Hi Gennifer, Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with me!
Thank you for including this interview in your blog.
Congrats on the upcoming release of One-Third Nerd. In another interview, you called it your funniest book yet. How would you describe your sense of humor?
My sense of humor is quirky and offbeat. I’m not a joke teller. I’m not a pun master. My humor comes out of my characters.
Do you have any young (kid) beta readers or do you just naturally “get” middle grade humor?
I do have beta kid readers and I do naturally “get” middle grade humor as I am basically eleven. That said, I’m often surprised about what lands. Sometimes things I do not think are funny, the kids find hilarious and vice a versa.
One-Third Nerd deals with some heavy topics like divorce and financial stress.
How does humor help you connect deeper storylines with kids?
I like funny “real”. And funny “real” is a mash up of real life problems and humor. I remember hearing the immensely talented humorist Paula Danziger speak about humor once. She said you should underline all the sad parts in a manuscript in yellow and all the funny parts in green and when you are done the green and the yellow should be pretty well balanced.
I read on Publisher’s Weekly that you traveled to Thailand to spend time with elephants for a middle-grade historical fiction novel. When you’re traveling for a book, do you jot down notes about anything and everything? Or are you laser-focused on specific things?
I went to Thailand to spend time with elephants in elephant sanctuaries. It was a pretty specific research topic. I took notes about all things elephant. So I guess I am laser-focused. But traveling is an excellent way to get new ideas, because it is disorienting and it stimulates your senses in new ways. I love writing on planes and in airports – in that netherworld where you are not firmly anchored to any world but the one you are creating in your head.
Do you keep a notepad in your purse or by your bedside for keeping track of ideas?
I do have a notepad in my purse and on my bedside table. I get some of my best ideas in the middle of the night. Insomnia is a writer’s best friend.
Do you have any completed novels that you haven’t been able to sell? Do you stick them in a drawer for another time?
The first two novels I wrote are in a drawer. And that is a blessing to me, to my career, and to the reading public. It takes time to hone your skills as a novelist. At least, it did for me. Now I’m lucky enough to be able to sell novels before I write them. So I don’t have any complete novels in my drawer. What I have is lots of nonfiction research books on my shelves — books bought to research novels I decided not to write.
How’d you originally connect with your agent? Any advice for aspiring authors?
The answer to both those questions is: SCBWI. (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.)
I got my agent through SCBWI. I wasn’t in the market for an agent when I heard a heavyweight agent speak at the SCBWI conference in LA. She made a big impression on me. Two years later when I was looking for an agent, I wrote to her. I had taken very careful notes about her presentation. And I spent a long time on the letter. At the end of it I said I was probably too small of a fish for her. She wrote me back immediately. She said I was too small of a fish for her. But her assistant had begun to take on a few of her own clients and she would pass my work on to her. Her assistant took me on because she fell in love with a secondary character in a novel I had written. (A novel which never got published by the way.) That was 21 years ago. I still have that same agent. She is the world’s best – and a VP at the agency, now.
My advice to new writers: go to SCBWI conferences. Get your manuscripts critiqued there. Try out crit groups – they aren’t for everybody, but the right critique group at the right time in your career can be extremely helpful. Read the best writers. Pay attention to who edits the books you love. Take a public speaking class or go to toastmasters. Be an active part of the book community even before you get published.
About the book:
One-Third Nerd is a funny, fast-paced, and heartfelt story from the Newbery Honor-winning author of the Al Capone series.
Fifth grade is not for amateurs, according to Liam. Luckily, he knows that being more than one-third nerd is not cool. Liam lives in the Bay area near San Francisco with his mom and two younger sisters. Dakota is fascinated by science and has a big personality but struggles to make friends; Izzy, a child with Down syndrome, makes friends easily and notices things that go past everyone else. Dad lives across town, but he’s over a lot. And then there’s Cupcake, their lovable German shepherd, who guards their basement apartment.
Recently, Cupcake has a problem–she’s peeing in the house. The kids need to make enough money to take her to the vet before their landlord upstairs finds out. And Mom and Dad have said if Cupcake doesn’t stop, they will find her a new home. But the kids will never let Cupcake go. Can they save her?
Choldenko is best known for her Tales from Alcatraz series, which has sold more than 2 million copies. Book #1: Al Capone Does My Shirts was a Newbery Honor Book and the recipient of twenty other awards. Book #4: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve is due out in 2018. BookPage said of her most recent novel, Chasing Secrets: “Choldenko’s ability to research obscure yet intriguing topics is uncanny, and as she did with the popular Al Capone trilogy she turns a tough topic into a high interest read … a compelling work of historical fiction.” Gennifer lives with her loyal husband and naughty dog in the San Francisco Bay Area.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of ONE-THIRD NERD, US Only.
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