In a nutshell, I grew up in Tennessee, by way of Alabama and Georgia. I love to write, as often as I can, about the magic in the mundane. When I’m not writing, I can be found chasing chickens or listening to Big Band music.
This feels like a good time for a gratuitous chicken pic:
In a much bigger nutshell, here’s the scoop on the history of me + fiction, broken down into the a few memorable events. (Didn’t I warn you earlier about an info dump?)
In 1979, at the age of 8, I wrote my first ever children’s manuscript, called “The Snitzersnoots of Gabradiere.” (If memory serves, it was the story of a couple fugitive hamsters and the spunky convertible-driving grandma who comes to their aid.) Anywho, that’s when it all began. Seeing those spiral notebook pages all covered in words, written in ten shades of Berol colored pencils, totally ignited my dream of someday holding my own book in my hands. (I should mention here that at the time I also dreamed of becoming Olivia Newton John.)
Many years and one Hefty bag of angst-ridden short stories later, I earned a degree in Fiction Writing from Rhodes College. Fast forward a few years more and, finding myself caught up in the joy and inspiration of having a daughter of my own, I felt compelled to try my hand at writing for kids. And so I did. I wrote a few picture book manuscripts, some that were decent, but most that only a daughter could love.
Soon after, I began sending my picture book manuscripts out to publishers and collecting dozens of rejection letters, every single one of which was so exciting to find in the mailbox. And over a couple of years time, I was fortunate enough to receive some encouraging personal feedback from a handful of editors. Then one editor in particular called me and swung open a huge door by asking the simple question, “Have you ever considered writing a novel?” When she asked that, I was stunned. I was flattered. But most of all, I was motivated. I began writing Sway that very night.
A few months later at the end of 2007, when Sway was finished (and by that, I mean so very far from really being finished), I began querying the book idea out to editors and agents alike, getting some good feedback along the way. Then came 2008, and WHAM. Stage 2 breast cancer, mastectomies, reconstruction, chemo and more chemo. But then, fiction and cancer meet up on one wonderful day…the morning of my very last chemotherapy treatment in December of 2008. On my way to the cancer center, I dropped a query letter in the mailbox to Literary Agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, and as I did, I said a little prayer.
A few weeks and a couple inches of hair later, Joanna called and offered me representation. After I stopped squealing, she had me do some polishing of Sway to get it ready for the publishing world, and then, within a matter of a few more weeks, we’d received an offer from Disney*Hyperion. Now here we are, years later, and both Sway and my second novel, Circa Now, have found their way onto the shelves. I still find it hard to sleep in the midst of the excitement over holding my own books in my hands. I will always be grateful to the people who have encouraged me along this long, humbling journey.
(One of those people is my fantastic literary agent, Jaida Temperly. Together we are working on some new projects that make me feel all Olivia Newton John inside.)