Those words of encouragement by author Stephen Chbosky had profound impact on aspiring author Ava Dellaira. “It seems obvious to me now, but at the time I was waiting for someone to validate me or to tell me ‘you’re a writer now’,” she said. “Realizing that writing is something that you do – an action that you take – was really empowering for me and gave me the freedom and courage to write more honestly than I had been able to before.”
Now a best-selling author with two young adult books to her credit – Love Letters to the Dead and the newly released In Search of Us – Dellaira visited O’Dowd on March 8 and met with students in the library.
“A lot of people ask if I always wanted to be a writer, but my first dream was to be an Olympic gymnast. I pretty quickly figured out that was not going to happen so I turned to words instead,” she said.
Dellaira discussed where she finds inspiration for writing, detailed her writing process, and provided insight about the characters in her two books and their complex stories. She also read a passage from In Search of Us aloud.
Jayla Goler ’18 asked how Dellaira deals with writer’s block.
“For me, the best way around that is to just keep writing,” Dellaira said. “When I was starting the second book I was really anxious. I knew that I had readers who were interested – people who liked the first book – and I didn’t want to let them down, and I had an editor who was waiting for it.”
Self-doubt was almost crippling, but Dellaira gave herself a daily page count to meet. “I told myself I couldn’t leave the little coffee shop where I wrote until I had written five pages. Some days I left thinking the pages I wrote were not good and that I hadn’t accomplished anything,” she said. “But eventually it started to change. The characters started to become real and they started talking to me. Soon my emotional connection to this story outweighed my anxiety about it.”
Students gasped when Dellaira said sometimes it takes writing 50 pages to get to one good sentence. “That’s just part of the process of writing. All those 50 pages weren’t a waste of time because they led you to something,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dellaira has adapted Love Letters to the Dead into a screenplay for Temple Hill – the company that produced Twilight and The Fault in our Stars. “It’s a really interesting experience translating a novel to a movie script,” she said.
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