Vision: A Resource for Writers

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Shana Norris -- Something to Write About

By Lazette Gifford
Copyright © 2008 by Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved

Shana Norris's first published book, Something to Blog About, has recently been released by Amulet Books and can be found on bookstore shelves or at your favorite on-line bookseller.  This delightful story is filled with great characters and memorable incidents. Klutzy Libby Fawcett is wonderful, and her problems are both hilarious and real as she navigates through one disaster after another.

Shana (pronounced Shay-Nuh) took time from working on her next book to answer a few questions about writing and the young adult story market.

Be sure to check out Shana Norris's website and, of course, her own blog!

Something to Blog About by Shana Norris - February 2008 - Amulet Books

ISBN-13/EAN: 9780810994744 - Price: $15.95 - 256 Pages


Vision: Tell us about your new book including what inspired you to write it!  

Something to Blog About is a humorous young adult book about a fifteen-year-old girl named Libby who decides to start a secret blog after accidentally burning half her hair in chemistry class. But the blog ends up getting posted all over her school and gets her into a lot of trouble with her friends. The idea for Something to Blog About came from my own experiences with online journaling. I first started keeping an online journal back in 1996 and Iíve had one in some form ever since then. During college, my online journal was discovered by some of my classmates. It was a bit embarrassing because of some of the things I had written, but thankfully I didnít get into all the trouble that Libby gets into in my book! 

Vision: How long did it take you to write Something to Blog About and what the process was for getting your first book accepted and published?  Did you approach agents or publishers first?   

I wrote the first draft in exactly three weeks. Iím usually a fast first draft writer, but that was really fast even for me. Then I spent the next few months revising. I decided to try to get an agent first because I wanted someone who knew more about publishing contracts than I did. I got a few promising requests for partials and fulls, but I didnít get an offer of representation until 11 months after I started querying. By that time, I was just about ready to give up and focus on a different book! Then seven months and a lot of revisions later, my agent sold Something to Blog About in a two book deal to Amulet Books. 

Vision: What are you working on now?  Is writing the next book easier or harder after your first publication?

Right now Iím working on a book thatís a modern day retelling of a story from Greek mythology, and set in high school. I donít want to reveal too much about it right now, but Iím really excited about the story so itís hard to keep quiet!

I think itís harder to write the second book after having one published. There are the constant worries of ďWill my editor like this book as much as she liked the first?Ē and ďWhat will readers think about this one versus the first one?Ē And of course, Iím working on a deadline, so I canít take as long as I want to refine things before other people see this one. 

Vision: How long have you been writing and actively pursuing publication? 

Iíve been writing since I was a kid, always writing short stories and books most of my life. But I started seriously focusing on trying to get published six years ago. 

Vision: What do you feel are some of the concerns and problems with writing for young adults?

Voice is a big concern. Your teens need to sound like teens, and readers will know right away if you donít have the voice right. That doesnít mean they need to talk in slang all the time, but you need to have the right feel to the dialogue. You also have to avoid talking down to teens in your writing. Theyíre not stupid and they donít want to read something that makes them think the author believes theyíre silly little kids. 

Vision: Are there common mistakes you see new writers making? What suggestions would you give them?  

I see a lot of new writers constantly asking if itís okay to write about various controversial subjects in YA. I tend to write more on what I would call the ďyoung, sweet sideĒ so thereís little more than kissing in my books.  But really, there are no topics that are off-limits for teens. Todayís teens are dealing with a lot of heavy issues, so donít be afraid to write the book you want to write. You can write any side of the spectrum that you want to go as far as innocent or edgy.

Also, I see a lot of new writers taking rejection too personally and giving up too easily. I know just how much rejections sting (I have a whole folder full of them!) but you have to push it aside and keep going if you want to succeed. 

Vision: What genres do you write in, and why? And would you like to try your hand at any others? 

As far as pursuing publication right now, Iím focused just on humorous contemporary young adult because itís where I feel most comfortable. But I have also written fantasy, although none of my fantasy work has been published.  I love reading fantasy, and maybe one Iíll again try to get published in that genre. Iíd really like to write contemporary middle grade books, too, and I have a few ideas that have been bouncing around in my head. I think pre-teens and teens are such fun ages to write for. 

Vision: Who has influenced your writing? 

I had a few teachers throughout school that made me love stories more and encouraged my writing, so Iím thankful to them, especially my creative writing teacher in high school who pushed us to try new things. But Meg Cabotís books made me really fall in love with YA as an adult and made me want to try to write for that age group. Her writing is so fun and itís easy to see why lots of teens have fallen in love with her work.  

Vision: Do you see the Internet as a good tool for upcoming writers? How should they be using it, if it is?

The Internet is definitely a great tool for writers! I had a website before I got my agent and he checked my site out when he became interested in representing me to learn more about me. Having a website gives you a presence and can help build name recognition. You could have a blog on your website (which I highly recommend because it helps attract other aspiring writers who will stop in and keep track of your publishing journey), a little bit of information about your works in progress, any publishing credits you may have, and an author bio just to start.

I also recommend getting involved in a few writersí online communities, such as Forward Motion because Iíve learned that fellow writers will be your biggest cheerleaders when something good happens in your career. We all want to succeed in this field, but we also love to see people we ďknowĒ online succeed as well. Writers are so generous at offering advice and support to each other and there are tons of great online communities and email lists you can join. And when you join those communities, be sure to put a link to your website in your signature! 

Vision: How has writing changed who you are or how you see the world? Are there themes that matter most to you?

My writing has made me really notice that Iím a romantic. I knew it before, but I never thought of myself as a romance writer until I noticed that all of my books revolve around that first big love in a teenís life. There are other themes in my books as well, and friends and family play a big part, but there is a strong romance plot. I really enjoy writing about teens finding and exploring love for the first time. It gives me the chance to fall in love all over again with each book. Also, I think writing has helped me to really notice the relationships we have with the various people in our lives and how differently we act when around different groups. I find myself becoming much more perceptive to dynamics of relationships and how we fit in among them all. 

Vision: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?  Has your Career progressed the way you thought it would?

I remember writing my first story when I was 8. It was called The Lonely Rectangle. It was terrible! But I fell in love with making up stories and so I kept doing it. But it wasnít until around age 10, when I was trying to decide what I might want to be when I grew up, that it suddenly hit me that I could actually write the books that I loved to read. I knew I liked writing stories, but I hadnít really made the connection between my stories and the books on my shelves. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be a writer someday.

Iím happy with the way my career has progressed. I used to have dreams of being a teenage writing phenom and becoming a bestseller before I turned 18! But Iím happy with the way my life has gone and that I had a little more time to develop my writing on my own and figure out my style before being published. 

Vision: What is your average day like? Do you write every day?

I still have a day job, so from 8am-5pm Monday through Friday, thatís where I am. I write at night and on weekends. I donít always write every day, but it really depends on if Iím on a deadline. After I have a manuscript turned in, Iíll take a couple weeks off from writing before I start working on something else. But if Iím on deadline, I do write every day and write as much as I can fit in around my other commitments. 

Vision: What do you have coming out that we should look for? What sort of things do you plan, or hope, to write in the future?  

My second book should be in bookstores around this time next year. Iíll post more details about it on my website later this year. I have some other fun first drafts of books about teen girls dealing with boyfriends and friends that Iíd like to work on and hopefully get published also. Also, Iím determined to get a draft of one of the middle grade ideas I have in my head done and see what comes of that! 

Vision: Thank you for taking this time for this interview. Any last words you'd like to say to our readers?

Thanks for the interview! Iíd like to remind everyone not to give up hope. Keep trying, keep pushing, and youíll reach your dreams!

Something to Blog About by Shana Norris - February 2008 - Amulet Books

ISBN-13/EAN: 9780810994744 - Price: $15.95 - 256 Pages