the fourth or fifth rewrite. I used that knowledge in particular to liberate me from pressure when I started to write what became Revenge of the Star Survivors. I began with the simple goal of writing a lousy book. I knew I could do that—and that as an editor, I could take my bad writing and make it OK. And then, if I was lucky, take OK writing and make it into something worth sharing with other people. Finally, I learned that writing works best as a collaborative process. And this is where I have to give a shout-out to two editors who helped me find my way: Sarah Burnes, my agent, was able to quickly zero in on key flaws in the first manuscript; without her, I would not have made it to publication. And Kelly Loughman of Holiday House was an editor who would raise issues and then gave me freedom to find answers that worked for both of us. The book is much, much better for having been lovingly scrutinized by each of them. And many others. Shelf Unbound: What do you hope young readers will take away from this book? Merschel: One of the things that kept me going in the dark years when I thought I would never finish
was the idea that somewhere out there is a kid who is struggling at a new school, or maybe at his or her old one, and wondering if he or she is going to make it. I want that kid to know—it gets better. There is intelligent life in the universe. You’ll find it. Or maybe it will find you.