Tag Archives: semi-autobiographical

Linda Vigen Phillips – Writer of Prose and Poetry for Young Adults and Middle Grades

“Interview with Linda Vigen Phillips – Writer of Prose and Poetry for Young Adults and Middle Grades”
Linda, thanks for being a guest on my blog. It is a pleasure to interview you.
I have exciting news to share. I’m glad to be here.
Everyone’s anxious to hear your good news. Let’s get started!

1.   How did you do in English as a kid?
For me, it has always been about words as opposed to those mysterious things called numbers.  I honestly barely got into college because of my math scores!  In English I was a show-off from the get go.  I wrote a play “just for fun” in the fourth grade that my teacher made a big deal about.  I won some essay contests in high school.  I bombed on multiple choice tests and relished the essay parts.  English class, language arts, anything to do with words—always my favorite part of school.

2.  When did you decide to become an author?
Well,  I decided with the first diary someone gave me in grade school, but the rest of the world didn’t catch on for quite some time!

3.  What’s your favorite book?
Of course, this is always the hardest question to ask a writer because there are so many.  The one I identify the most with is Catcher in the Rye.  As a teacher I loved and used Hatchet the most for its wonderful description and narrative richness.  Most recently it’s The Book Thief.  By the way, speaking of the latter, it is one of the rare instances in which I thought the movie was almost as good as, if not equal to, the book.

4.  Are your characters based on real people?

My book, Crazy, is semi-autobiographical. Eerdmans will release it in October 2014. It is about a teenage girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness.  My mother suffered from bipolar disorder and I have drawn from actual events in my own life to shape the story.  Some of the minor characters are based on friends I knew growing up.  Don’t panic, girlfriends,  your names have all been changed and thanks to my editor, many of you have melded into composites!

5.  Did you outline and plan your book before you wrote it or did the story just flow on its own?
The book, Crazy, evolved from a collection of twenty poems that I wrote as a way of working through the feelings that resulted from my struggle with my mother’s illness. A number of these poems were originally published in adult literary journals.  I was considering putting them into a poetry chapbook when my writing buddy, Carol Baldwin, critiqued them and suggested that they needed to be a novel.  I took her advice, but to answer the question, I never specifically outlined the book.  It sort of spewed out like water from a faucet once I got going.

6.  How do you know when your manuscript is ready for submission?
Ah, don’t we all wish we knew the answer to that one!  Hopefully, if you are a serious writer, you have plugged into a critique group and/or workshops and conferences enough so that you have gotten considerable feedback from more than one source on your manuscript.  If you have not reached that saturation point, then your manuscript is probably not ready.  On the other end of the continuum, even when we are as ready as we can be, I think we writers tend to fret about our little darlings even as we hit the send button or drop that query in the mailbox.

7.  Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to you as a writer?
My association with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has most certainly been the biggest help and influence in my writing career.  Prior to my involvement with this organization I had plenty of ambition, but zero understanding of writing technique or the rules of the game.  Thanks to Fran Davis, beloved former RA of this region, I jumped in feet first and co-facilitated the 1998 conference in Charlotte with Carol Baldwin.  It was a great way to begin learning the trade and to see the importance of critique groups and networking with other writers.  It was all new to me, having been the reclusive closet poet for so many years.  And the bonus, of course, was finding life long friends like Carol.
As far as my book goes, I owe a debt of gratitude to Patti Gauch, retired senior editor at Philomel, who was my mentor at the 2009 Highlights Foundation Chautauqua Workshop.  She was instrumental in helping me find my YA voice and refine the raw story that I took to that workshop.
I am currently in the middle of revisions with my editor, Kathleen Merz, at Eerdmans and I am blown away with the editing process she is taking me through.  It is really the hardest work I have ever done on a writing project, and by far the most valuable.  It amazes me how she catches inconsistencies and parts that simply do not work well. I never would have caught them on my own.

8.  How did you obtain your agent?  Tell us about her.
My agent, Julia Kenny, is with Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. I found her on a random blog interview where I learned the type of material she was looking for. My heart leaped when it was definitely NOT dystopian, fantasy, or sci fi because up to that point, it seemed those were the genres everybody else was looking for. It was an instant fit, and she has been and continues to be a joy to work with. I got to meet her last year when I was in New York and that was a definite perk!

9.  What are you writing now?
My Work-in-Progress (WIP) represents a total departure from my debut book, in that it is MG, light-hearted, not in verse, with a male protagonist.  I’m currently debating the wisdom of not following up the debut book with something written in the same style, thanks to friendly advice from a fellow writer.  Be that as it may, here is the pitch:
Procrastination Pete must complete his science project during Spring Break at a castle where proving that a ghost doesn’t exist involves more than he bargains for.
For news about Crazy and Procrastination Pete stay tuned to my website http://www.lindavigenphillips.com (my blog is there, too)  and twitter @LVigenPhillips  where I am sure to hash through it in the future.
Linda Phillips has taught lower and middle school students, as well as adults in writing courses online and in continuing education classes. (http://www.writing-world.com/poetry/children.shtml) Throughout her years of teaching, poetry writing has served as an important creative outlet. Her debut book, Crazy, is a YA novel written in verse about a teenage girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness. The book is semi-autobiographical, having evolved from a collection of poems originally written as a cathartic way to process the mental illness in her own family.  It is Linda’s hope that the book will speak to teens or adults whose lives have been affected by a loved one with mental illness. When she’s not writing, Linda can be found on the floor playing with the grandkids, or on the greenway, pedaling her ancient Raleigh 3-speed bike.
Other interviews of Linda:

Linda, thanks again for being a guest on my blog. It is so exciting that you not only have an agent, but have a book release coming soon.


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