Thursday, August 29, 2013

Next Big Thing Blog Hop: NUTCRACKED

So has anyone been a little bit curious about this mysterious middle-grade I've been working on? :) 

ANSWERS ARE HERE. Today I'm participating in the Next Big Thing blog hop. The blog hop is a series of questions for authors to talk about what they have in the works. I was tagged by Robin Constantine!

1. What is the working title of your next book?

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
NUTCRACKED is about a girl who gets to play Clara in the Nutcracker. I was fortunate enough to get to be Clara myself when I was 13, and I knew someday I'd want to write about that experience. Of course I didn't have magical adventures like Georgie does (unfortunately).

3. In what genre does your book fall?
Middle grade, magical realism.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in the movie rendition?
Oh! I have no idea, sorry. I've never been good at that. But the little girl in this picture looks like my main character, Georgie, to me.

(photo by Tracie Taylor,

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Two sentences. This is my first stab at it, so I cheated a little.

Twelve-year-old Georgie gets her dreamed-for role of Clara in the Nutcracker ballet, but her best friend doesn't…and then Georgie manages to lose her director's heirloom Nutcracker, triggering long-buried magic. Can she solve the magical clues to get the Nutcracker back, save her show, and hang on to her friendship, while rehearsing ten hours a week?

6. Who is publishing your book?
This one is going out on submission in the next month or two! Wish me luck! (Um…and if you're an editor, please let me or Kate know if you want to be on the sub list. J)

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About 3 months. Though there have been several drafts since then! It's changed tremendously.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I've been really going for the classic, old-school middle grade feel, like BALLET SHOES by Noel Streatfeild, or the magic in A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
 Molly O'Neill, formerly at Harper Collins, told me on Twitter to go ahead and write it when I said I wanted to write a Nutcracker book someday. Quote: "Write it. Write it NOW." J

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I couldn't jam it into the synopsis, but another major piece of the book is the development of Georgie's friendship with a boy named Noah, who ends up becoming her partner in the magical adventures. Georgie's dad is a high school football coach, so there's also a touch of football, and the rest of her big family. And cats!

So what do you think? It really couldn't be more different from TUNNEL VISION, but I am so, so excited about it. They're both completely me, in different ways.

And now on to the next two writers!! I've tagged two fellow One Four Kid Lit authors to participate:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Importance of Writing Heroes

I was recently asked for a list of my favorite authors. If you're a voracious reader, much less a writer, that's an almost impossible task, right? Like what movies I like best or which kind of dessert is my favorite. ALL OF THEM, SILLY. (It's even worse because I have so many author friends. I feel horrible leaving anyone off.)

So I redefined the question in my head, and it snapped clear. Who are my writing heroes? Yes, there are SO MANY authors whose books I love to read. But there are only a few who somehow, for indefinable reasons, got under my skin. Most of them are authors I read early on (surprise surprise, kidlit author here), but a couple I didn't meet until high school or college. Still, they're on the list. I read everything (or almost everything) they wrote. I read their books over and over. I memorized pieces of their books, bought collections, moved Every Single Book from home to dorm room to apartment to other apartments to house. I've read their books with my daughter, or I will. I fangirl them. They are, each of them, part of the reason I write, part of the reason I thought it was possible to write. I even type their names with a touch of reverence.

Madeleine L'Engle
L.M. Montgomery
Susan Cooper
Mary Stewart
Douglas Adams
(and yes, Jane Austen)

Sadly, I missed the chance to meet most of them, or write to them, to express in some way how very much their books meant to me. Only two on that list are still living.

I'd rather thought of all of them as unreachable...not instantly accessible, certainly, in the way authors are now. But a couple years ago, when I was at my very lowest writing point--I'd quit writing, and was thinking of leaving my agent, and was despairing a fair bit--I discovered that a good friend of mine (Vicki Pettersson) shared an editor with Mary Stewart. And more amazingly, I could write a letter to Mary Stewart (who was in her 90s), and the editor would pass it on for me. (Thanks, Diana Gill!)

I wrote one. I poured out how much I'd loved her books, how they'd gotten me through all sorts of much she'd touched me with her stories. I told her I wanted to be a writer, but I was struggling, but she was still an example for me. I sent it off, glad I'd told her at least.

I was absolutely floored when she wrote back.

It's probably hard to read, but that last line, there? Says "Good luck with your writing!"

It's a simple note, but I cried as I read it, it meant so much. Just that I'd made contact with one of my heroes, and that she'd reached back. I keep the letter, still, in my jewelry box as one of my treasures. And I wrote another book, left my agent, got another one, and eventually sold the book. I can't say it was all due to her letter--the book dragged me back in, really--but it helped, that encouragement.

So when I saw that Susan Cooper was going to be at Book Expo America this June in New York City, I booked my ticket. I went to BEA for other reasons too, meeting my editor and agent, meeting up with friends, networking, all that good stuff. But I really went, underneath, to MEET SUSAN COOPER.

I was first in line, an hour before. I held the sign for her line. And then this happened:

If I look a little giddy, I WAS. But I managed to be coherent enough to tell her that her books are part of the reason I became a writer. She replied, graciously, "That's the best thing a writer can hear from another writer." I grinned, I'm sure.

I think maybe it's important to have writing heroes, people you admire and respect and whose work you devour, who aren't quite on the same level as you, on Twitter every day and instantly accessible. Or maybe it doesn't really matter HOW readers connect with those heroes, just that somehow, sometimes, it happens, and the authors reach back. As an author, I never expect to be anybody's hero. But I do plan to reach back if anybody reaches out to me.

Who are your writing heroes? Who would you love to meet, or who were you lucky enough to meet or contact (and squee over?)