Thursday, May 7, 2015

Interview with Author Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Here’s one important lesson I’ve learned: If you quit when you feel discouraged, you’ll never find out what you could have done if you’d stuck with it instead.

Or, even better: The ONLY way to fail is to quit!

Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary.

Ten-year-old Pansy Smith wants to become an extraordinary friend to make up for all the mistakes she's made in the past....and she has only 14.5 weeks to reach her goal.

When Pansy chickens out of going to sleepaway camp with Anna, she realizes she's let her best friend down one time too many. Anna is right; Pansy has broken a lot of promises. But Anna suffers a brain injury at camp, and Pansy worries that she'll never be able to make things right between them, or even worse, that Anna will never be the same again. When she hears that Anna is going to have brain surgery in 14 weeks that might cure her, Pansy knows she's been given the chance she's been waiting for- a chance to get Anna back, by finally facing her fears and becoming extraordinary, the kind of best friend Anna deserves.

Although my book deals with the serious subject matter of a girl who suffers  a severe brain injury, Extraordinary shows that young people can remain hopeful even in difficult situations. Even though Anna has changed greatly from the best friend Pansy once knew, she still inspires Pansy to try new things and to persevere when giving up would be much easier. This book shows that extraordinary things can happen when you least expect it, and overall I hope the reader will come away with a sense of hope and triumph.

Can you tell us about your publisher and how the process worked in getting published?  

Skypony Press is an independent publisher; Skypony is the children's division of Skyhorse Press. I discovered that they were interested in books  with special needs themes, and I asked my agent to submit to the editor, Julie Matysik. After taking the book to an acquisitions meeting, Julie sent over an offer which I was thrilled to accept!

How did you get the idea for this book?  

As a teacher, I've worked with children who persevere despite challenges, treat others with kindness, and are full of spirit and heart. Although they may not be the top students or the most talented in the typical ways that get noticed, they have extraordinary gifts that others may not recognize. My original plan for the book was to write about a girl who considered herself "hopelessly average" but wanted to become an extraordinary person by chasing after numerous goals.

Pansy's character is still based on the original character, but I transformed the story when I made Anna a major part of it.

I wanted to write about Anna because of a niece who suffered a brain injury when she was two. A sudden high fever led to a stroke and a brain injury, which changed her life and her family's life forever. I've always been amazed and inspired by the way her family accepted the challenges and focused on the joy that Anna brought to everyone. Even though their hopes and dreams for her had changed, they adjusted and learned that living with a child with severe special needs can be a gift that makes you view the world in a different way.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

On a typical writing day, I spend two hours in the morning, 4-5 days a week, working on a draft or revising. If ideas are flowing, then I'll spend more than that, working again in the evening after children have gone to bed. 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

The best part of writing is when I lose myself in my characters and I get to follow them to see where they'll take me. I also love the revision stage--going back through each scene and figuring out ways to make the writing stronger.

What is the most difficult part of writing?

For me, the most difficult part is the plot--making sure each scene moves the story forward and it doesn't meander around. Because I don't outline, my books can end up with all sorts of subplots I don't need, so staying focused and structured can be a challenge!

How has publishing a book changed your life?

I've been writing and studying the craft of writing for years, but for me, being published gives me a sense of validation. Since I've been writing and revising for a long time, it means that I've grown and improved as a writer, and my work is now strong enough for an audience. It also means that a child somewhere will hold my book in her hands, and will hopefully be touched by my words. That's an incredible honor, and if my book causes one child to think about situations or to think about his/her life differently, then it will all be worth it!

If your book is based on true events, how has that affected those around you or why made you choose to use historical events?

I based the character of Anna on my niece (my sister-in-law's daughter). I hope that members of the family will accept and understand the full circle of Pansy's emotions in coming to terms with the brain injury, and that they will also remember how Anna inspired others to find the beauty and joy in the simple things in life.

What are your plans now?

I'm currently working on a few different middle grade manuscripts. I hope to have one of them ready to submit to my editor soon. I'm also looking forward to presenting writing workshops and making author visits at schools. As a former public school teacher now working with homeschooled students, there is nothing better than working with children and nurturing creativity!

What is your best tip for aspiring authors?

My best tip? Read and write.  Read and study fine examples of children's literature. Be prepared to listen to expert feedback and to cut some scenes and characters you love! And, if you don't make the time to sit down and write, the book inside your head will never get written!

Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?

My website:
Follow me on Twitter: @123miris
Readers should be able to purchase the book wherever books are sold, both in stores and online.


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