Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Voice: Jenny Lundquist on Seeing Cinderella

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Jenny Lundquist is the first-time author of Seeing Cinderella (Aladdin M!X, 2012). From the promotional copy: 

Calliope Meadow Anderson is terrified to start seventh grade. Not that the summer has been so great— her overachieving best friend, Ellen, is slipping away, her parents’ marriage is falling apart, and to top it all off, she has to get glasses the day before school starts. Life isn’t going too smoothly.

But things get unexpectedly weird when Callie meets her wacky optometrist and receives a pair of glasses so ugly they make braces and headgear look cute. But pretty soon, Callie makes a freaky discovery. Her glasses have magic powers: they can read people’s thoughts (and she’s pretty sure they repel boys, too).

Callie uses her new glasses to navigate middle school life and learns things she never knew about the people around her. That overachieving Ellen isn’t so super confident, after all. That neither of her parents are who she thought they were. That it’s a good idea to make sure your crush Knows Your Name before you spy on his thoughts. 

But when the glasses show Callie that Ana Garcia—a new student from Mexico and Callie’s Spanish tutor—has become a real-life Cinderella in her uncle’s house, she has to make a choice. 

Will she stay in the shadows and hide behind her magic glasses, or step out of the background and stand up for her friend?

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you're debuting this year?

Jenny as a young reader.
As a young reader I was shy and introverted much like Callie, my main character in Seeing Cinderella.

I was less mature emotionally than my friends and often felt confused/overwhelmed by the changes everyone else seemed (on the outside) to embrace about middle school.

Back then books—specifically middle grade, coming-of-age books—were my consolation and helped me make sense of my world.

Once I started writing seriously, I wanted to add to that body of literature. To give back, in a way, to a genre that helped me survive a tough phase in my life.

How do you psyche yourself up to write, to keep writing, and to do the revision necessary to bring your manuscript to a competitive level? What, for you, are the special challenges in achieving this goal? What techniques have worked best and why?

I have a really simple way I psych myself up to write: I stare at the stack of dirty dishes in my sink and ask myself if I'd rather wash them or start writing.

Yeah, writing usually wins. I'll never win the Homemaker of the Year award, but I'll always meet my deadlines! Although if you plan on stopping by my house, you might want to call first…

When it comes to revisions, I think I'm probably odd because I love second, third, fourth…tenth drafts way more than my initial attempt. I could revise forever—I'd probably still be revising Seeing Cinderella if my editor hadn't cut me off.

I spend a lot of time journaling and asking myself how I could improve my story.

When I've gotten stuck, I've taken a page from The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (Pan Macmillan 1992) and journaled three pages of free writing to get the creative juices flowing. It works wonders.

I also like to interview my characters and write journal entries from their perspective; it helps me get to know them better.

As someone who's the primary caregiver of children, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

I began writing when my younger son was only a few weeks old, so I've struggled with this a lot. At the beginning I took advantage of every stay-at-home-mom's secret weapon: Nap time! The second my kids were asleep, everything else stopped and I began writing. Food could be fossilizing on my kitchen floor, but I didn't care. When the kids were napping, I was writing. No exceptions.

I spent the evenings reading: middle grade books, young adult books, craft books, any books I could get my eager little hands on. (One thing I love about being a writer: spending hours reading a good book and calling it "research!")

I struggled a lot with fatigue and took several writing courses not only to improve my craft, but to give myself deadlines. The good girl in me would never miss an assignment due date, regardless of how sleep-deprived I may have been.

I also made the decision not to get involved with social media (other than reading blogs) until after I had a book contract. I realize this is a different choice than many other writers make, but time was an issue and I felt I couldn't manage a blog or Twitter account on top of all my other responsibilities.

Now that my younger son has started kindergarten things are a lot easier. I consider the morning and early afternoon my "office hours." But once my kids are out of school, I take off my "Writer" hat and put my "Mom" hat back on until they go to bed.

The best advice I could give to other stay-at-home-moms is to try to find balance. I want to pursue my dreams, and write the stories that are whirling around in my head. But my sons will only be young once, and I don't want to miss out on them while they still think I'm cool.

Some days I'm able to accomplish a lot on my work in progress, other days, not so much. I'm learning to take it all in stride and not sweat the small stuff.

Cynsational Notes

Giveaway: Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist from The Story Siren. Enter to win a signed ARC, a signed paperback copy, bookmarks and postcards. Deadline: May 31. Eligibility: everyone!

5 comments:

Heather Marsten said...

My goodness, what a delightful premise for a book - a way to show teens that the appearances aren't the whole story. Wish more of those glasses were available to people. Might foster a bit more kindness in the world. BTW, Loved that picture of you in the seventh grade. Have a blessed day.

Jeanette W. Stickel said...

I can’t wait to see Cinderella, or I suppose I should say read, Seeing Cinderella. It sounds like one some of my middle school students will enjoy!

Wild About Words said...

What a great interview. Thanks for telling it like it is.

Abigail Beal said...

Cinderella is one of my favorite fairy tales, your YA story sounds terrific. I wish you great success with your novel and other creative projects! :)

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Heather, you say: "Wish more of those glasses were available to people." Me, too.

Jeanette, yes, definitely a great pick for middle schoolers.

Thanks, WAW!

Abigail, sounds like SC is a book for you!

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