Monday, August 14, 2017

Author Interview: Things That Surprise You

I had the wonderful opportunity to read an advanced reader copy of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU, a new middle grade contemporary from Jennifer Maschari, the author of The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price. This story of sisters, friends, and family is bursting with heart. It’s an important novel for middle schoolers searching to find their own way. Here’s the synopsis:  

Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited, though not as much as her best friend, Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel would just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at the Slice.

But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister, Mina, has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have Mina back but anxious about her sister getting sick again.

Hazel is changing, too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and has crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong things. She wants to be the perfect new Em. But who is that really?

 
Author Jen Maschari was kind enough to answer a few questions about her book, which will hit shelves on August 22:

Jen, can you tell Middle Grade Minded readers a bit about your inspiration for this book? Did you go through any of Em’s family/friendship issues when you were in middle school?

I knew I wanted to write a story about sisters and also the difficult years of middle school. In some ways, I feel like I’ve never left middle school. I write about it, and I am currently a 7th and 8th grade teacher! I did go through some of the same friend issues Emily faced. I was not part of the group that was considered “cool” and I remember those middle school years being pretty tough (especially my 8th grade year). But like Emily, I also found friends who were the right fit: people who accepted and valued me for who I was.

I loved the metaphor of Em’s science project, showing the movement of the changing Earth over time as it connected with the shifts in Emily’s own life. Did you think of this correlation ahead of time, or did it evolve as you drafted the novel?

Thank you Stefanie! This correlation definitely came later as I worked my way into the story. Maybe it appeared in draft three? The heart of this story was always the same – the bond between sisters and finding out who you are – but the story itself changed dramatically during revisions. It started as a camp story (spoiler: there’s no camp anywhere in the finished book) but evolved into a book about facing all kinds of change. I’ve always been fascinated with science and thought the evolution of the changing Earth and Emily’s journey went well together. (and, growing up, I loved school projects so I thought it would be fun to put one in the book)

Your debut, The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, received a starred review from School Library Journal. What was the road to publication like for your second novel? How was it different/similar from your first book?

The writing of this book was very difficult. Between drafts two and three, I scrapped all but approximately 12 pages. It was daunting but needed to be done; it resulted in a much better story! With CHARLIE, I was writing that on my own time, while teaching. With THINGS I worked faster, but I sometimes didn’t allow myself the necessary thinking time I needed in the early drafting stage to work out plot and character knots. I learned a lot of good lessons from writing a second book that I will hopefully apply to my third!

Thanks so much, Jen!

To order Things That Surprise You, go here:

https://www.amazon.com/Things-That-Surprise-Jennifer-Maschari/dp/0062438921/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497468357&sr=8-1&keywords=things+that+surprise+you

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/things-that-surprise-you-jennifer-maschari/1124860405?ean=9780062438928

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062438928

To learn more about Jen, go to: www.jenmaschari.com









 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Giveaway + Author Interview with Melissa Roske

I'm so excited to chat with Melissa Roske today, author of the new middle grade novel, Kat Greene Comes Clean. Melissa has worked as a journalist in Europe, an advice columnist for Just Seventeen magazine and she's even a certified life coach.

Thanks for stopping by, Melissa!!!

Kat deals with a lot of issues familiar to kids. What was your inspiration for Kat?

Like Kat’s mom, my dad has OCD. His compulsions are the opposite of Kat’s mom’s, though, because my dad is a hoarder who keeps everything. (I recently found a datebook in his apartment from 1973!) He’s also a checker, which means he must check the front-door locks, and the gas jets on the stove, multiple times a day. I too have obsessive-compulsive tendencies, including the need to have my window shades fixed at a certain level, but I wouldn’t say they impede my life. They’re just extremely distracting—to my family, and to myself.

Kat Greene Comes Clean releases on August 22nd!!! How are you going to celebrate?

On the actual day, my daughter, Chloe, and I will have a leisurely lunch and then visit as many bookstores as humanly possible—to gawk, and to sign books. A week later, I’m having a launch party at The Corner Bookstore, a wonderful little shop on Madison Avenue and 93rd Street. There will be an after party, too!

What advice do you have for young aspiring writers?

Don’t give up! Writing is hard work, and it’s likely you will encounter many stumbling blocks along the way—including crushing rejection. But rejection can be overcome. Giving up on a dream cannot.

Finish the sentence:

Kat is the perfect book for…Readers who like some funny with their serious.

You should have asked me…To demonstrate my archery skills. Surprisingly, it’s one of my hidden talents!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Melissa! I can't wait to buy my copy of Kat Greene Comes Clean!!!


To find out more about Melissa and Kat, visit Melissa online at: http://www.melissaroske.com/
Or follow her on Twitter: @MelissaRoske

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Breaking up is hard to do

There's something to be said for discipline, for pushing through on writing projects even though they're hard, and even though they're's so not fun anymore. You know...when the going gets tough, and all that. 
Okay, there's a lot to be said for that approach. That approach gets things done. That approach finishes things, and finishing, as we know, is a pretty critical part of any writing project. But there's also something to be said for quitting.

Yeah...I should probably explain. 

I recently trunked a manuscript after months of working on it. Usually if I'm fighting with a project, it means I'm coming at it from the wrong direction. I need to find a new way in, a fresh approach to the story. Other times, it's not that my approach needs reconfiguring; it's that I need a good kick in the pants, preferably of the metaphorical kind. 

But sometimes after I've tried all my just-do-it tricks and my new-approach tricks, I find I'm still fighting with a project. This usually means it's time to let it go, to "break up" with the project for one of a few reasons:
  1. It's not you, it's me. It's a good project, but for whatever reason, it's not the project for me. 
  2. I'm just not ready for a relationship. It's a good project, but it needs more time percolating before I pull it out and give it another go. 
  3. Yeah, it's actually you. It's actually kind of a stupid project, lol. What was I thinking? 
At this point, I think my trunked project falls into category two. Time will tell. If it keeps pulling me back, I'll definitely re-visit it. 

Deciding to set that project aside was a tough thing to do. I wanted to love it, and I'd worked hard on it. But here's the thing: once the decision was made, it was like opening the windows on my creative spirit and letting a cool breeze rush in. So refreshing! So light! So...hopeful. It was only two or three days later that a Shiny New Idea took hold, half a notebook was filled with excited scribbling, and my new project took root. 

When you're fighting with a writing project, here are a few options to consider...


  • New Approach: Maybe you're coming at the project from the wrong direction -- starting in the wrong place, using the wrong POV, missing the mark voice-wise (or, as has happened to me, the character isn't YA-age as you'd first thought, but rather MG!). Try talking it out with critique partners, or brainstorming possibilities, or free-writing about the story. Try writing non-linearly (if you're excited about the ending, or the fight scene, or whatever, write that scene). Try different points of view (whose story is it, anyway? and would it work better in third-person? etc). Try putting the project away for a month, and then taking a fresh look at it. Usually some combination of these things will ensure I find my way into a story.
  • Just Do It: Sometimes, procrastination wins. Sometimes laziness does. At that point, we have to do whatever it takes to get words on the page. A self-imposed deadline, if a "real" deadline doesn't exist; bribery or rewards; accountability (tell your critique partner or your entire social media audience that you're going to do it by X date). If it's distraction that's keeping you from finishing a project (squirrel!), even distraction by way of brilliant new story ideas, try lists -- jot things down to free your mind of them. I have an idea notebook for great ideas with poor timing, lol; they get duly noted before being ushered out the door to wait their turn. Do whatever it takes to just do it.
  • Move On: Unless you're contractually obligated to finish a project, don't be afraid to set it aside if it's not coming together. You may find your creativity flourishes when freed from "ought to" projects. Explore something new. Re-fill the creative well. Take joy in playing with words, ideas, stories. No, you shouldn't make a habit of giving up when things aren't going well -- we learn so much by pushing through and finishing a project! But if you step back and objectively see that it's time to move on from something that isn't working, it's okay. Be kind to yourself. But hey, finish the next thing, okay? ;-) 

Happy writing. :) #thisdaywewrite