How They Got Here: 2009 Debut Author Lauren Bjorkman

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…Lauren Bjorkman, author of MY INVENTED LIFE!

With Roz and Eva everything becomes a contest—who can snag the best role in the school play, have the cutest boyfriend, pull off the craziest prank. Still, they’re as close as sisters can be. Until Eva deletes Roz from her life like so much junk e-mail for no reason that Roz understands. Now Eva hangs out with the annoyingly petite cheerleaders, and Roz fantasizes about slipping bovine growth hormone into their Gatorade.

Roz has a suspicion about Eva. In turn, Eva taunts Roz with a dare, which leads to an act of total insanity. Drama geeks clamor for attention, Shakespearean insults fly, and Roz steals the show in Lauren Bjorkman’s hilarious debut novel for teens. (Publishers’ copy)

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

In third grade, I wrote and illustrated a book called The Lava Monster. My dad laughed his head off when he read it, and that tipped me off.

What books did you love when you were a kid?

I lived on a sailboat with limited shelf space, so I read my favorites over and over–Harriet the Spy, James and the Giant Peach, and The Island of the Blue Dolphins.

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

My 10th grade English teacher, Miss Vickers, was somewhat strange and not always popular because of her harsh grading. Yet her passion for stories and how they are told stays with me to this day.

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?

After I drop off my kids in the morning, I make a large cappuccino, prop myself up in bed with a bowl of something snackish next to me–chocolate chips, almonds, and sometimes dry cereal, goof off on the internet for half an hour until the caffeine kicks in, and then write. Yes, I really live it up.

Do you have a favorite strategy for revision?

I’ve tried everything. Over and over seems to be the best strategy 😀
It also helps to pick one aspect (a single character, dialog, a plot element, sentence structure) to revise at a time.

What’s your best advice for young writers?

Know the rules.
And break them when it suits your purpose.

What’s special about your debut novel?

My wacky, exuberant, and sometimes (often) clueless main character.

What were the best and worst parts of writing it?

For me, critique is an essential ingredient to writing well. But the first few post-feedback hours are often painful. Oh no, my baby has a goomba hanging from her nose! Sometimes, though, the critique sparks an idea that will change my novel into something closer to flawless (ha!). That makes me happy.

How did you find your agent and/or editor?

At the end of a five day novel-writing workshop, my instructor offered to refer me to his agent based on the piece I shared with the class. It was a total and wonderful surprise.

Thanks for joining us, Lauren!

You can read more about Lauren at her website. You can pick up your copy of MY INVENTED LIFE 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!