How They Got Here: 2009 Debut Author Leigh Brescia

This post is part of a year-long series of blog interviews I’ll be 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…Leigh Brescia, author of ONE WISH!
If Wrenn Scott had only ONE WISH she’d wish to be thin. She desperately wants to be popular and snag a hot boyfriend. Her amazing voice (for once) overshadows her weight when she lands a lead role in the high school musical. Pushing to get thinner by opening night, Wrenn’s waistline shrinks as she learns all the wrong ways to lose weight from a new "it-girl" friend in the show. By opening night, the old Wrenn has almost disappeared. After a crisis reveals her weight-loss tricks, Wrenn realizes there are much more important things than being thin, popular, or even dating a hunk.

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

My mom signed me up for a poetry class at the local library when I was in the sixth grade. I wrote a poem about my cats Tiny and Tiffy, and my teacher loved it. I thought: “All right! I can do this.”   I can still quote the poem. 🙂

What books did you love when you were a kid?

My mom read to me a lot when I was younger, and I participated in the summer library reading program (you know: read 100 books and get a medal/trophy/certificate), but I remember devouring Sweet Valley Twins and Babysitters Club books. I couldn’t get enough of them.

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

Not particularly. All of my English teachers/professors impacted me in some way. I thank a number of them in the acknowledgements section of One Wish. I figured I should thank them all at once, in case I never publish another book. 🙂

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?

Because I teach online English courses, I usually write at night. My mid-morning to dinner hours I devote to grading papers and answering student emails. I do my serious writing when my little girl is in bed. And yes, there are rituals: I must have a glass of milk (and some kind of snack: chocolate, ice cream, cookies, etc.). I listen to music depending on my mood.

Do you have a favorite strategy for revision?

I try to edit as I go. Before I begin writing I’ll re-read the chapter/content I wrote the night before. After I finish the ms, I usually go back and re-read it twice on the computer. Then I print it and break out the red pen. I usually print and edit the ms 3-5 times before I think my agent is ready to see it.

What’s your best advice for young writers?

Read a lot of good books, and keep practicing. Don’t give up! Not everyone will understand why you want to be a writer, but if it’s meant to be you’ll make it happen.

What’s special about your debut novel?

I think a lot of teen girls will relate to Wrenn. I wasn’t overweight in high school, but I had many of the same thoughts and fears. Everyone wants to be accepted.

What were the best and worst parts of writing it?

This was the second book I officially wrote, and I think the best part, as I was writing, was knowing that I had the strength to finish it. When I was writing my first ms, I was so concerned about word count that I couldn’t focus on the story. Since I’d already proven that I could finish a book-length ms, I was able to focus more on plot and character development.

How did you find your agent and/or editor?

After I finished the ms, I bought a copy of Writer’s Market 2004 and started querying the agents who represented YA writers.

Thanks for joining us, Leigh!

You can learn more about Leigh at her website. You can pick up your copy of ONE WISH 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… Sarah Cross, author of DULL BOY, will be stopping by on Thursday.

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