Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Introducing CRAZY by Linda Phillips- Part I

Congratulations to Lisa Kline, a frequent guest on this blog, who won the autographed copy of Veronica Rossi's book Under the Never Sky. She has donated so many books as giveaways--I'm happy she won one too!
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If you've been following this blog for several years than you may have already met Linda Phillips, one of my closest writing buddies, friend, and prayer partner. Like a midwife, I've watched as Linda has labored over her debut young adult novel, Crazy, and I can't wait to hold a copy of it in my hands. Over the next two blogs Linda shares what she has learned in the process of writing and bringing her baby--oops, her book--into this world.

I hope you will welcome Linda, and Crazy into your lives.
Linda and I at a Charlotte Mecklenburg
Performers Showcase event 

First, the synopsis:
Fifteen-year-old Laura Walberg can't imagine life without sketching or painting.  When her artist mother has a nervous breakdown the same week Laura's teacher pressures her to enter a prestigious contest, Laura must face her fear that art will send her over the edge, too.

Driven by shame and rage, Laura hides her disintegrating home life from everyone, including her best friend. Neither her older sister nor her father recognizes her fear of going insane.  Desperately alone, she considers suicide, faith healing, an unlikely relationship with a super-jock, and a new artistic endeavor.  When Laura’s mother becomes violent, Laura vows to find the demon that is driving her crazy.  An amazing discovery changes Laura forever and opens her heart to the mother she never knew. 

Next, the BIG question: 

What have you learned in the process of writing, editing, and getting Crazy ready for publication?

Well, I know the ultimate reward for writing a book is seeing it on the shelf, but I’m here to tell you how much I value all that I have learned along the way.  In fact, I’ve learned so much it makes me wonder what I thought I actually knew before I started! 

Speaking of getting started, my adventure began with a collection of adult poems that I wrote as a cathartic release from the emotions connected with my mother’s bipolar disorder.  I soon had a collection of twenty poems, some of which were published in adult literary journals.  I began toying with the idea of trying to get them published as a poetry collection when you suggested they would be happier in a novel. I really started working on shaping them into a book in 2007.

You and I trundled off to Chautauqua, NY for the 2009 Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop, where I took my very raw novel and my growing desire to see my name in print.  Thanks to my mentor for the week, Patti Gauch, I learned that my YA book was, of course, written in an adult voice.  For some reason, that minor little detail had escaped me completely!  I owe a debt of gratitude to Patti for setting me on the right path, and giving me an invaluable, detailed critique that took me a year to work through. 

The next big lesson that I learned was about time management.  I was still teaching school and finding writing time was often a frustrating challenge.  Being a morning person was helpful, and often I would write in the pre-dawn hours before school.  I dropped out of an active role in SCBWI and began saying “no” to as many commitments as possible.  When I finally felt like the manuscript was ready for submission, I treated finding an agent like a second job one whole summer vacation. 

It paid off with the offer from Julia Kenny for agent representation at Dunow, Carlson, and Lerner (she was actually with MarksonThoma at the time). 
Linda was excited to meet Julia in person in NYC!
Oh boy, here’s where the first lesson in patience really kicked in and stop me if I go on too long, because it is never-ending!  Written in verse, set in the sixties, with nary a mention of werewolves or dystopian worlds (when those things were really hot)--well, needless to say, my book was not an immediate sell!  We came really close several times, but not close enough after about thirty submissions.  I was ready to throw in the towel, but Julia wasn’t.  She suggested that I try some small, independent houses on my own, since they neither require nor desire agent representation.  In the meantime, she stayed in the background providing full support and advice. 

That meant another “summer job” of querying, but admittedly with dwindling hope.  I guess the next big lesson learned was “if you’ve got someone backing you who loves your work, for heavens sake, don’t give up.”  So I didn’t.   Within three months I had two offers from my querying efforts while I was attending a wonderful Free Expressions workshop called Your Best Book with Lorin Oberweger (speaking of learning experiences, check her out!).   And before that amazing week was out, Julia received an offer from Eerdmans, one of the original thirty submissions, which we jubilantly accepted.  I know I learned tons that week, but it might boil down to how to stay sane while juggling three offers at a workshop with your WIP. 
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Join us next week when Linda shares what she has learned about herself, revision, cover design, and one of her poems from Crazy.




21 comments:

Barbara Younger said...

What a wonderful story and so glad you have such a fine agent. Congratulations!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Barbara. I know LInda will enjoy your comment.

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Thanks, Barbara. Yes, I really feel fortunate to have found my agent, Julia Kenny. She has been a stabilizing presence in what can be very unstable ground.

JoyceHostetter said...

Love getting the lowdown on your journey! Pub date is inching ever closer.

Lisa Kline said...

Such a touching story, Linda. And boy, that cover is stunning!

Rosi said...

Wow. That is a story every writer should read. I will be most interested in reading Crazy. My mother was also bi-polar. It ain't easy.

Rebecca Petruck said...

Yay! So glad to hear the backstory to CRAZY.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Rosi and Lisa for leaving comments. I agree that it's a great cover (more on that next week!) and that Linda's story will touch adults as well as teens.

Martina Boone said...

And you handled it with total grace and professionalism! I'm so happy for you, Linda, and so excited for this book. It was wonderful to get to watch you go through part of this process, and I'm rooting for this "little book that could?" Can't wait to read!

Shannon Hitchcock said...

A writer's journey is usually long and convoluted. Like losing weight, there is no magic formula. Good luck and can't wait to read your book!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Martian & Shannon--it's been so fun to watch Linda's journey!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Thanks for all the comments. Glad you enjoyed the "lowdown" Joyce, and thanks for the kind words on the cover, Lisa. I hope that readers like you, Rosi, will be especially encouraged by the story. Thanks for the supportive comments, Rebecca, Martina, and Shannon.

Linda A. said...

Carol and Linda,
Terrific interview and background on this novel we're all anxiously awaiting.

sheri levy said...

Thanks Linda for sharing how you put your story together and the beginning of your publishing experience. Can't wait to hear more! And read it when it is out. Congrats..

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Linda and Sheri--it's been a long time coming, but it'll be so worthwhile when her book is finally HERE!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Thanks for dropping by and for your supportive comments, Linda and Sheri. And Linda, I hope your husband is doing well.

Ann Eisenstein said...

Thank you for that wonderful interview! Great insight into Linda and her Crazy journey. I can't wait to read it!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Ann. That's a great way to state it--it has been her CRAZY journey!!

Anna E. G. said...

Gorgeous cover!I enjoyed getting to see the inside of the writing world,it motivates me to get back to my own stories! Mental illness is also such a tricky topic to handle, and I'm glad it's being approached for the Y.A. audience.

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks, Anne. Glad that Linda's journey has motivated yours. Me too!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Anne, as Carol said, calling it my crazy journey really hits the nail on the head! And thanks, Anna, for your kind comments about the cover and writing about mental illness. There are a number of YA books dealing with the broad subject of mental illness, but each with a different angle. But I hope they all can have the same effect of opening dialogues and enhancing understanding among young people.