What a delight to welcome my friend and favorite new YA author K.A. Barson to Frog on a Dime. Kelly’s debut novel 45 POUNDS (More or Less) will be released by Viking on July 11. I was lucky enough to read it this week. Trust me, you will want to pre-order yours now! In fact, order two–one for you and one for a teen girl you love. She’ll thank you for it!
Recently Kelly was kind enough to pull up a dime and spend a little time answering a series of grueling, mind-numbing questions. She’s quite a trooper.
So, Kelly, when did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I don’t remember ever not wanting to be a writer, but for most of my life it wasn’t a real dream. It was like wanting to be President or an astronaut or professional basketball player or rock star kind of dream. I wrote stories and sometimes submitted them. One rejection meant they were destined to live in my file cabinet. I didn’t realize that it was something I could really do until I shared with a friend from church that I’d written a book for young readers (it had a file condo in my cabinet) and she introduced me to this group called SCBWI. Her name is Vicky. Maybe you know her?
Very funny, Kelly. So, back to you, what is it about writing for children that appeals to you versus writing for adults?
I don’t have much in common with adults. Kids’ and teens’ feelings and life experiences feel the most alive and real to me. Whenever I imagine a story, it’s from a young person’s perspective. They have the most unique ways of looking at the world.
What were your favorite books growing up?
My first loves were Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss. I remember making up my own stories to the Mother Goose illustrations. I would look at them for hours, long before I could read. Then I devoured everything by Beverly Cleary and then Judy Blume. As a teen, I loved Stephen King.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
When talking about my work-in-progress at the time, a mentor once told me that my character has to DO something besides not die. That really stuck with me. Knowing a character’s motivation–what s/he wants and why s/he reacts a certain way–has helped me shape my work ever since.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were starting out?
It takes 10,000 hours to master any craft. I wish I would have had the patience to wait until I had my hours in before submitting. I was gutsy enough to think I had what it took long before that. Maybe I needed that intestinal fortitude to keep going, but when I read some of the stuff I submitted too early, I’m embarrassed.
What are you glad you didn’t know when you were starting out?
I’m glad I didn’t know how long it would take. If my Magic 8 Ball had given me cold, hard numbers and dates of when things would finally start happening, it might have been too overwhelming. I might have given up. I hope I wouldn’t have, but the idea that it “could happen tomorrow” kept me going. I might not have worked as hard if I knew it would still be years away.
What’s the most encouraging thing anyone has ever said to you (related to writing)?
This is the hardest question. I’ve been blessed with a massive support network–from my dear friend Vicky who first encouraged me to be a real writer to multiple-award-winning authors who’ve cheered for me every step of the way. Just thinking about the answer to this question has overwhelmed me with gratitude.
What advice would you give to someone who has been pursuing publication for a long time, with close calls, but no contracts?
Never give up. “The Call” happens in an instant, often when you least expect it. Just keep plugging along and don’t let discouragement rule you. It really could happen tomorrow.
You’re a great encourager, Kelly. Thank you so much for stopping by. Best wishes on the release of your awesome first novel. I know teen readers will love it as much as I did.
And, as always, we end with a quote. This one happens to be one of Kelly’s favorites . . .
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t–you’re right. ~ Henry Ford.