INTRODUCING New Saturday Muse, Lia Keyes

It's my pleasure to introduce Lia Keyes to you. I think it's safe to say that Lia is my oldest "writing friend." We met years ago (ten years, Lia?) in the Big Sur writing conference, and since have become critique partners and lifelines to each other through all the ups and downs of the writing journey. 

As Lia says below, hardly a day goes by that we don't carry on a lengthy exchange of emails. They usually start like this: I'm dragging. Help! Get me off the internet! Are you working? Tell me to get to work!

And they usually end like this: Woo hoo! We did it! Words were written! More fun tomorrow! Thanks for giving me the push today! Goodnite!

It sure is nice having an office mate.

I know many talented writers, but Lia's words contain magic. She was born to write. Truly, writing is her gift. She is an intelligent, generous soul and it's an honor and a thrill that she's going to be part of the Muses. I'd also like to thank Lia for the beautiful redesign of the blog--it looks great, doesn't it?

Please welcome Lia Keyes!

- Veronica

Some things you should know right off the bat: I speak with an accent, go ballistic if I run out of tea, and prefer animals to small children (small children tend to bring out the Mary Poppins in me). Yes, I'm a British expat.

Inventiveness and dogged perseverance were bred in to me by a mother who survived years of food rationing and the blitzkrieg of WWII. I also inherited her graveyard humor, random silliness, and a chronic lack of patience for inauthenticity. You'll always get honesty from me, even if it's sometimes uncomfortable. 

Consider me the Simon Cowell of the Muses, hopefully without the smug smile. I'll give it to you straight. Because you deserve no less.

As someone who had to wait sixteen years to get a green card, I understand what it's like to make sacrifices for what you want; to be utterly broke; to stick relentlessly to your dream when you're surrounded by gatekeepers and naysayers—even friends—asking, "Is it worth it? Are you sure this is what you want?"

But, you see, that's where the British bulldog trait comes in, and it's been helpful with this writing lark, too. 

I've been writing with serious intent for almost a decade, though I began much, much earlier than that. 

As a small child, even before I could write, I used to autograph my poor parents' books. When I was older I wrote stories in the liners of their chests of drawers when I couldn't find any paper. And that girl in I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, who was always scribbling in her diary, even sitting in the kitchen sink to do it? That was me. 

But I lost touch with her when I married, had children of my own, and traveled the world, moving from continent to continent every two years as my banking husband's camp follower. I was 36 years old and divorced by the time I reconnected with that girl again, first as a student of Film at UCLA, and later when I returned to writing books. 

Knowing that I wanted to write for children, I signed up for the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles. There were only two days left before the manuscript consultation submission deadline, so I stayed up, strung out on black coffee, and wrote 30 pages.

At the conference, an agent said he'd like to see the rest of the manuscript. I didn't have the rest of the manuscript. A year later his office called to ask if I'd finished yet. I hadn't. 

I signed up for the Big Sur Writing Workshop and submitted more pages. Again I was offered representation, based on the partial. I accepted.

How could I not? Laura Rennert's client list includes writers of the caliber of Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher, Maggie Stiefvater, Kimberley Derting, Tessa Gratton, Kathleen Duey and many others, whose names constantly appear on the NY Times bestseller list.

And then I froze. 

What did she see in my work? Why was I so lucky? I'd never been a lucky person. Maybe they were fooled by the English accent into thinking I was clever. I was a fraud. It was all going to blow up in my face when I submitted the full manuscript. 

So I noodled, and noodled, and noodled - never completing the story because I lacked faith in myself. I kept changing the story, trying to make it better, richer, stronger, bigger, more... important.
I've lost count of how many years went by. 

I made excuses, claiming my expat single mother status as a singular complication. I had two children to look after, far from family, in a country that had yet to welcome me as a permanent resident. Both children were precociously clever, but one had attention issues, possibly even autism spectrum disorder, though different specialists had different theories. Raising them alone WAS a challenge, but I could have written a book, too. I just didn't. 

Because for as long as I didn't finish it, it had Infinite Potential. 

One of my first mentors, at the Big Sur Writing Workshop, was Ellen Hopkins. Other mentors that year were Nancy Lamb, and Eric Elfman. They've all become dear friends. I'm even living with Ellen for a bit while I get my post-divorce self back on my feet, and she recently sponsored my green card, giving me hope when I had none. 

I've watched friends publish books left, right, and center, while I continued to noodle away, not finishing.

Yet I never gave up. And I never will. 

I'm currently closing in on the end of this draft, the first draft I will have finished from beginning to end, and I'm damn well going to give it to someone else to deal with when that happens. It's time. 

Veronica emails me every morning and we write together, flipping our timers, exchanging words written, encouraging each other, venting, and laughing. When I finish this book it'll be thanks to her. 

And that's what makes writing for children so addictive - it's the other writers for children that make it the best of all worlds to inhabit. Their generosity, wisdom, tenacity, and kindness are without equal. 

So when Veronica invited me to become a new Muse I accepted, though not right away. I noodled for a bit, wondering if I was up to it, if the other Muses would accept me, if I would be good enough. Then I gave myself a talking to and decided to take the plunge, to be proactive and deal with the fear. 

And when I'd done that, and experienced no buyer's remorse afterwards, I knew I was ready—ready to finish the manuscript, to join the real world, and stop noodling around like a pallid, knobbly-knee-ed child poised, shivering, on the edge of the pool of destiny, too afraid to jump in. 

Here I am. I'm IN. And the water's lovely!

Thank you, Ellen and Nancy and Eric and Veronica. And thank you to the fabulous YA Muses, for inviting me to play with the cool kids.

Lia will be writing our Muse News Roundup every other Saturday, and filling in for Donna Cooner on Mondays while she's on medical leave (until October 7th, 2013).


Mary Poppins? I'm sending my kids right over! :)

So happy to have you, Lia!! And thank you for helping out during my medical leave, too. We're so glad you are here!

Thank you, Lia! I have long admired your dedication and commitment to story, craft and and writing community and I'm so glad you've agreed to join us!

Thank you for trusting me to hold your place, Donna. Hurry back and relieve me from clopping around in your very sparkly shoes, m'kay?

Oh, crap. I've done it now...

What an amazing story! Your crew of cheerer-onners has grown today, friend! Go get 'em.

Haha - she meant it with the small animals though. Her handle was LiaNZoo for years!

But yeah, she's a pretty amazing Mum, too :)

I love this story, Lia! Can't wait to follow your journey.

Lovely to see you here, Lia. xxxs

Lia, it is such a joy to count you as one of our own. I love your tenacity and wisdom and know you will bring so much to the community here.

Great post, Lia!
I look forward to seeing more from you!

The moment you read your opening pages at Big Sur so many years ago, I turned to the small group of writers and said, "This, ladies and gentlemen, is how it's done." I believed it then, and I believe it now.

A lovely heartfelt and open post, Lia. I'm looking forward to more -- and to cheering you on!

Abso-bloomin'-lutely wonderful to see you here, Lia! I know you'll add a piquant perspective -- you already have! (And the Mary Poppins comparison is all well and good, but you know I've always seen you as more the Emma Peel type!)

Welcome Lia! Fabulous post. Also, I love the cinematographs you used ahhhh I adore them. <3

Thank you, Katy! It's going to be SO. MUCH. FUN! I can already tell!

Thank you so much, Talia. I'm very much looking forward to it!

Kristin! Thanks for popping by!

*blushing* Hugs, Nancy!

I'm thrilled you're here, Lia! And looking forward to your posts AND that completed manuscript getting sent into the world. What wonderful friends and mentors you've had, too. They are a true blessing.

I love that you see me that way! Style, one-liners, karate chops, high kicks, and skin-tight leather. Wow. If only! :)

Me, too, Mia! I find them hypnotic!

Shelley! So lovely to see YOU here!

Thank you, Kim! I'll do my best. :)

Wow, wow, wow! Lia, what a pleasure to read your post! I did the same thing with an editor years ago...I froze and never finished a ms. I am so happy that you are here with us. Here's to our mutual courage! Here's to all of us!

Congrats Lia!! Your author story is nothing short of amazing and inspiring.

Lia, I'm so glad you're here. Now hurry up and finish that draft so we can get started on the costumes :).

So true! Without them, I wouldn't be here.

Thank you, Robin! You and I are going to have to jolly each other through this!

Christopher, you inspire me every day!

Oooh, Kristen, now THERE's an offer I can't refuse! LOL Wouldn't that be FUN?

Now I can't wait to read your book as soon as it comes out! Good luck!

I love this, Lia. It's wonderful to read something and know that you're not the only one!

You deserve the best of everything Lia, and I'm sure your book will be just that. Can't wait to read it:)


I always say the road to publication is a journey, and rarely a short one. Some people hurry and stumble. Some people get waylaid. Either way, you have to get back on your feet and keep moving forward. You're almost there. One foot in front of the other. You've got friends willing to share the journey with you, as evidenced here. And we'll all celebrate you at the finish line.

Oh, Laura. Your comment made my day! Hugs!

Love you, Ellen. Where would I be without you?

Lia, I'm so happy to find you here, I cannot think of a better muse!
Also, when I get my first book published (I'm also a ten year + slogger) please will you design my website?


You bet! So glad you like it - you're the first person to comment on the new design. :)

Lia, this was a FANTASTIC first post. I'm so excited to follow your journey and cheer for you along the way :)

Thank you, Jodi! We're in it together, and that's such a thrill. :)

Oh, Dee, thank you so much!

Nope! Life happens, doubt can sometimes overwhelm us, but it's our response to the ups and downs that define us. We can do this, Dawn. Totally.

Great post, Lia! Love the moving gifs, too! Looking forward to more. All the best, Luanne

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