Thursday, March 12, 2009

An interview with Lisa Greenwald, a Class of 2k9 member

In the good old days of publishing, the role authors had to play was very different from the one that they are expected to play today. Editors would help their authors through the publishing process, offering advice and support, and publishing houses would aggressively market their author's books. Authors would do book signings and the like, but they did not have to pound the streets promoting their own books.

Nowadays editorial hand holding is not as common as it used to be- though there are some wonderful editors out there who are supportive and helpful - and authors are expected to do a lot more on their own. Since 2007, in an effort to help first time authors navigate the daunting publishing process, a group of first time authors formed a group. This group, Class of 2k7, was such a success that two more groups formed in 2008 (Class of 2k8) and 2009 (Class of 2k9).

Today I am talking to Lisa Greenwald, a 2k9 class member:

1. Since 2007 groups of first time authors have been coming together to form Class of 2k7, Class of 2k8 and now Class of 2k9. What is the purpose of these groups?

The purpose of these groups is that it's a way to have strength in numbers and promote our books as a group. However it's also about moral support for each other, a group of debut writers who are going through the publication process for the first time, who can bounce ideas off of one another and be there for each other.

2. What has the response to these groups been?

The response to the groups has been very positive. Librarians, teachers and booksellers are aware of the groups and thus get to know the titles and the members. As for the publishing response, editors and houses love to see their authors being proactive with their own promotion. Also, Elizabeth Bunce, a member of the class of 2k8 won a William Morris Award this past year, Sara Zarr, a member of the class of 2k7 was a National Book Award Finalist for her book Story of a Girl and Jay Asher, also a member of 2k7, is the author of the best-selling, Thirteen Reasons Why. As for 2k9, so far we've been doing quite well if I do say so myself: we've received a few starred reviews, MY LIFE IN PINK & GREEN made the indie bound top 10 list for books coming out in Spring 2009, and Rosanne Parry's HEART OF A SHEPHERD also made the list in the ages 9-12 category. Kathryn Fiztmaurice's book THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY was chosen as the launch to the Bowen imprint and Suzanne Williams' book BULL RIDER is a Junior Library Guild selection!

3. Do you think changes in the children's book industry were largely responsible for the creation of these groups?

I think the changes in the children's book industry may have contributed to the need for group and the need for collective marketing efforts. Especially in today's tough economy, the 2k bond is extremely important. But I also think that writing can be a solitary and sometimes lonely activity and so authors like to take advantage of opportunities to meet and get to know other authors.4. How did learn about, and get involved with, 2k9?I'd read about the 2k classes online and it seemed like a good idea, so I applied and got accepted and I've been very happy with the experience!

5. Your book My Life in Pink and Green will be coming out in March of this year. How has 2k9 helped you promote the book?

2k9 has been so helpful in promoting MY LIFE IN PINK & GREEN. I'm participating on a panel at the VA Festival of the Book in March with Fran Cannon Slayton (WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS,) Ann Haywood Leal (ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER) Edith M. Hemingway (Road to Tater Hill,) and Ellen Jensen Abbott (WATERSMEET.) I'm also participating on a panel at the Hudson Children's Book Festival in May with Danielle Joseph (Shrinking Violet) and Ellen Jensen Abbott. It's great to be able to participate on these panels at these great festivals. I doubt I'd get to do it without the collective enthusiasm and strength of 2k9.

6. Have your fellow 2k9 authors provided you with support during this journey of yours?

They have provided me with so much support. It's great to be able to email the group with a question or a quibble. It's a wonderful thing, also, to sign online to check email and see a whole slew of congratulations on a starred review. They are a wonderful, wonderful group of people.

7. Tell us the story of My Life in Pink and Green. How did it come to be written? After you completed the manuscript what did you do next?MY LIFE IN PINK & GREEN was a very collaborative effort between my agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin (who is fabulous!) and me. We discussed the story and worked on what plot points to bring out, what characters to keep, etc. She tweaked outlines and drafts before we ever sent it to editors and then when we did send it out, we got positive responses! After that it found a home at Amulet Books with a wonderful editor named Maggie Lehrman and we worked on it together as well.

8. What advice would you give to people who have written a book and want to find a home for it?

I would suggest researching publishing houses and literary agents. Familiarize yourself with the industry so that when you reach out to editors and agents you're reaching out the right people. Read as much as you can, and don't skip the acknowledgments in books. Often you'll find out what editors have worked on what books through the acknowledgments and you'll get a little bit of a sense if your book will appeal to that editor.9. What advice would you give to first time authors who are new to the children's book industry?My advice is to write what's meaningful to you. Don't worry about writing something "commercial" or "literary." Just write what you care about and the heart and the passion will come through. Also, try to be patient and optimistic. It's very easy to get discouraged but sticking with it and working hard is very important.

10. What are you going to do next? Do you have another book in the works?

I'm working on a few different things, playing around with different ideas. I'm also trying an "adult" story out. The main character is 22 so that's why it's "adult." I love writing for tweens and teens but this character just came to me and I have to give her a chance.

Thank you Lisa for spending some time with us here on TTLG.

Take note that Lisa is offering young readers ages 9 to 16 the opportunity to win copies of her book and other delights. Visit the contest page on her blog for more information.

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