04 October 2012

Authors Ask: More Questions for Natalie Dias Lorenzi (on surviving submissions & what kids want to read!)

One of my favorite parts of doing interviews for the Teen Lit Authors group is the follow-up questions other authors ask. When I posted my Q&A with Natalie Dias Lorenzi, a couple of great ones came up, and I've asked those authors if I can share them here. If you want to see my original interview with Natalie, it's here.

Q: It sounds like it took a while from the time the book went out on submission until you sold. I'm curious--did you start something new while you were waiting? (That's something we're always encouraged to do--keep writing. But it's hard when your mind is so focused on a project that's on submission!) How did you handle the wait? 
Amy Fellner Dominy, author of OyMG 

Natalie Dias Lorenzi
Natalie: Hi Amy! Thanks for your question--it's a good one! When my manuscript first went out on submission, it seemed like all I did when I sat down at the keyboard was to check my email. It was *so* hard to focus on anything else during those first months on submission. But eventually I did get back to writing, and I started working on my second manuscript, a YA novel. That manuscript placed in a contest that caught an editor's eye, and it came very close to a "yes," but ultimately got shot down later on. That YA manuscript is still in a drawer, but I'm hoping to go back to it one day and give it another look. But even if it stays in a drawer forever, it definitely made me a better writer. While FLYING THE DRAGON was getting one "no thanks" after the other, my YA manuscript not only was a welcome distraction, but it gave my writing chops a workout, particularly with voice. Once my agent and I pulled DRAGON from the submission list and started talking revisions, I was in a better place to do those revisions because I'd kept writing during the long submission process. I could now look at DRAGON through the lens of a more experienced writer, and that was a plus.

I know the wait is hard, but since waiting is so much a part of the path to publication, it's helpful to fill that time with another project. After awhile, days will pass with scarcely a thought about your manuscript on submission, and that's when your brain will be free to enter the world of other characters and situations. 

Q: I'm curious about whether you think about specific students in your library as you make your plans for your next project. For example, you see a lot of kids demanding a type of story that is hard to find, or you think about a particular student who you know would be the perfect reader for your idea. And for those who don't know, FLYING THE DRAGON is a great story, well worth the read!
Jennifer Nielsen, author of THE FALSE PRINSE 

Natalie: Thanks, Jen. Being a school librarian, I try to pay close attention to what kids are asking for, and I find it so interesting to see what really grabs them. We have a high immigrant population at our school with about half of our kids reading below grade level. Graphic novels fly off the shelves, but I do see lots of kids who can't necessarily read them yet, but think it's cool to carry them around. :-) The most telling part of a library session, for me, is not while I'm teaching or even while the kids are looking for and checking books out--it's that 5-8 minutes they have between check-out and the time their teacher comes to pick them up and take them back to class. We have bean bags and chairs where kids can get comfortable, and I can always tell when kids get "into the zone," as we like to call it. Those are the kids who are so into their books that they don't hear me when I say it's time to line up because their teacher has arrived. These are the books I pay attention to, and I often ask kids why a particular book brought them into that magical zone.

For some kids it's graphic novels, for other it's fantasy. We have about 4 or 5 copies of your ELLIOT AND THE GOBLIN WAR, Jen, and those consistently put kids into the zone, I'm happy to report. :-) One interesting trend I've noticed lately is with 9-, 10-, and 11-year-old girls, many of whom come up to me and whisper, "Um, Mrs. Lorenzi? Do you have any books with, you know, some romance?" ;-) So middle grade characters with a crush or two will keep readers turning pages. Ultimately, readers love books that have characters with whom they connect. And since kids have such different tastes, we need authors to write books with a wide, wide variety of characters--those with different quirks, ethnicities, and life experiences. So keep writing, all of you!

Thank you, Natalie, and Amy, and Jennifer! 

More questions are always welcome... post them in the comments below.  

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