Frequently Asked Questions
+ When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I can't remember a time when I WASN'T writing. Growing up, writing was my favorite thing to do—like reading and daydreaming (my runner-up favorite activities), it allowed me to escape into my imagination, to create whole worlds and characters. My parents will tell you that I was always curled up with a notebook and pen, scribbling my “novels.” My first full-length book was called Spaghetti and Meatballs, about two best friends who break up. I even drew a cover for it! (not very well). As I got older, I got braver about sharing my writing with teachers and trusted peers, and I began to get feedback that helped me hone my skills. I realized that writing could be a career…a very exciting/scary/challenging/rewarding one, at that!
+ How did you get your start as a YA author?
I had a somewhat nontraditional path to publication. After college, I wrote a bunch of serious short stories and sent them to serious journals and got lots of serious, nice rejection letters. In the meantime, I had started working as an editorial assistant at a children’s publisher (where I still work today!) and was loving it. One day, my boss asked me to edit the first chapter of a manuscript and I rewrote a big chunk of it. When I showed it to my boss, he looked at me over the tops of his glasses and said, "First of all, you can't rewrite huge chunks of a manuscript, and second of all, you really have an ear for writing YA!” I hadn’t thought about writing YA before, but it was like the whole world opened up. I set aside the short stories and not too long after that, wrote my first novel, South Beach, which was published in March of 2005. At my book party, I remember I gave a (slightly incoherent) speech but managed to say, “This is a dream come true.” And it was!
+ What is your favorite part about being a writer? Least favorite?
There are many things I love about writing, but I'd say that my favorite part is what happens AFTER a book is written: that is to say, hearing back from my readers. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that the story you have labored over alone has spoken to another person in some way.
My least favorite part has got to be writer's block. A lot of people say writer's block doesn't exist, but I wholeheartedly disagree. That heavy, unsatisfying feeling you get when you know what you want to say but can't get the words and sentences to obey you—that's torture. Staring at the teasing blank screen, rewriting a paragraph a million different ways... that is the hard, sticky part of writing. Of course, once you get through it, the wonderful sense of relief can't be beat.
+ Where do you like to write?
I have trouble writing in my own apartment—my bed is too inviting, the fridge is too full, Netflix too tempting! So I usually write in a nice little café nearby. It has comfy seats, free WiFi, good coffee, and, perhaps most importantly, tons of other people on their laptops. Being around other people who are working gets me motivated, too.
+ What are some of your favorite books?
This is perhaps the hardest question to ask a writer! But here goes, in no particular order and with the caveat that I’m forgetting everything but these were at the front of my mind today: Jane Eyre, When You Reach Me, The Great Gatsby, Eleanor & Park, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Counterlife, The Hunger Games, Fun Home, Baby-Sitter’s Club #9: The Ghost at Dawn’s House, Maus, Before I Fall, Something Borrowed, Wonder, Atonement, The Princess Diaries, Gone Girl, all the books I’ve edited, and on and on….this list could never end!
+ What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read! Read what you love, read what excites and interests you. The more you read, the more inspired you will feel to tell your own stories—trust me. And the same goes for your own writing: write down whatever excites and interests you, not necessarily what you feel you "should" be writing. I always say, your own writing should make your heart beat a little bit faster.