WellesleyWeston Magazine


Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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Page 169 of 203

the ending before they begin. Others write by the seat of their pants. That's Fleming. "One day, the image of a little boy standing in the rain just came to me. I sent in the scene or short story, whatever it was, and the instruc- tor wrote back, 'That's not really a complete story. It sounds like the first chapter of something.' So I thought, okay, why not?" Fleming fell in love with the character. The boy in the rain became Derek, whose father, unlike Fleming's, served in the military. But he didn't know what would happen to them until much later when he signed up for a weekend workshop on writing young adult fiction at GrubStreet, Boston's creative writing center. He brought the first chapter of his work-in-progress to the class, which put him in the storytelling mind- set. On the way into town, on day two, he rode the T. "It had been a really bad week in Afghanistan with a lot of deaths," he says. "I remembered being at home, watching the news, seeing pic- tures they put on the screen of all the people who had died that week and thought to myself how horrible it would be if that's how you found out that a loved one had died." His novel took flight. A host of ideas came from conversations in that workshop. He developed new characters, some modeled on his former teachers and drama coach, borrowed dialogue from conversa- tions with his sons, and was influenced by song lyrics by Billy Bragg, among others. Fleming sent the finished manuscript to seven potential agents and heard back from just one. His long-shot at Sterling Lord, a top literary agency, immediately agreed to represent him and started sending it out to publishers. These days, that's remarkable for an unknown author. In fiction for young readers, Fleming explained that the age of the main character determines the audience. The Saturday Boy is marketed for "Mid-Grade" readers (grades nine to twelve). But he urges those trying to write in the genre not to focus on an age group in advance. "Just write your story without constraints. If you put yourself in a box, it's tough to get out of it," he says. If vocabulary or incidents aren't quite right, the editor will catch them. Despite few book appearances, mostly local, and neglecting his responsibilities on social media (he doesn't blog or tweet) while pub- lishers expect all but the most famous authors to promote their own books, Fleming has received email from young readers all over the country. Some say their whole class loved it. A reader in South Dakota signed her email, "From your number one fan." For a class project, another girl created a video trailer, as if the book was going to be an honest-to-goodness movie. Fleming says, "It was good enough to make me call my agent and say, 'Why don't we post this online?'" His next book is about a 13-year-old but that's all he'll say. When he shipped the first ten chapters to his editor at Viking, response was enthusiastic but they wanted to know where the story is going. Publishing decisions are made faster now, he was told. They can't wait. This time they need an outline. Let's hope structure doesn't stifle this writer's imagination. 168 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s u m m e r 2 0 1 4 books "write your story without constraints" 164-168_WWMb14_books_sat boy_v2_WellesleyWeston Magazine 4/25/14 12:13 PM Page 168

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