native moved into a Ventana Sierra apartment. Now, she is looking forward to studying business or child psychology this summer. “[Ventana Sierra] gave me a really good opportunity,” said Rowley. “They opened the doors for me to go to college and to provide a better life for me and my sisters.”

Authors T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper (right) post “unselfies” on their site, in which people to express their emotions through pictures of things they see around them rather than focusing on themselves.

Promoting Empathy and Anti-Bullying

Like Ventana Sierra, the We Are Changers campaign is still in its early days. Authors T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper launched this “empathy project” in late 2013, shortly before the husband-and-wife team published the debut novel that inspired it, Changers: Book One: Drew (Akashic), in February 2014.

The couple’s initiative to promote empathy is a reaction to studies about the cultural decline of this trait. It’s also a response to the plugged-in world, with all its cruelties and narcissism, which their two teen daughters are navigating. “You do feel a lot what they go through on a daily basis,” Cooper said, “and that changes your emphasis and your worldview, naturally.”

The We Are Changers website is a forum where visitors can take polls and watch videos of celebrities whom the couple has identified as “changers among us.” The site also includes a gallery of “unselfies,” pictures with short captions that convey emotions. The April unselfie winner was a picture of a sign reading “You are Beautiful” with the words “feeling beautiful starts from inside.” Another snapshot showed a terminally ill pet in a happy moment. Cooper and Glock-Cooper say that unselfies are a response to the proliferation of selfies, self-portraits taken with cell phones. “It’s literally the physical idea of turning the camera around and considering what life is like for other people,” said Glock-Cooper.

Bullying and self-esteem are important issues to many teen lit writers. Jay Asher, the author of Thirteen Reasons Why (Penguin, 2007), a novel about a depressed teen who commits suicide, is touring the country as part of Penguin Young Readers’s “50 States Against Bullying” campaign. Heather Brewer, author of “The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod” series (Dutton), also speaks nationally about bullying. And last June, writer e.E. Charlton-Trujillo undertook a self-funded, cross-country book tour to talk with at-risk youth about themes from her novel Fat Angie (Candlewick, 2013). Several writers joined Charlton-Trujillo at some of her stops or appeared in At-Risk Summer, a documentary about her trip. They included King, along with Cecil Castellucci, author of Tin Star (Roaring Brook, 2013); Andrew Smith, whose most recent book is Grasshopper Jungle (Dutton, 2014); and Meg Medina, who wrote Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Candlewick, 2013).

Writers concerned about teen mental health—including Nancy Garden, author of Annie on My Mind (Farrar, 1982); Brian Katcher, known for Almost Perfect (Delacorte, 2009); Robin Reardon, author of A Question of Manhood (Kensington, 2010); and Jordan Taylor, who wrote Wonder Dogs (Reel Dogs, 2009)—contributed stories to Awake (Cheyenne, 2011), an anthology compiled by editor Tracey Pennington. Book profits benefit the Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to ending suicide among LGBTQ youth.

Writing That Prompts Good Works

Sometimes books alone will galvanize good deeds. A significant case in point is the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA). Founded in 2005 by Andrew Slack, an ardent fan of J. K. Rowling’s fantasy novels, the HPA is a bighearted force to be reckoned with. HPA members organize to battle “real-world horcruxes” (in Rowling’s titles, “horcruxes” are nefarious objects that contain parts of the evil Lord Voldemort’s soul) that threaten the global population, from illiteracy to homophobia and genocide. Their undertakings are ambitious. In January 2010, the HPA joined the organization Partners in Health (PIH) to send five cargo planes of supplies to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Rowling is also known for her generosity. In 2012, she was scratched from Forbes magazine’s billionaires list because her charitable giving and taxes knocked her down to the millionaires club. While members of the HPA draw motivation from the novels, not the woman who created them, Rowling herself has spoken about imagination and social transformation. “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already,” she said during a 2008 Harvard commencement speech. “We have the power to imagine better.”

Like HPA members, John and Hank Green’s Nerdfighters operate independently from their source of inspiration. Via forums and blog posts, Nerdfighters (Nerdfighters.ning.com) encourage one another to volunteer, champion causes (including the Greens’ Foundation to Decrease World Suck), and provide support to fellow “nerds.” The Green brothers’ fans take on global warming, poverty, and human rights violations, but they also tackle bad days and loneliness. One post in the “Decreasing World Suck” forum asks members to share favorite jokes, and another requests that Nerdfighters send cheering notes to a member’s friend who is fighting cancer.

Among organizations that authors have created to support literacy, a standout is 826 National, a network of eight nonprofit tutoring centers established by Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (S. & S., 2000). YA literati who serve on 826 boards include Lois Lowry, author of the “Giver Quartet” (Houghton Harcourt); M. T. Anderson, known for Feed (Candlewick, 2002); and Susan Shreve, who wrote The Lovely Shoes (Scholastic, 2011). ReaderGirlz is another organization founded by wordsmiths. This literacy and social media organization, which won the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize, was launched by authors Dia Calhoun, who wrote Aria of the Sea (Macmillan, 2003); Janet Lee Carey, author of The Beast of Noor (S. & S., 2011);Justina Chen, author of North of Beautiful (Little, Brown, 2009); and Lorie Ann Grover, who wrote Hold Me Tight (S. & S., 2007).

Organizations that Do Good

826 Valencia
A nonprofit organization supporting students ages six to 18 with literacy and writing skills and to helping teachers inspire student writing.

Before You Were Hot
Devoted to the belief that “every swan was once an ugly duckling.”

The Forgotten Dog Foundation
Committed to rescuing, rehabilitating, and finding homes for stray, abused, and abandoned dogs.

Foundation to Decrease World Suck
This all-volunteer organization has the sole purpose of raising funds to be donated to other nonprofit organizations.

Harry Potter Alliance
A coalition of fandom leaders and members who are passionate about the power of story to inspire and bring about social change.

National Coalition Against Censorship
Promotes freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression, and opposes censorship in all its forms.

Nerdfighters
Increases social awareness, while cross-supporting the Foundation to Decrease World Suck.

The Pirate Tree
A collective of children’s and young adult writers interested in children’s literature and social justice issues.

ReaderGirlz
Promotes teen literacy and corresponding social service.

The Compassion Factor

All of this good work raises a question: Are writers and readers just more empathetic? An October 2013 study published in Science found that “reading literary fiction may hone adults’ ToM [Theory of Mind], a complex and critical social capacity.” In non-geek speak, this means that psychologists determined that reading literary fiction increases empathy among adults.

Though studies have not yet been conducted on the effects that reading YA literature may have on empathy, the community’s authors resolutely believe in fiction’s ability to promote and strengthen understanding. In a speech Green recently delivered at his alma mater, Kenyon College, he spoke about “Thoughts on How to Make Things and Why” and his conviction that reading and writing make better people of us all. “Through story, I can imagine others more generously and complexly,” he told a full auditorium. “I can glimpse the richness of their inner lives.”

Slack from the HPA has also spoken to the power of imagined narrative to inspire good. “What if we gave our teenagers the opportunity to imagine themselves as the heroes that they have grown up watching, rather than treating their precious minds as nothing more than a way to line the pockets of some CEO?” he asked in “Cultural Acupuncture and a Future for Social Change,” a 2010 Huffington Post piece about the HPA.

Slack is on to something, according to a publication released by the Coalition of Community Foundations for Youth, Best Practices in Youth Philanthropy. “Youth philanthropy programs provide authentic opportunities for young people to develop skills and knowledge that will make them better students and citizens in the present,” wrote the study’s authors, Pam Garza and Pam Stevens. Such involvement, Garza and Stevens maintain, will “increase the chances that they will continue to play active roles in the community in the future.”

In addition, “having friends that volunteer regularly is the primary factor influencing a young person’s volunteering habits,” according to a 2012 survey from DoSomething.org, which encourages young people to embrace social change. If a teen’s friends are justice-loving Nerdfighters or wizard-worshipping activists, she’ll likely want to “imagine” herself as a hero, too.

Doing Good Despite the Challenges

Though the number of U.S. nonprofits increased 25 percent between 2001 and 2011, to number around 2.3 million in 2010, “the amount of money coming into the sector has pretty much stayed the same,” said Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing and CFO for Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity rating service. “So more and more charities are fighting over the same level of contributions.” One percent of charities draw 86 percent of funding—which makes it tough for new and smaller nonprofits to get off the ground.

While working for a cause can be extremely time-consuming, authors feel that the reward is worth it. Hopkins falls into bed each night exhausted and daydreams about finding time for her work in progress. “Man, it’s like ‘Whoah! I need to go on a writing retreat,’” she said.

However, Hopkins knows that she can rely on her author friends and her publisher to donate resources and time for Ventana Sierra fund-raising endeavors. “It’s crazy the support I’ve gotten. I feel like [members of] the YA community are so supportive of each other….I’m blown away,” she said.

Among those who’ve reached a certain level of achievement, there’s also a desire to pay their good fortune forward. “At this age and stage in my life, you start to reflect on what you’ve done,” said 45-year-old Glock-Cooper. “I’ve built a nice career, and I’ve had so many blessings and great things happen. I wanted to give back concretely.”

This article appeared in the June 2014 issue of School Library Journal.