Tag Archives: valynne e. maetani

5 Things I Learned While Writing INK AND ASHES

By Valynne E. Maetani

maetani-inkandashes-ag15When my sister turned eighteen, I decided to write Ink and Ashes for her. Because I never got to see myself in books other than those with settings involving war, an internment camp, or high fantasy, I wanted her to have a contemporary title with a Japanese American protagonist. I was tired of reading about people like me who were hated just because of the way they look and thought the greatest gift I could give her was a book I never got to read.

Following red herrings and guessing how a story might end has always been a thrill, so I knew this was the type of book I wanted to write. I also wanted a Japanese element which added mystery, and that naturally led me to the yakuza, the Japanese mafia.

The only problem was that I had never written a book before. Fortunately, writing a book was really fun and easy.

Until it wasn’t.

So here are some of the most important things I learned:

1. Writing is hard. In order to grow, I had to leave my ego at the door. I had to be willing to let my manuscript be ripped to shreds. I had to hear why parts of my story didn’t work. I had to learn where my weaknesses were, so I could discover my strengths.

2. Writing is hard. There were times I hated my book. I hated my characters. I wanted them all to die. But I also loved my book. I loved it enough that I couldn’t give up writing. I was passionate about my story even when I thought my manuscript would never be published. In fact, I was pretty certain my story would never see the light of day. No one had written a book like mine, and so I believed there wasn’t a market for my story. But having an underlying passion for what I was writing carried me through the times that were difficult.

3. Writing is hard. I think some of the hardest scenes to write for Ink and Ashes were the ones where I left a part of myself on the page. Allowing myself to be vulnerable was difficult, but it also meant I was writing a story no one else could write.

4. Writing is hard. But having friends who are writers has made the journey easier. Only writers truly understand why we do what we do—why we torture ourselves and yet love the craft. Writers understand exactly what it means to get an agent, to sell a book, to be on deadline, to write another book. They have been a support system that I couldn’t have done without.

5. Writing is hard. But it is also fun. It is worth the blood, the sweat, and the tears. It has brought joys and opportunities I could have never imagined; introduced me to people I wouldn’t have met otherwise; and filled voids that I wasn’t even aware of.

Writing is hard. But it wouldn’t be meaningful otherwise, and I can’t imagine life without it.


valynnemaetaniValynne E. Maetani grew up in Utah and obtained a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In a former life, she was a project manager and developed educational software for children with learning disabilities. Currently, she is a part-time stage mom, part-time soccer mom, and full-time writer. Her debut novel, Ink and Ashes, is the winner of the New Visions Award 2013 and a spring 2015 Junior Library Guild selection. She lives in Salt Lake City, UT.

Ink and Ashes is now available.

10 New & Debut Asian American YA Authors

In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, here are 10 new and debut Asian American YA authors for you to check out. Support them today so they can publish more books tomorrow!

Sona CharaipotraTiny Pretty Things co-written with Dhonielle Clayton (HarperTeen, May 2015)
Get to know her: Goodreads Voice: Interview with Sona Charaipotra

Kelly Loy GilbertConviction (Disney-Hyperion, May 2015)
Get to know her: DiversifYA: Kelly Loy Gilbert

I. W. GregorioNone of the Above (Balzer + Bray, April 2015)
Get to know her: One Asian Book is Quite Enough (Diversity in YA)

Fonda LeeZeroboxer (Flux, April 2015)
Get to know her: Get to Know Asian American Children’s Authors: Fonda Lee, Author of Zeroboxer (amithaknight.com)

Stacey LeeUnder a Painted Sky (Putnam, March 2015)
Get to know her: DiversifYA: Stacey Lee

Valynne MaetaniInk and Ashes (Tu Books, June 2015)
Get to know her: Valynne E. Maetani’s website

Caroline Tung RichmondThe Only Thing to Fear (Scholastic)
Get to know her: Me, My Daughter, and the Babysitter’s Club (Diversity in YA)

Aisha SaeedWritten in the Stars (Nancy Paulsen Books, March 2015)
Get to know her: On Asian-Americans and why we are #NotYourAsianSidekick (aishasaeed.com)

Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes (Razorbill, April 2015)
Get to know her: DiversifYA: Sabaa Tahir

Amy ZhangFalling into Place (Greenwillow, September 2014)
Get to know her: An Indies Introduce New Voices Q&A With Amy Zhang (Bookselling This Week)