"IÕm the author of two middle grade nonfiction books, SACAGAWEA and THE WAMPANOAG (coming in March), from Franklin Watts/Scholastic Library Press. IÕm currently working on a young adult novel."
What drove/inspired you to get started?
I stayed home with my kids when they were small. As they got older, I started to think about going back to work (I'd always worked in hospitals). But as much as I itched to do something interesting and challenging, I just couldnÕt get excited about going back to work in health care. Then my husband asked me, "If you could do anything at all, what would it be?" I knew the answer immediately. I wanted to write.
Do you have any specialized training?
Only if I want to run a hospital. I have a master's degree in health administration. But I also have a liberal arts degree, and I think that broad education is the best foundation for a writer.
Has this been something you've always wanted to do?
It took me a while to realize it, but yes. I've always loved books, and words. I would see those tiny ads in the back of magazines: "Get paid to read books!" and think, "What a great gig that would be!" And I actually figured out a way to do that, as a freelance proofreader. But I would get frustrated, because as proofreader, I couldnÕt rewrite anything that was on the page. So yes, I think IÕm a born writer.
Have there been any obstacles along the way?
The dictionary definition for the word "obstacle" should be, "Trying to get published." It's an unavoidable part of the process. You have to keep submitting your work, and keep getting rejected, until someone finally says 'yes.' Until then, you don't know if you havenÕt found the right publisher, or if you're just not good enough.
Before you got the all important contract, how did your friends and family react to your goals? Were they supportive?
My mom is an author, so she knew it could be done. My husband showed his support by letting me keep working at it, instead of getting a "real" job. And the rest of my family, because theyÕve seen my mother do it for so long, just took it in stride. But I think the rest of the world assumed that writing is just something that people dabble in, in their spare time. They didnÕt take it seriously, or consider it my "job" until I actually published a book.
Now that you have a book (s) in print, do you get different reactions from friends and family?
My family is proud of me, of course. As for the rest of the world ø now that they know IÕm not just dabbling, they do respect my work more. People used to call all the time asking me to serve on this committee or that committee, assuming I had nothing else going on because I didn't "work." Now they say, "Oh, I know you're busy writing your books." I kind of like hearing that.
How did you land that very first book deal?
I met the editor at a conference. She was actively looking for authors to write their series books.
Did you have any misconceptions in the beginning about the whole book process?
I didn't realize at first how complicated the publishing business is, and how much you need to learn just to navigate it. Writing, as challenging as it can be, is literally only half the job. Learning the publishing ropes takes a full 50% of a writerÕs time and energy
How would you describe your work? What's the most important thing you'd like others to get out of it?
I hope that my writing is accessible. I hope that I've taken "boring history" and turned it into fascinating stories that will inspire kids to do more investigating on their own, in books, or in their travels.
Do you have an agent? If yes, please explain how you acquired your agent and how you think having one has helped you. If you don't have an agent, would you consider getting one?
I don't have an agent, and haven't wanted one up to this point. For my novels, though, I would like to have an agent, and I'm actively pursuing that right now.
Describe your relationship with your editor.
The editor who I met at the conference, and who signed me to write the books, left the publisher shortly thereafter. I've never met my current editor, and we've only talked on the phone once, but she's always been helpful and responsive.
How do you most often communicate with your publisher--e-mail, phone, or snail mail?
Almost exclusively e-mail. When I have to review page proofs, artwork, or maps, that's done by snail mail.
What books do you have in the works now?
I've written a contemporary young adult novel that has received revision requests from several different publishers. I've finished the revisions and now I'm waiting for responses from the publishers. I've started on another novel.
Is there anything you'd do differently with your new projects?
No, but ask me in six months. I'm still learning how to write, revise, and submit fiction.
Do you do any author events? If so, please describe what they generally consist of.
I haven't done any bookstore signings for my nonfiction books, because they're from a school and library publisher, which bookstores don't carry. I'd like to concentrate on school visits. My first school visit is scheduled for next month, and I'm excited!
How important do you think author appearances are for you and your book(s)?
I don't think an author can do much, if anything, to influence sales or the success of a children's book, unless you're willing to make promotion your full time job (I'm not), or unless your book gets that rare initial "buzz" from the publisher and booksellers (I should be so lucky). One reason I enjoy writing is because it allows me to communicate directly with readers. I want to continue that personal connection with kids by visiting schools, and by giving them a website to visit if they want to keep that connection going.
What's the best thing about publishing a book? What's the worst?
Best: Seeing my name on the cover of a book. Knowing that I saw the whole complicated process through, from beginning to end. Getting paid to do what I love (even though it's not a lot!). Worst: I honestly can't think of a "worst." I love every aspect of this business. Except maybe that I have to create that website, which is totally foreign to me.
Any last words of encouragement for beginners?
Writing a book is hard work. Getting published is hard work. But if you love it; if you feel deep in your heart that this is what you're meant to do, then go for it. The hard work will be rewarded a thousand times over