K.A. (Kelly) Barson and I overlapped at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and I couldn't be more delighted to host her on my blog this week. She's terribly funny and insightful, and I'm imagining that her novel, 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) will reflect her temperament. Plus, she routinely streaked her hair different colors - purple was my favorite. How can you not love that? And, her debut was selected as an Amazon editor's pick for best teen book for July!
Congratulations on the publication of your novel, 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS.) Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?
It’s about a sixteen-year-old girl who wants to lose 45 pounds (more or less) before her aunt’s wedding. It was inspired by my desire to write a book about a real girl who is overweight, but her biggest battle is within her own head.
How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
I’ve been writing seriously since 2004. This is not my first effort, but it is my debut novel for publication. I have other manuscripts. Some are submittable, others are far from it.
Can you describe your path to the publication of 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS)? Did your Vermont College experience play a role?
VCFA played a huge role! The manuscript would never have been in the shape it was in if not for Martine Leavitt’s and Rita Williams-Garcia’s questions and direction and, of course, two workshops full of brilliant faculty and students who made me think about what worked and what didn’t.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Don’t be in a hurry to submit. Concentrate on craft for at least 10,000 hours. Read at least 1,000 books. I’m not exaggerating. I’d heard that early on, but was too eager to publish to listen. I regret it now. Focusing on submissions before I had something worth submitting only added more time to my process, which from beginning to release is about nine years.
Excellent advice, Kelly. Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
I love spending time with my kids, grandkids, and dogs. Oh, and my husband, parents, and friends, too! People inspire me, so as long as I can be around people some of the time and be alone long enough to write the stories they inspire, I plan to continue doing that as long as I can.
Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
Yes! My next novel, also a YA contemporary and also with Viking (Penguin), is about a high school cosmetology student who thinks she has her whole life planned out and under control until it all falls apart. She has to figure out how she contributed to it before she can figure out how to fix it.
Do you have a website where readers can learn more about 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS)?
Bonus question: what was the name of your VCFA graduating class, and how did you choose it? (Note: in the Writing for Children and Young Adults program each class takes a name, that is a huge secret until it is revealed during a performance. Yes, we do have fun!)
I am a Bat Poet (Jan. 2011). We chose our name based on Randall Jarrell’s adorable book by the same name. (Maurice Sendak did the illustrations.) In the book, a little bat wants desperately to write something that people want to read/hear. SPOILER ALERT: He does, and the woodland creatures pay him in crickets for his work. Our class related to the little bat—his longing to create art that readers relate to, his insecurity about whether anyone would, and his desire to be paid for it—so that’s what we called ourselves. I love my Bat Poets!