Authors discuss writing and publishing

Author Jon Skovron autographs a copy of his first novel, _Struts and Frets_. (credit: Courtesy of libraryink via Flickr) Author Jon Skovron autographs a copy of his first novel, _Struts and Frets_. (credit: Courtesy of libraryink via Flickr)

Alumni authors Jon Skovron and Ryan Dixon came to the Connan Room last Wednesday for the sixth installation of the Real Life Stories Series, hosted by the Alumni Association. They came to talk about life after graduation and the process of getting published as young authors. According to the Alumni Association’s website, “these stories give students the real truth about life after Carnegie Mellon.”

The event was presented in modified interview format: Questions deposited in a bowl were answered and the two authors took turns asking each other random questions. This format, while entertaining at times, was not ideal for the talk and led to fragmented responses and incomplete stories.

Skovron, who graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 1999 with a degree in acting, was charismatic and energetic throughout the talk. Upon graduating, Skovron knew he wanted to explore other mediums for his art. “If there was one thing I was sure of, I was not going to be an actor,” he said. After some community theater work, he was faced with 10 years of unsuccessful short stories and novels until he found his place writing young adult fiction. His novel Struts and Frets, an indie rock coming-of-age novel, was published by Amulet Books in 2009. Skovron’s career has been much more successful since finding his niche in young adult fiction: His second novel, Misfits, the story of a demon girl in Catholic school, was published in August of this year.

Dixon graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 2002 with a degree in directing. After a few years of consulting jobs, he realized he wanted to write. His first graphic novel, Hell House: The Awakening, was published in 2010 by Viper Comics. Dixon’s life currently consists of balancing his own work and his consulting job. He has little down time and doesn’t sleep much. “Not much has changed since my Carnegie Mellon days,” Dixon said.

The two authors did not focus on the process of getting published, as many audience members had hoped and expected. Rather, they seemed to get caught up in talking about writing and storytelling in a broader sense, commenting extensively on the ability of a well-structured story to cross medium borders. Since both authors had experience working with screenplays and novels, storytelling through different media was clearly important to them.

Skovron and Dixon also discussed the importance of balance and motivation throughout the talk. “If you don’t have some balance, if you don’t take care of yourself, if you don’t fill the well, you’ll dry up and it’ll suck,” Skovron said. “Life is the most important thing. And if you lose sight of that, your work will suffer.”

Dixon and Skovron both felt that constantly working is the best way to stay motivated. Dixon sets small goals for himself and is always multitasking. “If I’m constantly writing, I can just be in that zone all of the time,” he said. Skovron is less of a multitasker, but agreed that it is “better to keep the fire going.”

There was a short Q & A session after the talk, and audience members used the time to ask more specific questions about the process of becoming published and reviewed. Both authors claimed to be fairly immune to receiving negative reviews, thanks in part to their experiences at Carnegie Mellon.

While the two authors had interesting stories to tell, sophomore creative writing and decision science dual major Lou Lamanna was disappointed by the presentation. “A lot of what they talked about was the after-getting-published state, as opposed to the getting-published state,” Lamanna said. Other attendees seemed pleased with the talk, however, and spent time afterward chatting with the two authors.