Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interview with tween author Jessica Burkhart!

Alright, writers...if you *ever* needed motivation to start/maintain a blog, read the interview below with tween author Jessica Burhart, author of Take the Reins, the first book in the new Canterwood Crest series!  Many thanks, Jessica, for stopping by! 

Please tell us a little bit about Take the Reins and the Canterwood Crest series.
Take the Reins introduces readers to small-town girl Sasha Silver and her horse, Charm.  Charm and Sasha leave their tiny hometown and come to Canterwood Crest - a ritzy Connecticut boarding school.  Sasha has to fight for a spot on Canterwood's advanced riding team.  And, of course, she juggles new friendships, mean girls and an oh-so-adorable boy.  

I'd categorize the series as tween chick lit with horses.

Okay, have four books coming out this year?!  Wowza!  However do you do it - juggling the writing, revising and marketing?  Please give us a glimpse into your work day.
Actually, my schedule just got bumped up to SIX for 2009. *grins* Oh, yeah.  I thought I knew what "busy" meant.  Nope.  I didn't.  I'm up early and I work all day on writing, edits, revising, marketing, blogging and everything else that goes along with being a writer.  It's a tough schedule, but I love it.

With that said, I'm working on finding the balance between total workaholic and a girl who wants to figure out more things about herself and what she wants out of life. :)

What's the trickiest part about writing a series?
Remembering what happened in what book.  It gets confusing sometimes.  I have to go back and check drafts to keep things straight!

You started freelance writing at 14 - so cool!  What kinds of writing have you done?
My first published piece was in Teen Ink Magazine when I was fourteen.  It was a personal essay about how moving so many times had affected me.  I wrote about how difficult it was to get used to new places and how it wasn't easy to make new friends every year or so.

After the Teen Ink piece, I kept writing personal pieces about whatever I was going through.  I had a few poems published and it was an outlet for me to express what I wouldn't say to friends or family about how I felt.  It sounds odd to say that, since the poems were published.  But it was easier to have strangers read my thoughts than to say them to people in my life.  

Worry about putting too many personal pieces out there crept in as I got older, so I switched to non-fiction articles.  I've written about lots of topics from drug addition to starting a rock band, so I've never been bored with freelancing.  I'm focused on fiction right now, so I only do pieces that are assigned to me by editors.

Please tell us about your path to publication.  Any advice for pre-published writers?
I started with freelancing and I did that from fourteen to nineteen.  Then, I switched over to focus on fiction.  I wrote Take the Reins for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer's Month) 2006 and then blogged about that December.  An agent stumbled onto my blog, saw that I was seeking representation for a horse-themed novel and asked to see it.  She liked it, we clicked and I signed with her.  I revised from January 2007 - May 2007 and she put it on sub.  Within a few days, we had a four-book offer from Simon & Schuster.  What a crazy ride!

I'd advice pre-pubbed writers to blog!  My agent found me through my blog, so I'm a big believer in Blog Power. :)  I heart blogging!

Who has been your favorite character to write, and why?  Your least favorite?
Heather Fox, my #1 mean girl, has been my favorite to write.  She says the most awful things and they're so fun to write!  I love writing her dialogue and being mean (in fiction!) is fun.

Least favorite...hmm.  Maybe the guys just because they're harder to write.  I have to put myself in a guy's perspective and that can be difficult depending on the scene.

And finally:  do you do things different?  :)
Why yes, Kristin, I do!  And I hope to do even more of that in the future!  Yay!

Thank you for sharing your insights, Jessica!  Best of luck to you, Take the Reins, and the Canterwood Crest series!
Thanks so much for hosting me, Kristin!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Words of Wisdom from NYC

So before I had to sequester myself from other human beings at last weekend's national SCBWI conference, I heard these words of wisdom from Jarrett Krosoczka:  

"Be really patient with your career."

Many of us are aware of how long it takes to get published.  Even masters like Dr. Seuss got rejection letters.  Even Madeleine L'Engle was asked to rewrite.  Most of us realize that there is usually somewhere between 18 - 24 months between a "yes" and seeing your book on the shelf. 

But what Jarrett was really referring to, I believe (based on the rest of his speech and the hilarious video he showed - see link below), was that a *career* takes a lifetime.  Literally.  If you, like me, want to make a living at this, then we must patiently wait for the right idea to spark.  We must patiently research that idea, and patiently tweak the words/pictures until they are perfect.  We must ride out rough patches in the publishing industry (ahem!).  We must be constantly attuned for lurking opportunities.  We must listen, with open ears and open minds, to what our critique group members tell us.  And then, when we do get a yes, we must work our booties off selling our book, book by book.  

I'm an impatient person.  My iPhone and my Tivo and my commercial-free satellite radio all feed that impatience.  Perhaps the universe pointed me toward a career that would balance all of that.  I'm still learning what it takes to build a career.  But I'll do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to make this my career.  I love it too much to be impatient with it.  (Kinda like being a parent, no? :-)  )  

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of waiting to do....  :-)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Update One from NYC

I'm home from NYC, and as much as I'd love to tell you all that the conference was enlightening and insightful, I can only report what it feels like to wallow in self-pity as one experiences a nasty stomach bug.  :-)  Ugh!  But I *did* manage to make it to the key note speech delivered by Jarrett Krosoczka (Punk Farm), who showed us one of the funniest "home-made" videos I've ever seen!  Anyone who has ever struggled to put words on paper will love it.  Enjoy!

I'll post more updates in the past few days!