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Debut Authors Tell All: Ellie Terry, Middle-Grade Novelist

Every year the editor of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market compiles a handful of debut authors with unique stories to feature in the latest edition. In my first year as editor, I interviewed 21 debut authors for the 2018 book. And while you’ll have to pick up the latest copy of the book when it pubs in just a couple of weeks, I wanted to share a sneak peak of the kinds of authors you’ll be seeing this year.

This post is taken directly from Ellie Terry’s interview in CWIM 2018. She’s one of 8 middle-grade authors to be interviewed, to go along with 13 picture book and young adult authors. Other interviews that I can’t wait for you to see: Ariel Bernstein, Jesse Sima, Alyson Gerber, Tiffany D. Jackson, and New York Times best-selling author Angie Thomas.

In this interview, Ellie talks about the long road it took to finding an agent, and writing a story that's close to her heart.

Ellie Terry
Forget Me Not (March 2017, Feiwel & Friends)

QUICK TAKE:Forget Me Not is a dual-POV, verse novel about a girl named Calliope who tries to hide her Tourette syndrome from her new school, while trying to convince her mother not to move them yet again, especially after she meets Jinsong—the boy next door—who happens to be the school’s popular student body president.

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WRITES FROM: St. George, UT.

PRE-BOOK: I’ve worked at two different chiropractor’s offices (as a receptionist), a sourdough pizza joint, a family fun center, and a jewelry store. I was also a cheerleading coach and a baton twirling coach. Now I just write.

TIME FRAME: I started drafting Forget Me Not in August 2013. It took about six months to get that first draft down and then another six months to revise it. In August 2014 I entered a contest called Pitch Wars and was chosen to be mentored by Joy McCullough-Carranza. I spent two intense months cutting out an entire POV and then I began querying agents with the manuscript.

ENTER THE AGENT: In January 2015, I queried Steven Chudney. After he read the manuscript, we spoke on the phone and he gave me a lot of insights and suggestions on how to improve the plot and characters. I spent six weeks deleting and re-writing the last quarter of the novel, among other things, and I must have done a good job, because Steven emailed four days after I sent it with an offer of representation.

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BIGGEST SURPRISE: That there would be so much waiting. It was a long road to signing with an agent (eleven years of querying five middle-grade novels and forty picture books) but my debut sold very quickly (two-and-a-half weeks). So I assumed that once I had a book deal, things would just speed up! The truth is, you’re always waiting on something. Hearing back from an agent, waiting on edit notes from your editor, waiting to see the draft of the cover, etc. It’s best to sit back and enjoy the journey (and always be working on the next project, or two.)

WHAT I DID RIGHT: Connecting with other authors. Being able to talk to other debut authors as well as those further in their publishing journey proved to be invaluable for me.

WHAT I WISH I WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY: Worried less. There are so many things in publishing that are out of an author’s control, and therefore provide plenty of opportunity for anxiety issues to grow. I wish I would have learned earlier that it’s best to focus on the one thing I do have control over: writing the best stories I can.

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PLATFORM: I hang out on Facebook and Twitter, mostly. There aren’t a whole lot of books for the middle-grade market that deal with characters who have Tourette syndrome. My platform is unique in that my debut novel deals with Tourette syndrome and I myself am diagnosed with the condition.

ADVICE FOR WRITERS: Read. Join a critique group. Read. Never give up. Read. Write lots of stories. Read. Take yourself seriously and those around you will follow suit. Read. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Also ... read.

NEXT UP: I am currently working on two MG projects—both verse novels—and both boy main characters, so we’ll see how that goes!

If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at

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