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Alumna Publishes First Novel, Talks to Students

Story by Tabatha Piper '15

Mindy McGinnis started writing when she was at Otterbein and admits, “I was really bad.” The self-proclaimed “farmer’s daughter from Morrow County,” was not an overnight success. In fact, it took 10 years before she had an agent and a published deal. 

But now, McGinnis has published the critically-acclaimed young adult novel, Not a Drop to Drink, about a time when water is a rare and precious commodity. Despite her success, she remains humble about the chances of success.

“I quit writing five times and can count over 130 rejections,” McGinnis said to a class of aspiring writers. “I was so good at failing I didn’t know what to do with success.”

McGinnis is currently working as an assistant young-adult librarian in rural Ohio. She enjoys helping to hook kids on books and relates numerous stories of how she finds a book for kids, who are not so interested in reading. The next day; however, they are back, asking if there is a sequel or a similar book to the one they just read. 

“The best writers are, first and foremost, people who read widely and carefully, who understand various genres and their significance, and who begin to form judgments about the social power that belongs to literature,” said Paul Eisenstein, Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences and McGinnis’ professor in several English literature classes. “I really find her resilience and determination as a lesson to aspiring writers."

“You are talking about someone who works full time as a librarian and is raising two children and who has found a way to carve out time to write, to not give up on the stories that she felt were hers to tell.” Eisenstein said.

McGinnis says the writing process is very messy. She takes the ideas from her head and throws them onto paper. After that process, her advice is to step away for a few months because you become so attached to your story. 

“I sometimes go eight months without writing,” McGinnis says. “I started off wanting money and fame but found it’s just really cool to see your book in print.” 

Not a Drop to Drink is published by HarperTeen books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.