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A Piece of My Mind
October 25, 2006

The Thought of a Book

Author Affiliations
 

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2006;296(16):1943-1944. doi:10.1001/jama.296.16.1943

Everyone has heard about Kaavya Viswanathan, the adolescent literary superstar now fallen from grace, who not so long ago was offered a $500 000 first-time book contract to write two young-adult novels. Also not so long ago, when I was not a beautiful Harvard teen phenom (but rather a hard-plodding medical student who, at age 26, was older and thus less cool than many of my classmates), I too was offered a book contract to write two young-adult novels.

I was one of those wayward English majors who somehow ends up in medical school; the sort who’ll sooner believe “ribosomes” or “mitochondria” are the names of ancient Greek goddesses than an actual part of the human body. An editor from a major publishing house had come across an essay I’d once written about growing up in North Carolina. She tracked me down using the magic of the Internet, which—if you're neither famous nor being stalked—is flattering. She liked my writing, she said, and wanted to “woo” me into the “publishing family.” She talked quickly and cheerfully, like a sorority rush chair. Had I considered the world of young-adult fiction, YA as it's called? Already the thought of a book, that potential for actual readers, was intoxicating. So far most of what I’d written languished unread in my Word files or garnered me flurries of rejection slips.

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