Joel Levin: A Rising Star in the Writing Community

Joel+Levin+taking+a+selfie+on+Instagram+with+his+newly+stocked+book%2C+%22Incomplete%22%2C+in+Barnes+and+Noble.

Photo Submission by Joel Levin

Joel Levin taking a selfie on Instagram with his newly stocked book, “Incomplete”, in Barnes and Noble.

Faith Stewart, Editor-in-Chief

A rising star in the writing community, Buena High School’s very own librarian Joel Levin, is officially a self-published author with his debut novel “Incomplete” which hit stores Aug. 28, 2020 in places such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon. “Incomplete” is available online or in stores at Barnes and Noble for only $11.99 for paperback and $19.99 for a hardcover. On Amazon you can get the book for $10.45 paperback or $9.49 on kindle. 

“Incomplete” is a perfect read for any fan of music or bildungsroman literature.  Levin’s novel is a coming-of-age story that follows an english teacher named Brian Smith whose rockstar past comes back to haunt him as he tries to live a new, quiet life. 

“I used a variety of different personal experiences that I had when I had been the lead singer, and the guy strumming the guitar behind the lead singer,” Levin said. “Literally, [I have] 25 years worth of experience doing music that I can draw from and incorporate.” 

Many students know Levin for helping  produce the annual Not-So-Silent night album, and some may know he was in a number of bands for over a decade. However, Levin wanted to embark on a “new artistic adventure”, so he began writing the first draft of “Incomplete” in 2014. 

“I wrote the book that I wanted to read, which is a music obsessed high school teacher who has experience playing in a band,” Levin said. “That’s the book I would connect with, but I couldn’t because it wasn’t out there, so I ended up writing it instead.”

Incomplete” is a coming-of-age story that follows an english teacher named Brian Smith whose rockstar past comes back to haunt him as he tries to live a new, quiet life.”

Levin took inspiration from the novel “The Goldfinch”  for it’s “methodical” and drawn out approach. He also took inspiration from people like Nick Hornby, who is a musician and an author who is best known for “High Fidelity” and Frank McCourt who was a teacher-turned-author best known for his works “Angela’s Ashes” and “Teacher Man”. 

“[The Goldfinch is] a beautifully written book, but that coming-of-age component and being drawn out and thinking ‘alright, where is this going?’,” Levin said. “Then at the end it’s like ‘Aha! The author had a plan the whole time!’ That was a big inspiration for me…”

Levin enjoys writing, and even finds it “therapeutic”, However writing the novel was a time consuming labor of love.  With his full-time job as a librarian and being a father of two, he spent a majority of his time writing late into the night and squeezing writing in while his eldest daughter attended ballet practice. With this schedule of writing, he finished the book in May 2019 after it underwent eight drafts of revising through eight drafts.   

“It wasn’t a matter of coming up with the ideas, that was the easy part, it was sitting down and finding an hour at a time where I could just sit and write,” Levin said.

Although this book was self-published with the help of Ingram Sparks, a company that helps authors self-publish to major stores, Levin had to teach himself about formatting, layout, cover design, and other steps in the publishing process.

Book Incomplete (top right shelf) is available online or in stores at Barnes and Noble for only $11.99 for paperback and $19.99 for a hardcover. You can also get the paperback on Amazon for $10.45 or $9.49 on kindle. (Photo by Joel Levin)

“Once you’re in the thick of it there are so many things to master,” Levin said. “I didn’t hire anyone to layout or to format the book- I did it all myself.”  

Despite the uncertain future that COVID-19 has brought for everyone, Levin looks forward to publishing his next book, which will be the sequel to “Incomplete”. Originally, “Incomplete” was going to be only one book. However, Levin wrote over 600 pages for the first draft, so he decided to divide it into two books.  

The story is also heavily rooted in reality, and because of this, Levin will wait for the pandemic to end so he can write how the story is affected by this monumental event. 

“I don’t want to do the ‘land of make-believe’ where COVID-19 never happens,” Levin said, “The squeal will take place between October of 2019 to March of 2020. The epilogue will be at a date to be determined once COVID-19 is all over and done with.”

Levin also plans, once the sequel is published, to work on a new young adult series that students and his daughters could enjoy, but this could still take a very long time before this series is published as well. 

“Like with Rick Riordan, who wrote the Percy Jackson series… His middle school students, [asked one day] ‘hey, when are you going to write for us?’” Levin said, “At that point he did, he started writing for his students and his kids, so I want to write something for my daughters too.”