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Wednesday, June 27, 2012



Read First, Then Write

I grew up in a family of readers. My first memories are of my sister Kathy reading Grimms’ Fairy Tales to me – and if that’s not character building, I don’t know what is – and of warm summer nights begging her to read just one more chapter of whatever Hardy Boys mystery we were reading. Maybe it was While the Clock Ticked or The Shortwave Mystery with crickets chirping outside the bedroom window. By third grade, I was reading The Hobbit. In fourth, I was taking my sister Mary’s oversized (read: giant) hand-painted map of Middle Earth to class for show and tell. (I can still remember the confused looks on my classmates’ faces.)

When I was pregnant and had to go off work at five months, I read thirty books during the remainder of my pregnancy – everything from Jane Austen’s Emma to Dean Koontz’s Watchers. (As a dog owner, I loved this book. I’d really love it if my dog had the ability to speak. Of course, Chance the Dog’s conversation would consist mostly of, “Are you gonna eat that?”)

As my son was growing up, I was able to relive children’s literature through him. Oh, the books we read together! When he was about seven, I had the idea of creating a website devoted to children’s stories and activities — a free resource for parents. So my graphic designer husband created, and that is what ultimately led to my becoming a writer. Besides including classic pieces of children’s lit on our site, we needed new content, so I began to write sweet little stories as well as the site blog. That led to my writing short fiction, then my first book, a young adult novel.

In the past two years, I’ve completed four books and have had different motivations for each. My young adult coming-of-age novel is, I guess, my attempt at capturing some of the angst and struggle to find a place in the world that seems to be such an integral part of the complicated teen experience. My hope was that teens would find Stacy York — a smart, funny girl going through some trying times — a relatable character, as well as any adult readers looking back on that tough period of life.

My middle grade books I wrote next. They’re funny, corny adventures that I describe as The Hardy Boys meet The X Files meet Scooby-Doo, and I felt compelled to write them after reading so much about the dearth of middle grade books aimed at boys. (And I think Dav Pilkey and Jeff Kinney are flipping geniuses! The first time I picked up Diary of a Wimpy Kid in the bookstore, I was hooked.)

The most recent book I finished is a light-spirited contemporary romantic comedy that involves a somewhat-clueless matchmaker. It’s Emma meets I Love Lucy, and it stems from my romantic ideal that everyone in the world deserves love.

As a result of all of this writing, I have four books coming out in four months, which will probably cause me to question my sanity at several points along the way, but sometimes one has to throw caution to the wind and just go for it; right? (And I’m certainly not getting any younger.)

I write now, but my biggest hope is that what I write will be entertaining to the reader because: I remain a reader first.

Margaret Lesh’s debut young adult novel Normalish will be available 10/5/12 through Musa Publishing Visit her website:


  1. Great post, Margaret. Now I want to read Watchers. I used to read Dean Koontz novels and then stopped and have been reading fiction and women's fiction forever. But anything with a talking dog written by Dean ought to be good. And Emma meets I Love Lucy? That's a great way to describe a book. I want to read that one.

  2. The first book I ever read was The Hardy Boys - It Happened At Midnight. I was 8 years old at the time, quite an accomplishment for a book rated for boys aged 9 to 14! Good luck with Normalish!

  3. Patricia, Watchers is the only one of his books I've read -- I don't typically read much horror. I really enjoyed it, though. I'll never forget the dog character. He was great. And I so wished my dog Eli could talk!

    Cheryl: I have such fond memories of those books. (That is quite an accomplishment for an eight-year-old!) I liked those books so much, I read a few to my son when he was a little guy. Great fun on those hot summer nights.

  4. Margaret - thanks so much for a glimpse into your busy life. I never knew about a talking dog book, but now I have to read it. And I, too, love your description of your romantic comedy. I wish you the best of everything with your amazing number of books coming out soon.

  5. Thank you, Cordelia. For some reason, over the years, that book has stayed with me. The premise is a government experiment gone awry. Without giving away too much of the plot, animals are being used with the hope that they'll be able to work as undercover spies, hence the talking dog.

    As for the next few months, I think it will be "interesting," but I'm hoping not in a cowering in the corner hyperventilating sort of way. (Lol.)

  6. YOu have a busy time ahead of you. Best of luck. Great blog post btw.
    Emma Lane

  7. Wow! Four books, huh? Good for you, and good luck with all of that!

  8. Fantastic post!! Can't wait to check out all four of your new releases. Wonderful, wonderful blog.

  9. Hi Margaret, just came over to say hi. Wouldn't want you have a lonely blog post. Seems you have been busy. Wow, four books! Can't wait to read your new YA release through Musa.

  10. Thank you, ladies, for stopping by and commenting. It means a lot to me!

  11. Great post, Margaret! Interesting content and so nicely written. I was completely charmed reading about the steps that brought you to writing your books. I'm sure you'll handle your four releases with all of the warmth, grace, and enthusiasm that you manage all the rest of this with. I'm equally sure they will all be successes.

    P.S. "Watchers" is my favorite Dean Koontz (yup, the dog did it). I felt sorry for the monster, though. I always feel sorry for the monsters.

  12. Well, thank you, Rhea!

    Agree about the monster; I felt bad for him too. I'm kind of like you that way, I felt sorry for King Kong and Frankenstein and Godzilla.

    There's something about the underdog, too, that is very compelling -- probably why I enjoyed Finding Grace so much. The main characters were very poignant, I thought.

  13. Thanks for a trip down memory lane, Marg. Your post took me back...waaay back, to my kid days when, inspired by the books I read, I dreamed of many things, sliding down the scimitar of a new moon, flying with no wings--always about five feet above ground level--zooming over hidden treasures, imagining exciting things, like seeing atoms in dust motes twinkling in the sun, finding strange new worlds to explore...

    Other people's stories rescued me from my nondescript life in a series of dusty Arizona towns and beguiled me with the proposition that there could be all sorts of wonderful things out there...just waiting. Books can be such wonderful things.

  14. Lovely post, Margaret...and brings back memories of various books along the way! Good luck with your novels. :)

  15. Thank you, Joanna. :)

    Marian, I'm glad you had those books to take you on adventures and to escape in. A good book can be transformative. It's amazing, isn't it? I enjoyed reading your post!