How They Got Here: 2009 Debut Author Sydney Salter

This post is part of a year-long series of blog interviews I’m hosting with my fellow 2009 Debut Authors, called "How They Got Here." 

It should be an especially helpful series for teens who write, teachers, and anyone who wants to write for kids.  2009 debut authors will be dropping by to talk about how their writing in school shaped the authors they are today, what teachers can do to make a difference, how they revise, and how they found their agents and editors.  (You’ll even be able to read some successful query letters!)  If you know a teacher or two who might be interested, please share the link!

Today…Sydney Salter, author of MY BIG NOSE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS!

Seventeen-year-old Jory Michaels wakes up on the first day of summer vacation with her same old big nose, no passion in her life (in the creative sense of the word), and all signs still pointing to her dying a virgin. In spite of her driving record (it was an accident!), Jory gets a job delivering flowers and cakes to Reno’s casinos and wedding chapels. She also comes up with a new summer goal: saving for a life-altering nose job. She and her new nose will attract a fabulous boyfriend. Jory survives various summer disasters like doing yoga after sampling Mom’s Cabbage Soup Diet, enforced-mother-bonding-with-crazy-nose-obsessed-daughter night, and discovering Tyler’s big secret. But will she learn to accept herself and maybe even find her passion, in the creative (AND romantic!) sense of the word?

Welcome, Sydney! Tell us about the first thing you ever wrote that made you think maybe you were a writer.

I felt like an impostor until I wrote my first novel JUNGLE CROSSING.

What books did you love when you were a kid?

I loved Jenny And The Cat Club by Esther Averill. I still long to have a little black cat that I can name Jenny, and possibly entice to wear a red scarf.

Is there a particular teacher or librarian who was a mentor for you in your reading and writing life?

Mrs. Muth at Reno High School. She’s the first one (besides my mother) who believed in me–it still took me several years to believe in myself.

Moving on to the here and now, most writers admit that making time to write can sometimes be a challenge.  When and where do you write?   Do you have any special rituals?  Music?  Food & beverages?

I write while my daughters are in school. I love background music and I drink lots and lots of tea.

Do you have a favorite strategy for revision?

I make a numbered list of all the suggestions and then I march through the manuscript and cross them off as I complete them.

What’s your best advice for young writers?

Keep a daily diary–it will help you develop your voice without the pressure of having to write something others will read.

What’s a mistake beginning writers often make?

They don’t read enough. If you want to write, read, read, read as much as you can across all genres.

What’s special about your debut novel?

I really put a lot of myself into this novel–all those feelings of insecurity I had about my looks in high school. I think it makes the book stronger, but I still hate talking about my nose. And now I’m doing it all the time!

What were the best and worst parts of writing it?

I loved writing about some of my horrible experiences–like wrecking a delivery van and a wedding cake on the same day. Sometimes it was hard to write about difficult situations while keeping the novel’s overall tone light and humorous.

How did you find your agent and/or editor?

I queried Firebrand Literary at another agent’s suggestion and got picked up by a new agent Ted Malawer. He matched me with Julie Tibbott at Harcourt and I absolutely adore her!

Here’s the query letter:

Dear Ms. Cornier,

I would like you to represent my 65,000 word contemporary teen novel My Big Nose & Other Natural Disasters.

Seventeen-year-old Jory Michaels wakes up on the first day of summer vacation with her same old big nose, no passion in her life (in the creative sense of the word), and all signs still pointing to her dying a virgin. Plus, her mother is busy roasting a chicken for Day #6 of the Dinner For Breakfast Diet.

In spite of her driving record (it was an accident!), Jory gets a job delivering flowers and cakes to Reno’s casinos and wedding chapels. She also comes up with a new summer goal: saving for a life-altering nose job. She and her new nose will attract a fabulous boyfriend. Nothing like the shameless flirt Tyler Briggs, or Tom who’s always nice but never calls. Maybe she’ll find someone kind of like Gideon at the Jewel Café, except better looking and not quite so different. Jory survives various summer disasters like doing yoga after sampling Mom’s Cabbage Soup Diet, Enforced Mother Bonding With Crazy Nose Obsessed Daughter Night, and discovering Tyler’s big secret. But will she learn to accept herself and maybe even find her passion, in the creative (AND romantic!) sense of the word?

I have written for APPLESEEDS, Children’s Playmate, Confetti, FACES, Hopscotch, Story Friends, Wee Ones Magazine, the Deseret News, and Blooming Tree Press’ Summer Shorts anthology. I won the Utah Arts Council prize for Not-A-Dr. Logan’s Divorce Book. My novels Jungle Crossing and Going Native! each won first prize in the League of Utah Writers contest. I am currently serving as a Regional Advisor for SCBWI. 

I submitted My Big Nose & Other Natural Disasters to Krista Marino at Delacorte because she requested it during our critique at the summer SCBWI conference (no response yet).

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Thanks, Sydney!  Click here to learn more about Sydney at her website.  You can pick up your copy of MY BIG NOSE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS at your local independent bookseller, order it through one of my favorite indies, Flying Pig Bookstore (they ship!), or find an indie near you by checking out IndieBound!

Up next in the "How They Got Here" Debut 2009 series… Cheryl Renee Herbsman, author of BREATHING, will be stopping by on Monday.

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