Can you tell us about your books?
I started out writing middle grade. I worked on a middle grade project for ten years, sent out five queries, got rejected, and threw it out. I spent two years on a second middle grade novel, and was just about to send off a second round of queries for that project when I got feedback from a NYC Midnight Flash Fiction submission suggesting I write more of “Maddie’s voice.” Maddie became the protagonist in The Loose Ends List, a YA novel about a family that travels the world on a secret death-with-dignity cruise ship to help Maddie’s dying grandmother live out her last wishes. The Loose Ends List debuts June 7, 2016 (Little, Brown).
What are you currently writing?
I’m finishing a second YA book about a group of “do-gooder” teens from different backgrounds who spend an intense, drama-filled Hamptons summer together. My awesome editor, Lisa Yoskowitz, has the latest draft right now, so it’s still very much a work in progress. This novel (still untitled) is scheduled to be released in 2017 (Little, Brown).
If you could give any piece of advice to unpublished writers what would it be?
I’m going to give EIGHT pieces of advice, since it’s your eighth blogiversary!
Live a full life. I spent all my money seeing the world, and did some pretty weird and crazy things in my life. All those experiences helped shape my stories. The more you live outside your comfort zone, the more you’ll be able to add to your books.
Take care of your mental health. Writing (and pretty much anything) requires tenacity, perseverance, and a thick skin. Learn to accept criticism without falling apart. That IS a skill and it takes practice.
Read. Read everything you can get your hands on (in your genre and beyond).
Write. The more you exercise your writer’s brain, the better your work will be. So simple. So true.
Massacre. Learn how to chop up those pages. Don’t be a word hoarder. Purge. Slash. Get rid of chapters. You will feel lighter and your work will improve. Trust the pen (or the delete button)!
Study the craft first! You don’t necessarily need an MFA, but you need to study sentences on the page. How are they structured? What’s the rhythm? Read for the purpose of learning how other people tell stories.
Then study the business! Take workshops and go to conferences if you can afford it. Otherwise, scour the Internet for HOW to query. Then make query writing your job. It took me longer to write the query for LEL than the book itself.
Connect with other writers. Writing is a solitary process. But succeeding in publishing is so hard without being part of a community. The good news? Writers are wonderfully welcoming!
Who are your favorite authors?
Of course, I’m partial to my fellow authors debuting in 2016, but I can’t choose a few, so I’ll
give you eight of my non-debuts!
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
What are some of your favorite books to read again and again?
It’s a good thing it’s not your 100th Blogiversary!
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou
All Julia Donaldson Books (to my children)
Go The BLANK To Sleep by Adam Mansbach (because of my children)
The Norton Anthology of Poetry (I still have notes in the margins about college crushes)
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Thank you so much, Tanya, for giving me the opportunity to participate in this celebration! Happy Blogiversary to you and happy reading to all of your followers!