Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Winnie Mack Book Giveaway!

Are you and/ or your tween daughter in need of a good summer read?  Be sure to comment with your email address at the end of this blog post for a chance to win a copy of Winnie Mack's debut middle grade fiction book After All, You're Callie Boone. It's a story about 11 year-old Callie, a girl who's having a cruddy summer but steadfastly pursues her top-secret Olympic dream, with the help of her quirky dad.  Kirkus reviews says, "Dive in, this story is fine!"

Winnie Mack, a.k.a. Wendy French has published four successful 'chick lit' titles, but is now ready to make a big splash in the realm of kid lit. Bring your kids along to meet Winnie at A Children's Place Bookstore this Thursday at 4 pm!

AB: Congratulations on the publication of your first middle grade fiction book, After All, You're Callie Boone (Feiwel & Friends, June 2010). Could you tell us a bit about how you came to write this particular story?

WM: I had always been a bit scared of writing for younger readers, as I don't have children of my own and felt a bit out of touch with what might interest them. But the more I thought about what I'd loved to read as a child, the more I realized that even though technology has changed things rather dramatically for kids, some aspects of social life are still very much the same.

So, I knew I wanted to write about a girl who was going through a hard time socially, but I also realized I wanted her story to be realistic. I wanted  her to be a "normal" girl like I had been, a girl who couldn't rely on special powers or magic to solve her problems.

I don't really know where Callie's love of diving came from, other than the fact that I wanted her to be striving toward a goal that she would ultimately have to achieve alone. She could have the support of family and friends, but success would come down to a moment alone at the top of a diving board.

AB: You have an established, successful career as a writer of witty women’s fiction under the name ‘Wendy French’. What led you to write for young readers in particular? What about children's fiction appeals to you?

WM: I wrote four "chick lit" novels as Wendy French, and as much as I enjoyed writing them, the market was flooded with pastel colored books by the time the final one was published.

Along the way, a couple of editors had asked my agent if I might be interested in writing for kids, and I'd always declined, but when a friend had great success with her first Young Adult book, I thought it might be worth a try. I had no idea I would love doing it.

AB:  How long have you been writing? What was the timeline between the kernel
of the idea to publication of your upcoming books? 

WM:  I have been writing novels since my I was in my mid-twenties. It took me 5 years, 3 novels and 137 rejection letters to land my first literary contract at age 29, and I am now 37.

As far as the current book goes, I jumped into writing Callie Boone during my lunch hours at work over a period of about two months in Spring 2008, with no idea of whether it could actually sell. It was purchased in June of that year and published this month (two years after the sale).

AB: How does writing for adults differ from writing for children for you?

 WM: Writing for kids is more fun! I like the fact that kids have some limitations they can overcome (like difficulty at school or mastering a hobby) and some they can't (like rules set by their parents). I find that I have a different mindset when I'm writing for kids.

AB: Do you work with a critique group? What and/or who has been most helpful
to you in developing your writing craft?

When I began writing novels, I belonged to a critique group who met weekly to share work, which was extremely helpful at the time. Once I had my first contract, I continued with the group for a year or so, then as I wrote more, I gradually became more confident about my ability to edit myself.

I think that growing confidence has been one of the most helpful elements of developing as a writer, as well as a willingness to listen to feedback from editors, etc.

AB: Are you able to read much current middle grade/ YA  fiction? If so, what are some mg books published in the last 5-10 years that you've enjoyed? What makes you like it/them so much?

WM: I haven't read a ton of current Middle Grade fiction, but I really enjoyed The Rules by Cynthia Lord, and I get a kick out of the Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. Both contain narrators with very distinct voices. 

AB:  What about writing comes easiest for you? What is most difficult about the craft?

WM: The initial spark of an idea is of course the simplest part, but as far as the actual writing goes, what comes easiest for me is the second draft of a novel, when I have something to work with and improve upon. I'm not a huge fan of getting through that first draft.

I have a full-time job, so sometimes it can be difficult to find time to write.

AB: What advice would you offer writers who are just starting out?

WM: Have fun with it. Writing is a very isolated hobby and it's important to enjoy yourself while you are doing it.

I would also advise them to keep at it. As I mentioned, I am no stranger to rejection, and I think it's very important not to take them personally.

AB: Thanks, Winnie! One last thing: what’s in the pipeline?

WM: I have written a hockey novel for boys called Hat Trick, which will be published by Scholastic Canada in October. I have just finished a basketball book, and I am now working on the sequel to Callie Boone, which features her friend Hoot.


mariska said...

I haven't heard about her works before, i would really like to to read this book for starter :)

uniquas at ymail dot com

Amy Baskin said...

Thanks for commenting, Mariska! I'll enter your name into the drawing, which should happen next week.

Anonymous said...

My 10 year-old daughter has proclaimed After All, You're Callie Boone, her favorite book of all-time. It's such a great story - one kids can really relate to and enjoy.

Anonymous said...

As someone who does not have children, I think Ms. Mack might have an interesting perspective to bring to the genre. My perspective on growing up never made the switch to a more parental mode - everything is colored solely by my experiences as a "young adult" (fun uncle role aside). Diversification is a good thing and I applaud her for what appears to be a successful effort!


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great MG book for girls. The title alone makes me want to read the book.


Writing Nag said...

I love Wendy French's chick lit books! Looking forward to reading her debut into young adult fiction.

Vicki said...

Ooh, am I too late for the drawing? I love Olympics books- this one sounds great! Thanks for the informative interview...

victoriajamiesondesign (at) gmail (dot) com

Kelly said...

I'll have to check out this book. Like the author, I also enjoy The Rules (which is a great read-aloud for middle grade students, btw) and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.

Kelly in Ohio (and Amy's not-so-long-lost cousin ;-D)