It’s a Blog Party! With Cake! (Okay, No Cake, But Lots of Good Writing Stuff)

Lisa tyre bookAs promised, I mixed up all the names of those who commented to win Lisa Lewis Tyre’s Last in a Long Line of Rebels and out popped…hold on a tic. I also promised to share writing gems from the SCBWI conference I attended. So those who didn’t win today would still win, so to speak.

And as it happens, Lisa Lewis Tyre is hosting a Writer Wednesday Blog Party wherein we’re invited to link up over there with our writerly wisdom. So stand back whilst I multi-task, writer style:

From Kaylan Adair, lovely editor at Candlewick, I learned much about the middle grade reader. Honestly, most of my manuscripts are middle grade, so you’d think I’d already know much about the middle grader, and from an instinctive place, I do. But it was nice to have an in-depth look at middle graders and what makes them tick. If you’re writing for middle graders, consider Kaylan’s best tip: find the “flawed” heart of your middle grade protagonist. These characters are almost always good kids who are flawed in some way; they want to do the right thing but often make the wrong choices (which they come to regret). Many middle grade stories don’t quite work because they’re missing “heart.” Bottom line: You’ve got to have heart, flawed though it may be, to have a compelling middle grade story!

From Heather Montgomery, author of How Rude, Real Bugs Who Won’t Mind Their Manners (Scholastic 2015), I picked up a few tips on breaking barriers in non-fiction. But I can sum it all up in Heather’s favorite mantra: Don’t do boring! There are so many different approaches to non-fiction now, but you won’t find the stodgy styles of our youth. Read a dozen or more of the latest non-fiction books out there, including Heather’s books, and find out how writers are dialing up the excitement level if you want to tackle this hot publishing trend.

From Kami Kinard, author of funny middle grade books, including The Boy Problem, I got some great ideas about incorporating unconventional formatting into a manuscript, namely her first tip: The text box is your friend. And I could barely concentrate on what she was saying after that, I was so eager to get back to one of my manuscripts that had all kinds of opportunities for unconventional text boxes! But if you want to understand more about her ideas, read her books. They’re chock-full of unconventional and fun formatting.

So, how’s that for writer gems and multi-tasking? And if you want even more writing wisdom, join us at Lisa’s place!

Oh, d’oh. Almost forgot to tell you who won Last in a Long Line of Rebels. It was Debra (and P.S. you’re gonna love it, doncha know!)

Look Who I Found! (And What She Wrote!)

Lisa tyre bookOne of my favorite things about being a member of the Southern Breeze region of SCBWI is meeting all the wonderful authors who live right down the road from me. Of course, in the South, right down the road might be miles and miles away, but us Breezers always seem to have an immediate connection wherever we are.

That’s the way it was when I met Lisa Lewis Tyre, and when her first book came out this month—LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS—I had to invite her to come and share this delightful middle grade novel as well as her journey.

Lisa, I just loved these characters! From 12-year-old Lou to her grandmother to football star, Isaac, I was drawn in by their deep authenticity. How many relatives think they’re in your book? (And come on, we won’t tell anyone. How many actually are?)

Ha! There are several, shall we say, similarities between characters in the book and family members. Lou loves UT like a dear cousin, and my father does actually own a dump truck (or two), but all of the characters are works of fiction, despite what my family thinks.

Your book skillfully weaves a Civil War mystery, the Underground Railroad, and modern day racism into a page-turning debut. Tell us a little about your research for LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS.

Thanks so much. I spent a lot of time on Civil War websites, reading. I wanted to make sure that the diary entries matched what was actually happening. I bought a Civil War diary off of Ebay, (best $6.00 dollars I ever spent) and got a lot of information from the TN.gov website. I haven’t received any angry emails from historians saying I got something wrong so far. Fingers crossed!

God, church, the bible—I really liked the way you worked this spiritual element throughout Lou’s story without being heavy-handed. We don’t often see religion in our mainstream books and I’m wondering if there was ever any question about adding religion?

I am happy to say, not once! The religious aspect was important to me for a couple of reasons. One, I felt like it was realistic. Small, Southern towns are full of churches and I would expect Lou to either go, or wonder why her family didn’t. Secondly, because the story takes place over the summer, it gave me a way for the kids to meet/plan.

lisa_tyre_webAnd what about your publishing journey? When did you start writing and how did you end up at Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six, and I’ve written short stories off and on for years. About six years ago, I decided that if I didn’t really give it my all, it would be my one regret. So I finished REBELS, and started looking for an agent. After about a month of querying, where I sent out 5 or so a week, I found my agent, Susan Hawk. (Side note: LOVE her.) Susan sent the book out on submission and we landed, happily, ecstatically, and euphorically with Nancy Paulsen.

So now is the time I ask you to share your writing wisdom and/or gems. What’s the best advice you can give to my readers? And what’s the one thing you will never do again?

One, Get serious. Writing may be a dream, but you have to treat it like work. And secondly, Don’t give up. It’s hard in the beginning to believe it will happen, but I’m proof that it does. If the silliest girl that ever came out of Zollicoffer, TN can do it, anyone can.

The one thing I will never do is disparage another writer. Not every book is my cup of tea, but my hat is off to anyone that sits down and finishes a manuscript.

Amen to that, Lisa! And thanks so much for stopping by!

Honestly, if you have middle grade readers at your house (or in your classrooms), they’re going to zip through LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS. The history and mystery hooked me from the get-go, as Lou’s grandmother might say, and I can’t wait to see what Lisa Lewis Tyre comes up with next! (And maybe she’ll give us a sneak peek this weekend at wik’15, my SCBWI region’s fall writer’s conference in Birmingham, Alabama. Hope to see lots of friends there!)

Oh! Wait a second, y’all! I have an ARC (that’s an Advanced Reader’s Copy) of LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS and I’ll give it away to one of my lucky (and US only, please) readers. All you have to do is…let’s see. One of the things I LOVED in Lisa’s book was her use of Southern expressions. So leave an expression–it doesn’t have to be Southern but it does have to be PG–in the comments and I’ll enter your name in the giveaway. Then I’ll draw a name next week when I get back from conferencin’. (See what I did there? I took a noun and made it a verb. That’s a Southern thing, y’all.)