it's my great pleasure to introduce Janice Repka. Janice gives some great information here and I hope you'll take the time to read the interview and check out her website and her book.
1)Tell us who you are, how you came to live in Louisiana?
I’m a transplant from Pennsylvania who moved to Lake Charles in 2007 to attend the MFA program in creative writing at McNeese State University. My first book, The Stupendous Dodgeball Fiasco, was published by Dutton Children’s Books in 2004. It was a Junior Library Guild selection and a 2008 Nebraska Golden Sower Award Honor Book. It was also nominated for the Sunshine State Reading Award, the Young Hoosier Book Award, the Great Stone Face Award, and the Keystone to Reading Book Award.
2) Were you born a writer or did you teach yourself to BE a writer?
I’ve enjoyed creative writing ever since I was a little girl, but I’m a big advocate for craft development. No matter what level a writer is at, she can learn to improve her writing.
3) Tell us about your book. What inspired you to write such a story and how long did it take you to sell it?
You’ve heard the adage “write what you know.” Since I’m a lawyer, it only made sense that the plot of my first book would involve a legal dispute. In The Stupendous Dodgeball Fiasco, I was interested in exploring the idea that a 12-year-old boy could represent himself in court. Fortunately, my agent, Scott Treimel, knew an editor at Dutton Children’s Books who he thought might be interested in the finished manuscript, and we got an offer on the first try.
4) Do you read kid's books and if so, who are your favorite children's book authors?
I read many middle grade and young adult novels to stay abreast of what’s going on in the industry. My favorite author is Nancy Springer. Her newest series, the Enola Holmes Mysteries, features Sherlock Holmes’ little sister as a young Victorian-era sleuth.
5) Are you a member of SCBWI? What other professional writing organizations do you belong to and how have they helped/motivated you?
I belong to a number of writing groups, including the SCBWI. Additionally, I am beginning to lay the foundation for a children’s writers critique group in my area. Writing organizations are a great way to keep grounded and get connected in a field that can otherwise make one feel somewhat isolated.
6) Do you work outside the home as something other than being a writer? What's your writing schedule like?
Right now I’m a graduate teaching assistant at McNeese State University. My writing schedule requires a lot of flexibility these days, but I always make sure to set and meet small goals as I work on a project.
7) What's your take on critique groups? Have you ever belonged to one--why or why not?
A good critique group is critical to a writer’s development. I’ve belonged to various groups though out the years, including traditional and on-line groups.
8) What's the most difficult thing about writing for you?
Rewriting, but it’s also the most rewarding thing. That’s where the story can be found.
9) What is the best advice on writing you've ever received?
This happened recently. I had a private critique session with Steve Wingate, author of Wifeshopping: Stories (Mariner 2008), and I mentioned how I was trying to get my writing up to the next level. Steve explained that it wasn’t about going up; it was about digging down. His message really hit home for me. I realize now it’s not about getting a story polished until it’s perfect. To the contrary, it’s about leaving enough ambiguity and establishing enough complexity that the story feels real. That takes depth, not height.
10) What have you learned on the path to publication that you'd like to share with other writers?
Focus on your craft. You have to pay your dues on the rewrite. Too many writers spend their time trying to get their work published before its ready. Putting in that extra time to revise will make the process of finding a place for your fiction that much easier.
11) Tell us your very favorite thing to do -- doesn't have to have anything to do with writing.
I love pulling weeds in the garden. There’s something about the fresh air, the smell of the dirt, and the raw force of yanking things out of the ground that gives me simple satisfaction. That weeding helps the garden bloom next season is just a bonus for me.
12) You were listed in the “First Books” section of the 2006 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market guide published by Writer’s Digest Books. A great article focuses on you and your book, The Stupendous Dodgeball Fiasco. Tell us how that came about.
I put together my own marketing plan for The Stupendous Dodgeball Fiasco, complete with press kit. So when I heard through the SCBWI that the editor of the Writer’s Market guide was looking for first book authors to feature, I sent off an e-kit to her. It’s a good example of how important it is for authors to take personal responsibility for the success of their books so that they can seize an opportunity when it presents itself. With the current state of the economy and its affect on the publishing industry, this proactive approach is more critical than ever.
13) Last, are there any upcoming books on the horizon? Tell us what you'd like for us to know about Janice Repka, and how we can keep up with your writing future.
I’ve got a new humorous middle grade novel I recently completed and another in progress so this is a very exciting time for me creatively. I’m also excited about a new course I’ll be teaching this spring called “Write for Children and Get Published.” It is a six week course being offered through McNeese State University’s Continuing Education/Leisure Learning Office, beginning March 6th. In the course, I’ll cover the basics of writing for children from idea to the marketplace. Genres will include picture books, early readers, middle grade, and young adult books. The course will focus evenly on the craft of writing and understanding the world of children's publishing. Feedback will be provided, and students will be taught how to approach editors/agents and pitch their work with a view toward publication. The course is open to the public and writers may register by going on-line to www.mcneese.edu/conted/ and downloading a registration form, or by contacting the McNeese State University Continuing Education Department at 337-475-5616.