Mon 30 Aug 2010
While Mia is a teen, the books’ subject matter, situations and style are appropriate for younger readers.
Today, Eileen joins Read, Write, Repeat to share her thoughts on writing and her journey to publication.
You began writing your first Mia book while you were writing with your students. How did you get the idea?
I was teaching a unit on realistic fiction and told my seventh-grade students they were going to have to write a realistic fiction book of their own, and they whined accordingly. So, I told them I would write a book with them.
As I stood in front of my classroom and started brainstorming, the idea of Mia came to me, and I started writing. Since I was having so much fun telling about all of Mia’s misadventures, I just kept on writing even when all of my students had finished their books.
When did you know you had something worth pursuing?
When I finally finished my manuscript, I thought it was wonderful! I immediately submitted it to every publisher and agent who published middle grade fiction and got more than 30 rejection letters back. That’s when I realized if I was serious about getting it published, I was going to have to learn the business and revise my manuscript (over and over and over again!)
Had you thought about writing for children before then?
I loved to write stories when I was in elementary school and junior high, but I never planned on it becoming my career. I knew I was going to be a teacher and got my teaching degree.
I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer until I was in my 30s.
Mia is now a three-book series. How has she evolved as a character?
I think Mia has stayed true to herself, which is the mark of a great character. When I first started writing about Mia, Tim, Lisa, Cassie and Jake, they were like real people to me, so it has been easy to continue telling their stories.
When I was in the middle of writing the series, my husband would come home from work and I would say, “Do you know what Mia said today?” He would then remind me that I was the one who had written that dialogue, but it never seemed that way to me. It felt more like my characters were telling me what to write for them. But, Mia has definitely evolved as a character. She is now more certain of who she is and what she is capable of and isn’t afraid to show it.
How have you evolved as a writer?
When I first started writing, I was writing for the pure joy of it. Now, I am so aware of the market and rules of writing, I am more critical of my first draft, so it takes me longer to write that first sloppy copy.
What kind of feedback do you get from your readers? Are you ever surprised by what they say?
I get the best fan letters from my readers and I am always surprised that people are reading my book all across the country. It is amazing to find out people I have never met who live thousands of miles from me are reading about Mia and can relate to her.
It is also very cool when I go to a school and they have created projects like dioramas, books, and pictures about Mia. I also often get served chocolate-chip cookies (Mia and my favorite kind) which is a bonus!
Is this Mia’s last adventure? Or are there more in the works?
As of now, I am taking a break from Mia and her friends and am working on a young adult novel. But, I love Mia so much, I don’t think I am completely through with her yet.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
My best advice is write, write, write, read, read, read, and then in-between the two, get out there and experience life. The more you do in your own life, the more you will have to write about.
In the end, the best advice I have is to get your rear end in the chair and get writing!
Thanks for joining us, Eileen!