When did you start writing?
I’ve written things ever since I was a little kid. One of my earliest writing memories was in elementary school, when I wrote fanfiction based on the picture book classic MISS NELSON IS MISSING! In high school we were required to do a graduation project, a sort of independent study assignment. I wrote a screenplay. It was atrocious and broke virtually every rule of good storytelling, but I wrote it!
In college I continued writing, mostly focusing on poetry. After college I went through a period of poor mental health, and I stopped writing for years. Part of what helped me come out of my dark place—in addition to the medication I still take—was joining a local writing group (the Philadelphia Writers Workshop, which I highly recommend if you’re in the Philly area) and slowly finding my voice again.
I sort of fell into the idea of writing for children once I realized I kept writing about them and in their voices. In 2013 I wrote my first middle grade novel, which did not get picked up (see “How did you get your agent?”, below), but ever since then I’ve been writing kidlit regularly.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I originally wanted to be an English teacher. I got my bachelor’s degree in Psychology and wanted to be a therapist for a time. I always liked to write, but I never considered it as a career path until I wasn’t able to stop doing it.
What did you read when you were a kid?
I was raised on books by Jon Scieszka, Roald Dahl, Louis Sachar, and Shel Silverstein. I was also obsessed with Calvin and Hobbes, which I think informed some of my worldviews growing up.
How often do you write?
I try to “write” every day. “Write” is in quotation marks because it’s a category that can encompass note taking, brainstorming, editing, or even letting ideas simmer and percolate. I’m a plotter. Once I have a good idea of the book I want to write, it doesn’t take me much time to actually write it, but it can take months and months of planning beforehand.
Are any of your characters based on yourself?
The pat answer is “Yes, they all are.” Alan Cole in particular draws a good deal from my own life—not so much my own experiences, but my own sort of wry take on existence.
How did you get your agent?
My agent, Brent Taylor of Triada US Literary Agency, did not come upon me via the traditional querying process. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into Pitch Wars, an online contest where participating writers are paired with an agented or published writer who mentors them for two months and gets their already finished manuscript polished. Writers post a brief pitch and the very beginning of their book, and interested agents can stop by the “showcase” and request more materials if it piques their interest.
ALAN COLE IS NOT A COWARD generated a huge amount of interest among participating agents. Brent was the first agent to offer representation to me, and I fell in love with his enthusiasm (he read the book in two hours) and overwhelming need to represent me. I signed with Brent and it’s been a wild ride ever since!
I do have experience querying, with the two books I wrote before ALAN COLE IS NOT A COWARD, so I know firsthand how hard and at times painful querying can be.