Lucky us! Class of 2k9er Lauren Bjorkman is hanging out at Shelf Elf today, celebrating her awesome debut, My Invented Life. Every minute of her book is a romp. Every minute of her book made me happy. Welcome Lauren!
If you had to sell My Invented Life to a potential teen reader in two sentences or less, what would you say?
Ack! I hate selling anything—trauma from trying to unload newspaper subscriptions in middle school. That said, here’s my attempt:
If you have a sister that drives you crazy, if you’ve ever dreamed of being on stage, if you enjoy cursing in Shakespearean, if you’ve ever kept a secret, read this book.
Tell us about your journey to publication and the moment you learned your book would become a book.
The first step was all about overcoming fear. What if I had nothing worthwhile to say? But after I finally dared to write and finish a novel, I was hooked. Still, it took a few years of tapping away on my computer, getting critique, and going to workshops to learn the craft. During that time, I submitted my first (yet unpublished) novel to editors.
Later, after writing a second novel, I moved onto querying agents. In the midst of preparing my submission, a happy event shortened the process. I took a novel writing course taught by an author and MFA instructor. He referred me to his agent based on the piece I brought to his workshop. And his agent wanted to represent me.
A few months later, Henry Holt offered on my book. I think I hyperventilated because the whole memory has a dream-like quality. After I hung up with my agent, I paced around my house, calling family and friends who’d supported me over the years (the ones who kept their questions as to why I kept writing after so many rejections themselves). Thankfully, we live in the era of cordless phones, or I would’ve tied myself up.
Best writing advice for aspiring authors: To thine ownself be true.
Best cure for writer’s block: Sit down and write anything, even if it’s tripe and entrails. Eventually something good will come out of you.
Best snack while writing: Things that go crunch—popcorn, nuts, tortilla chips, even carrots. And large doses of chocolate for when you’re feeling blue. I feel very sorry for writers who don’t like chocolate.
Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline? Are you a post-it person? Do you have any secret writing tricks that are “uniquely Lauren”?
Usually one idea keeps coming back to me—sort of like a haunting—and I go with it. After that, I begin to imagine my main character. I love to people watch, so the spark for my protagonist often starts with an incident I observe. In the case of Roz, the incident happened at a craft fair. A (very tall) young woman crossed the street to join a group. She danced, flung her arms around, talked animatedly, and then bounced away like an overgrown Labrador. After she left, some of her friends shook their heads and whispered, as if to say. “What was that?” Thus Roz—the one girl tornado—was born.
I’ve never successfully used an outline. This translates into beaucoup revising. Not that I haven’t tried outlining, but it sucks all the joy out of writing for me. As I get ideas for character and plot, I scribble them down on bits of paper I happen to have handy. Later, I transcribe my “notes” at the end of the manuscript. Recently, when I sent the second draft of my work-in-progress to my agent, I forgot to delete these notes. She wrote back, very puzzled about my “ending.” Oops. Continue reading