Marcella Haddad with Leigh Bardugo
Meeting one of my favorite authors, Leigh Bardugo.

‘Be Too Much’

“What advice do you have for aspiring writers?”

New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo considered my question. She raised the mic and replied, “I’m going to give you the advice that everyone gives to aspiring writers.” She paused for a second, and grinned. “On a full moon, go outside and draw a pentagram with chalk…”

Bardugo is a makeup artist, author, and is sometimes in a band. She lives in California and her books are about magic and teenagers and fantasy Russia and crows and sometimes really gruesome battle scenes. She is everything I want to be.

Meeting her last week meant that I have officially met my three favorite authors — Lev Grossman, Laini Taylor, and Leigh Bardugo. The catch was that Bardugo’s event was at the same time as my Drawing class, and I couldn’t miss another class without taking a half a letter cut to my final grade.

It was worth it.

I not only read it, but I worshipped it, and in my opinion, it was the best thing ever written. 

“But really,” she said, coming back to my question after the laughter to her answer had died down. “I’ll tell you a couple things. First, that you’ve got to finish that first draft. No matter how you do it, or even if it’s terrible, you’ve got to finish it.”

I squinted suspiciously at her, wondering if she somehow knew that I was behind on my word count for national novel writing month.

“And the second thing I’ll tell you is to read outside of your comfort zone. Read poetry, and history, and other genres. Look at how they treat the narrative form, and they’ll inform your writing.”

Another piece of advice that felt like it was aimed right at me. My professor and my friend who had come to the event both looked over with knowing grins. I was notorious for never reading something if it didn’t have dragons.

After a few more questions and a while waiting anxiously in line, I got to meet Bardugo. I handed her my copy of her new book, “Six of Crows”.

“Have you read it?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, deciding to leave out the fact that I not only read it, but I worshipped it, and in my opinion, it was the best thing ever written and that she was my hero and I had practically built an altar in my room around her book.

“Who’s your favorite character?” she asked, smiling and writing “for Marcella” on the inside cover.

“Nina,” I answered as seriously as if the headmaster of a wizarding school had asked me.

Bardugo smiled and scribbled a quote in my book, and then signed her name. She handed it to me and then smiled at the next person in line, my professor, Frankie Mallis.

“She’s been playing it cool,” Frankie told Bardugo, nodding her head toward me. “On the whole way over here, she was freaking out. ‘I can’t believe we’re going to meet Leigh Bardugo!’”

I laughed nervously, wondering if there were any holes nearby with vacancies for people who wanted to disappear.

“Aww,” said Bardugo, smiling at me. “Thanks.”

When I got home, I looked at what she’d written in my book. The character Nina was bubbly, strong, over-the-top, but still poised and powerful. Bardugo must be psychic in addition to being a famous writer, because she picked my favorite Nina quote:

Be too much.

Photo by Jessie Farese