So I’m serving as a judge for this year’s Like a Virgin pitch contest. If you’ve not heard of it, unagented young adult and new adult writers with a manuscript that’s never been entered in a pitch contest nab fifty available spots in the competition. Judges choose ten finalists to move forward to round 2 and offer feedback on pitches. Those ten finalists polish up their pitches further, and during round 2 editors and agents may request pages from the finalists’ manuscripts, and writers are eligible to win swag.
Last year several participants walked away with agent offers. Exciting! And that’s why I was so thrilled to get a spot as a judge. It wasn’t that long ago when I hadn’t yet successfully woo-ed my fantastic agent. Pitch contests were really helpful to me, and so it’s nice to have a chance to return the favor.
There’s a great “Getting to Know You” blog hop for all writers, judges, etc. to, well, get to know each other. Their questions and my answers are below.
How do you remember your first kiss?
Drool-filled and awkward. Oh, Jeremy, Jeremy, wherever you are . . .
In all seriousness, it’s very vivid in my mind. The colors are all sort of turned up, like someone was playing with the contrast in Photoshop. I guess all memories are like that, though, right? Sort of etched in and not quite right. I’m pretty sure the awkwardness isn’t exaggerated.
What was your first favorite love song?
My initial thought here was to name a certain Prince song that is only a love song in the most peripheral of ways. Love song adjacent, I guess. But then I remembered my mad crush on Shaun Cassidy. You know, when I was four or five years old. I had his self-titled album, and it was my most treasured possession, along with my plastic, cornflower blue turntable. I would put on the song “Lonely Girl” and clutch the album cover to my chest and pine for poor Shaun. Yes, at the age of five. Because at that tender age, I knew the pain of lost love and heartbreak. Or something.
What’s the first thing you do when you begin writing for the day?
Waking up is a good start!
I like to write early, but that’s pretty much the only ritual I have. I get out of bed, sit down with my laptop, consult my outline, maybe re-read the last little bit I wrote, and have at it.
Who’s the first writer who truly inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a writer, so I’m not sure I can accurately answer that. There are four books–one in junior high and three in high school–that really struck me when I read them and made me think about their construction, which is probably how most writers kind of start, right? Those books: SE Hinton’s The Outsiders was my junior high book, and my HS books were Invisible Man/Ralph Ellison, Another Country/James Baldwin, and A Prayer for Owen Meany/James Irving.
Did the final revision of your first book have the same first chapter it started with?
Yes and no. When I imagined the opening of The Trajectory of Dreams, it was always with my protagonist Lela White standing over the bed of an astronaut like a total creeper, watching him sleep and thinking about killing him in the most clinical, detached manner possible after having broken into his house. For me, there was no other way to open that novel, and that opening remained in the final version published by Bitingduck Press. The first chapter as a whole is slightly shorter than the original though–the original included a full flashback of Lela’s experience as a child of seeing a space shuttle disaster; the scene in the final version is quite truncated for flow.
For your first book, which came first: major characters, plot or setting?
Character, I guess, although all three happened almost simultaneously. I was reading Mary Roach’s book Packing For Mars, and the idea of a severely mentally ill woman with extreme masking/coping skills who breaks into the homes of astronauts to ensure they can sleep well as part of her psychosis popped into my head. Astronauts equal the Johnson Space Center, so that automatically means Houston. The full plot rolled out to me over the next couple of minutes. Lela White is really insistent.
What’s the first word you want to roll off the tip of someone’s tongue when they think of your writing?
Warped. In general, that’s probably the first thing people think of when they think of me. It’s likely well-earned. I’m doing a children’s book reading as part of Indies First Storytime Day (a national event that celebrates independent bookstores and Children’s Book Week) on May 17 in Bethany Beach, Delaware (Bethany Beach Books), and the unintentional theme of my readings is people being eaten. I’ll be reading The Book That Eats People and Pierre.
And there you have it. All about me.
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Thanks for being a judge. I appreciate it.
I’ve always heard the best writers have a set writing schedule. I definitely need to cultivate the habit.
It’s really hard to stick to a set schedule when you have a day job and a family, etc. Sometimes it’s enough just to write when you have time!!
Haha, I used to love “Pierre” and come to think of it, Shaun’s brother David…sigh. If only my first kiss could have been with him, you know, in his “I Think I Love You” prime. So what if he was older and it would have been terribly wrong…
Heh! I love that song. And David Cassidy. The Cassidy family produced some quality crush bait. ;p
Thank you for taking the time to be a judge.
I love your answer to the last question.
There’s never anything bad about being warped. ;p
Warped is a great word! I love reading warped stuff.
Me, too. The weirder, the better!
“The Outsiders” was one of the books from my school days that vividly stands out for me too. I loved that book. Also have a serious soft spot for “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
Thanks for taking the time to judge Like a Virgin, you rock! 🙂
I haven’t read Mockingbird in years! I should set that up for a re-read. Hrm.
Drool-filled, oh my! Thanks for joining in!
What first kiss isn’t overly juicy? Heh!
Thanks so much for being a judge!
I remember those plastic turntables, wow. That brings back memories.
Makes you miss them, right? I still have some vinyl (like my prized Saturday Night Fever album), but I have no turntable whatsoever to speak of. Doh!
There is absolutely no way to beat SE Hinton and a cornflower blue turntable. I am not worthy.
Heh! The 70s and 80s were such a weird time.
Warped is an AWESOME word! Thanks for judging!!
Thank you for judging.
I loved Shaun! Had his poster and lunch box. I just found some old episodes of the Hardy Boys and now my 7 year old is in love with him as well.
I am now curious about this adjacent love song…
Also Thanks for taking the time to be a judge! And I’m sorry Jeremy was a sloppy kisser. No one likes to be drooled on 🙂
I foresee “JEREMY!” going down in history as one of those famous screamed names – like “ADRIENNE!” or “STELLA!”
The opening of your book really sounds interesting! Thank you for judging!
My kingdom to be in PA so I could take my boy to your reading. You’re totally warped, and I love you more than chocolate!