Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Class Favorite

Today, I interview Taylor Morris, author of the new tween novel, "Class Favorite." Taylor talks about writing for the tween market - what a tween is - and if working at a magazine helped with her book writing career.

Tell us about yourself.
I’m from Texas, I love Mexican food, I’m a horrible gift-giver, and I live in New York City. I wrote my first novel in fourth grade (12 pages, handwritten, double-spaced), a romance about fellow classmates Bill and Becca. It was an instant best seller in my class. Now I write tween books—which means my stories are set in junior high—for Simon & Schuster’s MIX line.

Tell us about your tween novel, "Class Favorite."
It’s about a girl named Sara, who goes pretty much unnoticed at her junior high until her mother sends her a gift on Valentine’s Day for horribly embarrassing reasons. Suddenly, everyone finds out about it, and now everyone knows who she is. Instead of wallowing in unwanted attention, she tries to turn her notoriety in her favor…with mixed results.

You were an editor for Jump Magazine, is this how you became interested in writing for the younger tween set, or have you always been interested in that genre?
I’ve always been interested in it. I guess I just had the voice for it. In a writing workshop at Emerson College, where I graduated, I submitted a short story set in high school. The class loved it, but everyone had written serious stories about death and longing and such. I felt immature for writing what I did, so the next week I turned in something really dark and serious—and had a miserable time writing it. The class was not impressed. Someone asked, “Why don’t you write stuff like you did last week? That was really good.” I vowed never to go back, and I haven’t. I guess it’s a matter of knowing your strengths, and also doing what you enjoy.

"Tween" is a relatively new term. Is there any difference between the pre-pubescent books of when I was growing up (70's) and the Tween classification now?
To be honest, I didn’t read a lot of books when I was younger. I know! It’s horrible! I did read a couple of Judy Blume books, which I loved—Blubber, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. The one book that really made me fall in love with reading was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I don’t know why—my upbringing resembled the Judy Blume books far more than anything Hinton wrote. Maybe that’s what I liked about it. But I’m not sure how different the genre is today, other than we have the handy name “tween” instead of calling it—ack!—children’s.

You've written both non-fiction articles and a non-fiction book for tweens and now a novel. Tell us about switching from non-fiction to fiction and how that works for you?
I much prefer writing fiction—that way I don’t have to bother too much about fact-checking, gathering sources and interview subjects, transcribing…. I just sit down and write! It’s much easier for me, and much more fun. I haven’t even tried to write a non-fiction article in a long time. Again, I think my strengths lie in fiction, so I’m not as interested anymore in doing something I don’t think I’m great at.

I'm assuming you made connections while at Jump. How difficult do you believe it is for someone to break into the tween or young adult book market for someone who doesn't have any connections to the publishing world - what do you recommend writers do to break in?
I didn’t know a soul in book publishing, and sent out a blind query letter to agents. I did have experience in magazines, but I later asked my agent if that had made a difference, and he simply shrugged his shoulders. “It’s really about the book you’re submitting,” he said. I got my very first magazine byline, though, in a small magazine in San Clemente, CA. At the time I had zero experience, but since it was a small publication the owner agreed to let me start by writing restaurant reviews—my paycheck was the free meals. So, my advice is the start small and local if possible, work for cheap, but write as if it’s the New Yorker. One clip always leads to the next, even if you’re working your way to a different genre. The key is persistence.

Is the tween writing something you would like to stay in for awhile, or do you have ideas for other types of writing?
I love writing for tweens—they’re a great audience to write for, very open and interested in solid, good stories that relate to their lives. I love the genre, and the furthest I plan to venture from it is the teen genre. So, instead of writing a story set in junior high, I might write a story set in high school.

Do you read other tween authors? Do you think you model your writing after any? Who is your favorite?
I feel that reading other writers in my genre is part of my job. I love Jenny Han’s book “Shug,” anything by Rachel Cohn, and I idolize Meg Cabot. She is the queen of all things teen and tween. I try not to model myself after anyone, and just write what’s inside me.

What's next for you?
My next book is due out in October of this year, and it’s called “Total Knockout: Tale of an Ex Class President.” It’s a brand-new book that has nothing to do with my first book. It’s got boxing, politics and a little bit of love in it, and I’m so excited for everyone to read it!

Taylor's website: www.taylormorris.com


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Class Favorite was a total attention grabber from the beginning! And oh how I could relate to Sara! I can't wait for next book of Taylor Morris. It was nice to find out some interesting facts about her...THANKS!

9:52 PM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading Class Favorite! Thanks for giving me some insight about Taylor Morris. Looking forward to the new book!

11:23 AM CST  

Post a Comment

<< Home