A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting YA novelist Malinda Lo at an academic conference (it may or may not have been a conference about Tolkien…). She sat at my table once during lunch, and after my initial fangirling period, she was very kind and patient as she answered my numerous questions about the writing life and publishing. She told me that she hadn’t started out as a writer; she was once enrolled in Stanford for a PhD in Anthropology!

Do you know how comforting it is to hear–as an aspiring writer–that an established writer didn’t always know what they wanted to do? That they changed their mind, that they got degrees that they don’t really use?

It was at that moment that Malinda Lo became a personal hero, because the writing life is brutal. You may or may not ever sell a novel. You may end up waitressing/teaching/assisting for most of your adult life, with only a few minutes here or there to scribble down a sentence that pops into your brain. Or you can take that leap of faith, and hope that you don’t crash and burn like the Hindenberg.

Not only is Ms. Lo a successful novelist, she is also founder of Diversity in YA which celebrates “young adult books about all kinds of diversity, from race to sexual orientation to gender identity and disability.” She is also involved in the Lambda Literary Foundation, and recently served at their Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices