Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Damage My Childhood Book-Eating Did

Nowadays, if you ask me what I want to be you’ll get one of two answers:

Pediatric oncologist
Children’s book editor

It’s tearing me apart, trying to choose. I’d take Mr. Frost’s advice and pick the road less traveled by, but just which one fit’s the bill?

On the one hand, medical school is tough and long and arduous and did I mention tough? Also, I don’t know (m)any 17-year-olds keen on specializing in something that will lead to watching many innocent children be forced to fight for their lives and, sometimes, despite their remarkable strength, lose said (and sad) fight. It really is depressing.

Then again, being that I live in BRAZIL, somehow migrating over to NYC to pursue a career in book publishing isn’t exactly easy either. Lots of immigration stuff to be dealt with, never mind I have no family in the vicinity. Also: Great Amazing Boyfriend has no plans of living in the States.

But, how did I land myself with these two choices?

Well, it all started with a bright-eyed, tiny two-year-old who loved bedtime stories her mother told her so much that she began somewhat reading at that age (2 or 3) and then progressed to reading fairy tales and then to Harry Potter in Portuguese. Then she moved to the US. As she was learning English at age 9, she began with easy books: Junie B. Jones, Pee Wee Scouts, Cam Jansen, Scooby Doo mysteries, A-to-Z Mysteries, and yes, eventually Harry Potter in English.

Then, when she hit middle school, she began reading Lurlene McDaniel and was introduced to the world of tear-jerkers and books about dying cancer kids who had uplifting endings but nevertheless reduced her to outright crying by their last pages. And that’s when she began getting so attuned to All Things Cancer and began studying a lot and then some more and then some MORE of that to the point where she could go on and on about many different forms of cancer and its treatments.

Her brother told her to consider becoming an oncologist. It had never occurred to her before.
She liked the idea. She especially liked that by doing medicine, she’d be able to do volunteer work in Africa and help the sick there, too. She loved that she’d be able to work with children with cancer. She wanted so badly to be a part of that world. This was at age 11 or 12 or so.

THEN this girl began reading a popular chick lit author. Eventually she read two bestsellers of said author and was inspired to began writing a third book in the series, as fan fiction, when she went to the writer’s forums and saw other people did that. So she did! And her fanfic somehow attracted many readers and built up her confidence to where she wanted to write her own stuff. So she moved over to the writing forum and began several stories, ended none, but that was fine because soon she became the an avid user of the writing forum, where she stayed for…three years. The writers there were all about her age and many had very interesting stories, so…

This made her do a LOT of reading and give a LOT of constructive-criticism. Just like that, a passion was born. This girl loved critiquing. She loved correcting people’s grammar, analyzing character motives and arcs, pointing out plot inconsistencies, all with the intention of seeing a more polished text. And the other writers did the same to her stories! It was a huge community thing. This started when she was 13 or so.

She began evolving in reading and growing into straight YA, starting with some Ro-Coms and then browsing around more the YA section at her local B&Ns. She moved to Brazil but she still loved reading in English.

Her interests as a writer also evolved and she began reading agent and editor blogs, especially those who represented YA, and learned what she could about the industry. She began learning about who represented whom, publishing terms, how book deals come to be…and she went to serious writer forums (both YA and general) to see what she could learn.

This goes on ’til today. She has a blog now and she studies YA more intensely because of it and also keeps herself up-to-date on all that’s happening in the industry. She’s made tons of contacts. This girl even managed to convince her mother to fly from Brazil to NYC and attend BEA in 2009. There met some agents and one editor and countless authors and loved every minute of it.

So, you see, books are what made her the person she is today. She loves books--not just the final product, but also the journey they took in order to get their behinds in stores. She loves the idea of working with authors who have the potential to change lives. She loves the idea of helping improve books that touch many. She wants to be a part of it.

Then again, she loves children. She also wants to be a part of helping these kids she admires so much. She wants to dress in bright colors and carry little gifts for them and try to help them maintain a positive attitude through what is so obviously a scary chapter in their lives. She wants to be a caring doctor, not a jaded one. She wants to do volunteer work and be able to offer medical help sick people in underprivileged parts of the world.

Damn you, books. See what you did to me? You make me want to do two things that I can't possibly do at the same time and I have no idea where to even begin choosing which is right for me.

But also... I thank you. I thank you for, firstly, teaching me English better than any ESL teacher could. I thank you for inspiring me. I know that in whichever path I choose I’ll be a passionate professional, and that’s one of my biggest goals: be in LOVE with my job. You made it possible for me, a completely directionless girl, to feel some sort of calling.

Mission accomplished.

7 comments:

Alea said...

I don't know man! Whichever you pick is going to be awesome though!

Mariah said...

I feel the same way. I either want to be a Biomedical Engineer or an editor, hopefully we will both make the right decision!

Abby said...

Steph, maybe you're already doing this, but have you thought about volunteering at a hospital? It might help you decide if medicine's a good career path! ALSO, I am learning this more and more as I get older: no one says that you only get one career in your life. If you choose a path and that other field just keeps calling and calling to you, there's nothing saying that you can't change directions later in life. :)

Steph said...

"If you choose a path and that other field just keeps calling and calling to you, there's nothing saying that you can't change directions later in life. :)"

Oh I know, I know! Many people keep reminding me of that fact, actually. :P It's just that to get into med school here you have to study and study and study and if I choose to go to NYC first and then come back it will take me way too long to get back into the medicine career track. So I have to get into med school first, then defer my admission for a year and go to NYC, do internships, see what's a fit for me...

It's exhausting. One's in Brazil, the other's in NYC and frankly, there's no way I can do both.

Since I need to do university anyway, I've thought about just doing my internships whenever I have the chance during my uni breaks and doing medicine like I was planning to. If I dislike it or if I feel a greater calling towards publishing, then I'll just go to the US and at least I'll have a degree.

And - I'm working on getting something at the oncology center here in my town. My bf's dad is a very successful doctor here and he knows the president of the oncology center and he's trying to get me something to do there. My mom's a dentist and she has a patient who volunteers in this kids-with-cancer foundation who thinks she can get me a volunteer spot, something I'm also very excited about!

And in the meantime, I'm also looking at the possibility of doing something in a publisher here. There are some who just begun publishing tons of YA so I'm also looking into that!

Lots to go on as of now. Thankfully. :)

Steph Su said...

Okay, I'll have to tell you that, right now, I am an English & Education major, but most days I wish I could've done something completely different, one of my many other interests. I've long been curious in astrophysics, or engineering, and these days I'm even beginning to be interested in medicine myself. I think there's something to be said about having a challenging, unexpected, and well-rounded education. There's an acclaimed medical school that only accepts students with a humanities/social sciences background, their claim being that this education gives these students a new perspective and sensitivity that people doing pre-med might lose sight of.

So I guess what I'm saying is that don't think your two interests are mutually exclusive. What I wouldn't give to be able to have the visceral experience of physically helping others, discovering something new, working with science, and then turning to my original love of books and storytelling.

Amee said...

Do you still have that fanfic story? I should read it now that I finally read the second book! I never read yours since I hadn't read the sequel.

I think whatever you do, you'll do awesomely and in a very Steph way. ;)

Simply_Megan said...

I wanted to be a doctor (pediatrician to be specific) for the longest time. I'm still interested in medicine, I just don't think medical school and all that entails is for me. So now I'm studying English hoping to get into journalism/publishing/writing. I think there needs to be a double major for this type of thing! Because the two jobs are totally different and involve years of education so it's hard to switch. But you'd be good at whatever you decide.

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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph