We can’t brag enough about our biggest competitive advantage: Our people. They’re some of the smartest, most talented, most interesting people on the planet – and we’re not exaggerating. In fact, if you knew even half the things our employees are up to in their spare time, it would blow your mind.
The Secret Life of RV reveals some of the coolest things our employees are doing outside of work. (Read: THIS is where we blow your mind.)
Secret Life: Meg Cannistra
Senior Content Strategist/Published Author
Meg grew up in Sarasota, FL, where she spent her childhood chasing after older sisters and cousins and learning how to cook. After living in New York City and north New Jersey for a few years, Meg moved to Charlotte, NC, with her two cats, Gloom and Doom. She has a BA in English literature from Flagler College and an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University.
When she’s not taking pictures of her cats or crushing content strategy on Reviews.com, Meg writes magical, mysterious (and sometimes scary) stories. But wait, there’s more! This year, her debut novel is going to print. That’s right, you’re looking at the J.K. Rowling of Red Ventures.
Q: Hi Meg! Thanks for finding time to talk, I know you’re always booked…
A: Of course!
Q: Let’s get right to it: your debut novel just got picked up by a real, live publishing company. Spill. Everything.
A: I’ll start with the book itself. The Trouble With Shooting Stars is a middle-grade magical realism novel about a 12-year-old-girl named Luna. She’s recently been in a car accident that left her partially disfigured, and that’s caused her to withdraw from her friends and family. Art is her passion, so she stays up late drawing – and one night, she notices something strange about her next-door neighbors. Turns out, they’re part of this magical order where they fly into the sky and tend to the moon and stars. Luna goes up with them – and through that magic she starts to heal back down on earth. My editor is pitching it as “Mary Poppins” meets “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
Q: Amazing. Quick follow up: does this “middle grade” have any relation to “Middle-Earth”?
A: You’ve got Tolks. “Middle Grade” literature is for readers who aren’t quite ready for the “Young Adult” genre. It’s written for 8- to 13-year-olds. So right in the middle of that gloriously awkward “tween” phase.
Q: So much cringe, so little time. Why write for such a specific audience?
A: The tween and teenage years are such interesting times in our lives where we’re doing so much growing. Everything feels weird or awful or exciting – sometimes all three at once. But it can also feel very lonely. I like to write stories so kids of those ages don’t feel alone. I hope that my books help readers better understand all the big emotions they’re feeling… and show them how to push through or live in those emotions.
Q: So, we’ve got flying ships, magic tricks, intergalactic adventures – and that’s just from the back cover blurb. Where does all this imagination come from?
A: A lot of the inspiration for what I write comes from my own family. And for this book, I was able to draw from my own experience growing up with creative pursuits. As a kid, I was always writing. And Luna’s interest in art comes from that same place.
Q: Sounds like you’ve been working toward this goal for a long time. When did you decide to become an author?
A: Don’t laugh, but initially I wanted to be an actor. I went to this big acting camp… and it was awful. The one redeeming quality was this story-writing class I got to take. So, I decided then and there, “this acting thing isn’t going to work out – I’ll write books instead.”
Q: That was a pretty solid back-up plan. After all, you got published on your first try. How’d you make it happen?
A: The Trouble with Shooting Stars was a write-for-hire job. I was approached by a boutique publishing company (called Cake Literary) with this high-level idea, and they contracted me to fill in the blanks. It’s been a very collaborative process. For this project, they were looking for an author with an Italian-American background and experience writing Middle Grade/Young Adult literature. So it was the perfect fit.
Q: I guess you could say the stars aligned. That sounds like a disruptive way to break into the publishing industry…
A: Yep – and in true Millennial fashion, it all happened because of Twitter. The Young Adult/Kid Lit community on Twitter is huge. It’s a great place to connect with writers, editors, agents, librarians, and teachers with that shared interest. So, if you’re looking for this type of opportunity, social media is a great place to start.
Q: Copy that. Speaking of copy… how does all this translate to your work at RV? Is it difficult to toggle between two totally different writing styles?
A: It’s all about being able to shift your perspective. What I love about my role at Red Ventures is that it is a very different kind of writing. It’s still creative, but it’s much more factual. Obviously, there’s no fiction involved in writing reviews. So, embracing RV’s more data-driven approach to content actually helps prevent burnout when it’s time to write fiction – and vice-versa.
Q: Burnout is a real hurdle for lots of creatives. What’s your secret to finding the time (and energy) to write novels in addition to your day job?
A: It’s definitely something that a lot of writers deal with. It’s very much a privilege to write books full-time. Very rarely do you publish a book and instantly become a full-time author. So, I make it a priority to carve out time in my schedule specifically for creative writing. It’s a lot of late nights, early mornings, and weekends. I’ll head to a coffee shop on a Saturday or Sunday morning and spend 5 hours writing. It’s a lot of work. And I’ll admit, sometimes it does feel like work. But most of the time, it’s just really fun.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in publishing that has helped you become a better content strategist?
A: In this industry, rejection is inevitable. And that often feels personal. But it’s about realizing that 95% of the time, feedback comes from a good place – even when it’s tough to hear. Giving and receiving honest feedback is a big part of my day-to-day here at Red Ventures. It’s been great to develop that skill, both at RV and through the process of writing a book. Even though hearing ‘no’ can sting, I’ve learned that it’s not malicious. In the end, feedback makes your work stronger.
Q: Last question: what advice do you have for aspiring side-hustlers like you?
A: Just do it. I know that’s easier said than done, but you can find the time. If you’re really passionate about something – whether it’s writing a book or not – it’s important to give yourself that time to be creative, to have fun, and to work on what you love.
Q: Thanks for sharing so much of your shelf!
A: Absolutely. These reading puns have me Rowling…
The Trouble with Shooting Stars is available everywhere books are sold starting August 20th, 2019. Pre-order it here. (You know you want to.) You can follow Meg on Twitter and Instagram at @MegCannistra, and learn more about her books at MegCannistra.com.
Craving more secrets? Read about Marilyn, RV’s favorite yoga instructor – who spent decades as a professional ballet dancer.