I'm author ELLE STRAUSS and welcome to my website!
I write fun, lower Young Adult (teen) fiction to do with whimsical things like time-travel, fairies and merfolk.
When my serious side peeks out, she's called LEE STRAUSS. She likes to write upper YA about real things that have happened in the past, or made up things that could quite possibly happen in the future.
This blog is about books, mine and other fab authors', but occasionally I'll share about other topics.
Thanks for dropping by!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Introducing Debut Author Caroline Starr Rose!
ES: Can you tell me a bit about your book?
CSR: MAY B. is a middle-grade historical which takes place in 1870s Kansas. It is also a novel-in-verse, a story told through unrhymed poetry.
Here’s a peek at the storyline:
May wants nothing more than to one day become a teacher. Though she understands everything she reads to herself, she struggles with reading aloud. Against her wishes, her family pulls her from school to help a newly-married couple settle into their Kansas frontier home.
Just weeks after May’s arrival at the Oblingers’, the new bride abruptly leaves. When Mr. Oblinger attempts to find her, May is left to fend for herself, facing her shortcomings head-on in her solitary struggle to survive.
Wow, a middle grade novel-in-verse--that's cool!
ES: What was your querying process like? How long did it take you to find your
agent and how did you go about that?
CSR: For ten plus years, I contacted editors directly and only queried agents on occasion. I figured since it was still possible to sell in the children’s market without an agent, I’d just skip that “extraneous” step.
Not my smartest move.
Still, my writing wasn’t agent-worthy until I finished MAY B. (my fourth novel) a year and a half ago.
I started querying agents in earnest last spring. By October, I had seventy-five rejections (a dozen or so garnered in years past) and one offer.
All you need is one :)
ES: When did you start writing? Did you always want to write?
CSR: I remember sitting in class as a teenager and deciding I had to teach English one day: what could be better than a job where you got to talk about books and writing?
I taught for several years before getting serious about trying the writing thing. It was summer, I had no kids yet and no other commitments. I finished a first draft (a horrible, horrible thing) before school started again. This was twelve years ago.
Yes, the horrible first draft--a necessary evil...
ES: What inspired you to write MAY B?
CSR: I’ve always had an interest in the women of the frontier, stemming from my love for the Little House on the Prairie series. As a girl, I’d talk about Laura as if she were someone I personally knew and spent a lot of time wondering about her world: how she’d never seen a town until she was five, how she didn’t go to school until she was seven, how a penny in her Christmas stocking was such a big deal (and the first time she saw a Christmas tree, she didn’t know what it was).
Once teaching, I thought about learning on the frontier, where the schoolhouse focus on recitation and memorization favored students able to do these things well. There’s a character in the Laura books named Willie Olsen, an ill-mannered school boy who often sat in the corner during lesson time. As a child, I’d labeled him a bad kid; as a teacher, I wondered if there was something more going on. Maybe Willie was a poor student and a goof-off because he had a learning disability. Maybe he couldn’t grasp his school work not because he wasn’t capable but because no one had taught him how.
MAY B. didn’t start as a novel-in-verse. I tried several scenes as prose, never getting to the heart of the character or story. The more first-hand accounts of pioneer women I read, the more I understood why. Journals and letters from this era were terse accounts of the mundane, literal and immediate. The recording of daily events served as a safe, predictable pattern. When something “happened,” and the pattern was broken, stability ended. Once I noticed these things, I knew how to tackle my story.
ES: You have a blog, -- when did you start blogging?
CSR: Any advice for readers thinking about starting their own blog?
I started blogging in September 2009. My blogging advice might not be super popular, but I think it’s worth considering: don’t begin until you’re receiving positive feedback from industry professionals and you have a clear idea about what you’ll add to the blogosphere.
ES: I¹ve read recently that editors are looking for Middle Grade--since YA got
hot, more writers are submitting that, and it¹s leaving a few holes in the
MG line up. Any advice for fellow middle grade writers?
CSR: The best middle grade honors childhood – this sounds small, but it’s everything.
ES: Are you working on anything new?
CSR: I’m constantly revising older pieces (a contemporary mid-grade about a girls’ club, a boy-centric mystery that includes a cookie-baking eye doctor and a stolen snickerdoodle recipe, and various picture books including a runaway emu, St. Nicholas, wetland plants and animals, and all fifty states celebrating Independence Day at the District of Columbia’s place).
I have begun research on a second novel-in-verse, this time about a Gitano (Spanish gypsy) girl.
ES: Do you have a day job? Where do you see yourself in five years?
CSR: I stopped teaching in May, just a few months after beginning my agent hunt. It was a leap of faith, one that might not have made a lot of sense to others but was exactly right for me.
In five years I hope to be established as a children’s author, creating a variety of work that extends dignity to children.
That was great! Thanks for joining us, Caroline!