Day 19: Ronni Davis

The tagline on Ronni Davis’ website says Writer, Dreamer, Wanderer. What a wonderful way to describe what she does and what qualities inform the books she creates. Maybe it’s Ronni’s love of travel that helps inspire her deep exploration of teen characters, journeying through their minds, struggles and motivations. And maybe her “head in the clouds” spirit moves her to imagine the moving plots. Ronni is a master of contemporary young adult novels. When you read her work, get ready for love, meaning and Black girl magic.

Paste magazine says of her debut, When the Stars Lead to You: “It’s a wildly honest, emotional read that makes for one of the most memorable debuts of 2019. Come for the swoons, stay for the heartbreak, read it again for the gorgeous writing.”

Join us in celebrating her amazing work:

About Ronni

Ronni Davis grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where she tried her best to fit in—and failed miserably. After graduating from The Ohio State University with a BA in Psychology, she worked in insurance, taught yoga, and became a cat mom.

Now she lives in Chicago with her husband Adam and her son Aidan. By day she copy edits everything from TV commercials to billboards, and by night she writes contemporary teen novels about brown girls falling in love. When she’s not writing, you can catch her playing video games, eating too much candy, or planning her next trip to Disney World.

Her debut novel, WHEN THE STARS LEAD TO YOU, is available now from Little Brown Books for Young Readers, and the anthology YOU TOO?, in which she is a contributor, is available now from Inkyard Press. Her next novel, THIS NIGHT IS OURS, will be published April 2024 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Journey to publication

I started pursuing publication in 2005, and I got an agent fairly quickly. My first book did not sell, he didn’t like my second book, then my life blew up! I took a long break from writing and the industry, doing everything but writing (unless it was random stuff for fun). I worked in advertising, I trained to be a yoga teacher, I even went to acting school.

Acting is what revitalized my love for writing. Being on set is being *in* a story, and I would come home after working 14 hours and write my head off. It was so inspiring. And it reminded me that storytelling is in my soul.

But publication? Maybe not so much. I’d been in the kidlit community for a long time, and I saw so many discouraging ups and downs behind the scenes. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hustle like that. But then We Need Diverse Books happened, and a new seed was planted. But there was a problem: I no longer had an agent, the market was so different from 2005–2006, and I wasn’t sure if my stories measured up. But I kept at it. With a lot of revision rounds, feedback from critique partners, and even some agent feedback, I started querying in earnest in 2016. Lots of close calls, lots of revising again, and too many tears and days where I would give up. (Only to be back at it again a few days later.) Still, I pressed on. I was intentional when querying, and I didn’t query more than 30 agents total.

I signed with a new agent in early 2017. After a couple rounds of revisions, we went on submission in fall of 2017. I got interest right away, but mainly in the form of R&Rs (revise and resubmits). Some of the feedback really resonated, and I got to work. My agent ended up doing two rounds of submission for me, but my offer came from a first round submission who’d read the R&R (which I’d done for a different publisher). WHEN THE STARS LEAD TO YOU was published in November 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

I’m a slow writer, so I didn’t get an offer for my next book, THIS NIGHT IS OURS, until March 2021. It sold on proposal, and it took way too long for that story to come out of me! But that one will be coming out April 16, 2024, and I’m excited for readers to have it in their hands.

The Backstory of This Night Is Ours

First, I’ll give you my elevator pitch:

Taking place over the course of 24 hours, 18-year old Brandy Bailey who has to get up the guts to chase her aspirations of going to art school despite heavy “practical” expectations placed on her by her family. Meanwhile, she finds support—and maybe romance—from her former classmate and current rival Ben Nolan, who is chasing his own fantastical dream.

Brandy popped into my head in 2018, and she immediately had a strong voice and personality. Ben was always there with her, picking on her and driving her mad. I originally wanted to write a Clerks-style story about a girl who worked at an ice cream parlor and who dealt with wacky customers all day, all while being “tormented” by the cute boy she’d gone to high school with. That didn’t really work, to my dismay. A book can’t be just vibes—it actually has to have a plot. Imagine that? Anyway, I knew I wanted to use these characters, but it took me a long time, a lot of tears, panic, brainstorming, consulting with friends, phone calls with my editors, and experimenting, but I did eventually find their story. It was hard won, but a win indeed. Kirkus says the writing is clever, and all the hard work is finally feeling worth it. 🙂

Positive Impact

Being an Amplify Cohort member was incredible. Getting to see other Black artists sharing their work was such an inspiration. Not only that, but I got to learn of such a variety of Black stories available to readers. Popular media likes to shove the same few narratives in our faces over and over. The meetings I had with the cohort were wonderful reminders of the multitudes we contain, and for those to be available to children, was a very joyful thing indeed. I feel like publishing can be such a hostile place for Black authors, so to see Black authors thriving made me happy and made me even more committed to sending those joyful narratives into the world for our children (and their caregivers and friends) to see. And being selected to be part of such an inspiring cohort has been truly an honor.

Just like being selected to be a part of the Brown Bookshelf 28(29) Days Later feature! Thank you so much for having me!

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