On Crank and Glass
More Than Just a Broken Line
These days, when talking about why a book “works” one can’t simply take into account the compelling story or the beauty of the writing. Today, part of what makes a book work is its ability to connect with an audience. To become a bestseller. To stay in print.
For some authors, this has turned the game of publishing into a psychological tug of war between the desire to remain true to one’s creative vision and the need to consider what it takes to publish and, in turn, connect with readers. Do I want to write “for me” or must I write “for them”? How can I choose? How can I do both? If I write “for them” will I be selling
out? It’s a conundrum to be sure, and I confess, at times
I’ve been torn by these questions. Perhaps that’s why I was skeptical when Ellen first told me about the young adult novel she was writing. “It’s about my daughter’s addiction,” she said. “And I’m thinking of writing it in verse.”
A first novel in verse starring her daughter on drugs? Sounded risky to me. Experience teaches us that personal stories rarely interest others, and that a story about your own teen’s trouble with drugs could easily slip into becoming a preachy, cautionary tale that no one would want to read. Putting those drawbacks together in a not-always-popular verse format could make for a very hard sell.
But Ellen remained steadfast, went ahead with her plan, sold her book before it was even finished, and the rest is history, isn’t it? When Crank was released in 2004, it “quickly drew readers, rising …