A2A: We have a lot of authors who read this site and are interested in the publishing process. Can you tell me what you found to be the best and worst (or hardest) part in the process for you?
JESSICA: The best part so far: sharing Nice and Mean in schools and bookstores and connecting with readers, especially actual twelve-year-olds, not just people who think like them. (I count myself proudly in the latter category, but you know—more savvy to connect with real ones.) I’ve loved hearing what kids remember about the book and talking with them about their own writing. A twelve-year-old boy writing a play about kids foiling a plot to turn the US back into a monarchy? How cool is that?
The hardest parts of the process have been the waiting and the wondering. Before the contract: will I ever publish anything? What’s it going to take—I mean, what’s it gonna take, man? After the contract, wondering: How will the book do? Am I doing everything I can to help it reach its audience? What else should I do? Okay, now what else should I do? At worst, the worrying slows me down from finishing the next book, which is exactly what you don’t want to happen. (Don’t worry, though, Agent E. I’m on it.)
A2A: What's your best piece of advice to a novice writer trying to write his or her first book?
JESSICA: I’d join a critique group, either in person or online. Critique groups give you regular deadlines, regular feedback, a chance to analyze others’ writing, and colleagues who care about writing as much as you do. You may encounter personality quirks, as writers are a funky bunch, but I do think the benefits outweigh the annoyances.
A2A: What's your best piece of advice to a writer trying to get his or her first book published?
JESSICA: Be kind to yourself. Writing is hard! You are doing something fun, but it is so packed with frustration. However, not everybody has the courage and dedication to pursue their artistic goals, and even by trying to get a book published, you are doing something amazing. Keep revising, keep submitting, and you may be able to get an offer.
In addition—though this is a little less kind than the above—if you’re lucky enough to get feedback from professionals, take it seriously. I have seen many writers succumb to the balm, “Everything’s subjective—she just doesn’t like what I’m trying to do,” but many readers will read across genre and style if the writing’s really good. The professional in question may not have had the time to phrase the feedback in a way that makes sense to your story, and interpreting may be tough. But most of the time, when I hear about writer-friends’ feedback from professionals, the feedback resonates with what I know of the story. If it doesn’t make sense to you now, put the manuscript aside for a few months, read it over, and see if you understand the suggestions.
A2A: Is there anything that you've learned since your book was published that you wished someone would have told you before?
JESSICA: I’ve been lucky to get some great advice throughout the process, both from Tenners (2010 Debut Novelists) and fellow grads from the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. I’ll pass on the meaty bits, though, which include, “Don’t worry so much!” “Everyone runs her own race!” “Focus on the second book, not the publicity” and “Do what you love.”
I am sure that by the time this interview comes out, I will read all this and think, “Wow, that’s great advice!”
A2A: Your book has been out for just a couple of weeks now. How has it felt to see it out in stores? How did you celebrate the release?
JESSICA: It’s unbelievable! I seem to be in a cycle of gasping and squeaking. Last week when this happened, a man thought his dog had stepped on me, but really, I had seen Nice and Mean on the shelf by the cash register.
I celebrated the release of Nice and Mean by arranging bookstore readings in a few cities where I know people from all parts of my life. I was touched that so many of them came out to see me, and I was equally thrilled to find parents and kids I’d never met in the rows of chairs as well.
A2A: What are you currently working on?
JESSICA: A young-adult novel. On Halloween night, our narrator is plagued by memories of an accident on a summer wilderness trip and tries to retell the story by sunrise to exorcise the ghosts.
Thanks for having me, Author 2 Author! I hope your readers find this information useful.
A2A: Thanks Jessica!! Good luck with your book!