I’m so thrilled to welcome middle grade author Ginny Wiehardt to #TeamMarchini!
On my personal blog, I’d talked about the type of middle grade that I’m looking for back in February, and Ginny’s book has all of it. It’s a family story, a friendship story, and a story of a girl grappling with this place between childhood and being a teenager. She’s working through what she can and cannot change, and she’s doing so in a way that makes you both root for and worry for her. I also just love the Brooklyn setting, which for me, is a touch of that magic that I was talking about in the previous post! And, of course, Ginny has a wonderful middle grade voice!
I’m so excited to work with Ginny, and I hope you’re excited to learn a bit more about the newest member of the BookEnds Jr. team!
What genres do you write? Read?
I write poetry and contemporary middle-grade fiction, and I read a number of genres: middle grade and YA fiction, literary fiction, detective novels, poetry, and nonfiction—especially if it relates in some way to a story or poem I’m working on. In fact, one thing I enjoy about writing is that it can send me off into fields I’d never have explored otherwise.
What do you love about writing middle grade fiction?
It’s something of a cliché, but I love that books can mean so much to young people. I moved around a fair amount when I was growing up, but because of books, I was always living a well-peopled, rich life, no matter my external circumstances. It’s a privilege to think that my books might comfort other kids, and keep them company, in that same way.
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
I would love to live at least part of the year on the island of Kaua‘i in Hawai‘i. In fact, I did have the chance to spend three months writing there some years ago, so this is a bit of a safe answer for me, in addition to being a sincere one. A friend from my MFA program had bought a tree farm with a shack on it on the south shore of Kaua‘i. For a few years, she’d been jokingly asking me when I was going to come live in her shack. Then one day I learned that my job was ending. At the same time, I had this novel I’d been struggling to revise. So, I called my friend up and surprised her by saying, “OK, I’m ready to come live in your shack!”
I wasn’t a beach person then, so I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the reality of Kaua‘i. But I loved everything—lilikoi pie, red dirt stains, slack key guitar, shave ice, plate lunch, slow driving, heiau ruins, the eighty-year-old women who grabbed my arm and recited (I assume) recipes to me in Chinese while pointing to some ingredient I’d picked up in the grocery store, even vegan smoothie bars. Looking back with a clear eye, I can see that I didn’t do the best writing of my life there. That novel is STILL in a drawer, along with way too many poems about birds and leaves. But still, I’d jump at the chance to do it again!
If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would you want to meet and why?
As a writer from Texas, I’ve always wanted to spend time with Naomi Shihab Nye. She’s been an example for me of someone who writes both poetry and children’s literature while also advocating for peace and social change. She was particularly vocal on behalf of Arab Americans and against terrorism after September 11, for instance, but on the local level, she also helped start a nonprofit to provide poetry workshops to the community, and taught poetry in Texas public schools for something like three decades. Several of my friends got to study with her as teens, and they all said that she changed their lives. She has such a hopeful way of looking at the world, and more importantly, she finds ways of translating that hope into action. With all the violence in our culture today, we writers do well to follow her example and support young people in whatever way we can.
One of the things that’s been heartening about the process of looking for an agent is seeing how many people in the kid lit industry feel the same way. In fact, the day I got the call (well, initially, the email) from Tracy, I had liked a tweet of hers thanking the kids for holding the school walkout. I remember thinking, “What a great comment. I hope she’s still considering my book!” But in general, this process has made me feel that I’m applying for a job, so to speak, in the right industry.
What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches?
I was lucky to hear a writer in my neighborhood talk about how she got her agent, and I’m happy to pass her system along, at least as I implemented it: 1) Query ten or so agents at a time. 2) If you don’t get at least a 20% response rate, revise the query letter and writing sample until you do. 3) When you get good feedback from an agent, stop submitting and revise the book. 4) Submit to more agents, revising as you get more feedback. 5) If you hit 90 agents and still have not received an offer, write a new book.
While 90 is an awfully big number, it was helpful for me, as someone who’s easily discouraged by rejection, to think of submissions purely as a numbers game. And it was crucial to allow room in the process to take advantage of feedback. There’s such a huge amount of work between a first draft and a book in the bookstore, and agents really do expect a fiction submission to be closer to the latter than the former. I had a few false starts before I accepted how much work I had to do and really sat down to do it.
Do you belong to any writing organizations?
I am a member of SCBWI and of Pen Parentis, an organization that supports parent-writers in NYC.
Twitter or Instagram? Or Facebook? Where can we find you?
All of the above. Please come find me!
And on my website: www.ginnywiehardt.com