It's time to meet another debut author whose first book came to life recently. Debut author interviews are great to read because their paths to success are a roadmap for others who want to follow in their footsteps. Today's interview is with Melanie Crowder, author of the debut 2013 middle grade novel, PARCHED.
Melanie Crowder is a ceramist, painter, and sculptor who received her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College. She lives in the foothills of the Rockies. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads. In her lyrical novel told from three perspectives, "Sarel has just witnessed the violent murder of her parents. But she is not completely alone on the drought-ridden land. Nandi is the leader of a pack of dogs who looks out for her pups and for skinny Sarel-girl. Nandi knows they are all in trouble, and she knows, too, that a boy is coming—an escaped prisoner with the water song inside him. A hard-hitting but ultimately hopeful survival story."
What is the book’s genre/category?
Literary upper middle grade fiction.
(Review a list of middle grade novel literary agents.)
Please describe what the story/book is about.
Told in three voices and set in a near future scarred by drought and devastation, PARCHED is a story of survival and of hope.
Where do you write from?
The Colorado front range—it's beautiful!
Briefly, what led up to this book?
I published a couple of curriculum activity guides for teachers while I worked on my fiction. It was a long process, but I'm glad I had time to learn and experiment and grow as a writer before putting myself out there.
What was the time frame for writing this book?
I wrote PARCHED when I was supposed to be working on other things. It was the third semester of my MFA in Writing program. Little by little, in between drafts of my critical thesis, the story began to take shape. By the end of the semester, I had 20 pages ready. I crossed my fingers and sent it in to be considered for the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt prize for Middle Grade Literature.
I won (!) and then promptly got back to work.
How did you find your agent (and who is your agent)?
After graduation and a thorough round of revisions, I began (somewhat belatedly) to search for an agent who would fit with the vision I have for my career. Lucky for me, I found Ammi-Joan Paquette at EMLA, and PARCHED sold shortly thereafter!
What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
I never realized what a team effort publishing a book can be. So many people at HMH are invested in this project, and every tiny detail is thoughtfully attended to. It's really amazing, and I am grateful for the work they have all put in!
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
The best thing I did was to get my MFA at Vermont College. It was a time for me to forget about the pressures of the industry and just focus on the craft of writing. Those two years were truly invaluable—the academic rigor, the collegiality, the connections—I wouldn't be where I am today without it.
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
I would have started writing much younger!
Did you have a platform in place?
I had absolutely no platform when I sold PARCHED, but I've been making up for lost time ever since. For starters, I opened a Facebook author page, began tweeting and set up a website. Then I joined two group blogs, one for 2013 debut authors and another for the debut authors at my agency. I'm thinking that I want to make a photo board for my next project, so you may find me on Pinterest soon…
Best piece(s) of advice for writers trying to break in?
Don't expect success on the first try (or even the fifth!) Find readers who you trust to be kind, insightful and brutally honest. Listen to them. Be authentic, take risks and keep writing.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I have had many jobs in my adult life: teacher, yoga instructor, artist, and many more ... I even worked as a fisheries biologist one summer, snorkeling in streams to count and identify fish!
Right now, I'm working on a YA historical verse novel. It's very different from my debut, and a real challenge, which I love!
Writing books for kids? There are hundreds of
publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Pitch Perfect: How to Craft Your Book's Hook.
- It Takes a Village (To Write a Novel).
- Literary Agent Interview: BJ Robbins of BJ Robbins Literary.
- How to Get the Most Out of a Writing Group.
- How to Promote Your Book: 7 Tips.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.
Writing a novel for children? Literary agent
Mary Kole, who runs the popular KidLit.com
website, has a new guide out for writers of
young adult and middle grade. Pick up a copy
of Writing Irresistible Kidlit and get your
children's book published.