Q) When did you start writing? What keeps you going?
A) I started writing on my own time the summer of 9th grade, when I took a playwriting class. I began with a 10-minute play in verse about a knight sentenced to eat his hat and went on from there (clearly it was only a matter of time before I found children’s literature.) What keeps me going is the desire to see a character’s story all the way to the end, and to portray stories in novels that I haven’t seen on the shelves.
Q) What was your most encouraging moment as an author?
A) Learning that my novel, Nice and Mean, was going to be featured on the IndieNext list, which is the publication by the American Bookseller’s Association that advises book-buyers what to purchase. It was a thrill to learn that Nice and Mean was going to be published, but the IndieNext list encouraged me that people other than my immediate circle would value the story.
Q) What was your most discouraging moment as an author?
A) Something recent springs to mind that cuts too close to the bone to share, but I mention it to note that even after you are published, there are discouraging moments. A discouraging moment I will share took place at an SCBWI conference, where I met with an editor about an earlier draft of Nice and Mean. She told me that too much was going on and maybe it just needed to be Sachi’s story, and that instead of focusing on the video Sachi makes—which is central to the plot—I should just write about her outgrowing her friends. I felt certain that I knew my book needed what I had put in it, but I was still so frustrated that I couldn’t convey it accurately. I had wanted to hear praise for my work, and instead, I left feeling terrible.
Q) What’s your antidote to writer’s block?
A) I hate when people say things like this, but I don’t believe in writer’s block – or rather, I don’t think of writer’s block in the same way that many people seem to. Sometimes, I have trouble figuring out what should happen next in my story, or I feel uninspired to write the next scene. Usually, this is due to the fact that I’ve gone down a wrong path in whatever I’ve written recently and need to go into reverse before going forward. For example, sometimes I will be unexcited to write a scene, and I’ll realize that I’ve already mined the emotional tension of this scene before, so it’s not fun to consider writing it again. If that’s the case, I’ll ask myself, “Which scene do I need most?” If the answers is, “Both,” I’ll insert some repetition and revision: if Zoe is blowing off her friends for the second time in three chapters, what makes it different this time? Once I’ve figured that out, I’ll get excited to write the scene. In short, when I get stuck, I look backwards and try to see what landed me in Stucksville.
Q) Describe the typical writing day:
A) I have a daughter who’s less than a year old and I teach part-time, so there’s not much that’s typical! But I try to get to the writing desk by 9 am and write 1,000 words at the very least each day. (Sometimes it’s a lot more, but I try to feel good if I’ve gotten 1,000.) Also, unlike a lot of writers I know, I don’t write at night unless I’m on deadline, I don’t like the feeling that I could or should always be writing. If I had a typical 9-5 job, I might say that I had to have the computer off at 9pm. I just need to know there’s some downtime that’s not negotiable.
Q) From where do you draw your inspiration?
A) From the students I see around me, from stories in the news, and from my own experiences as a wee lass.
Q) Tell us about your latest book:
A) I’m working on a story about the blossoming of love and dissolution of friendships. Also, there are a lot of sweets in this story. They just creep in everywhere.
Thanks for visiting. Please enjoy and comment.
Author Bio: Jessica Leader is the author of Nice and Mean (Simon and Schuster/Aladdin), a middle-grade novel about two girls, one nice, one mean, who are forced to work together in their middle-school video elective. Nice and Mean appeared on the IndieNext List and was a finalist for a regional SCBWI Crystal Kite Award and a Cybils Award. She holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Washington, DC.
PDF of book: You can download it from http://jessicaleader.com/contact.html -- bottom right
Links website, etc. www.jessicaleader.com