Craft, Career & Cheer: Kimberley Griffiths Little

Learn about Kimberley Griffiths Little.

In the photo, she signs a three-book contract for The Healing Spell (Scholastic, July 2010), Secret Rites of the Goddess (Scholastic, fall 2010), and The Traiteur’s Daughter (Scholastic, summer 2011)!

Visit Kimberley’s Wanderings: Thoughts, Musings, and the Writing Life of YA Author Kimberley Griffiths Little.

What is the one craft book that you refer to again and again? Why?

I’ve got shelves full of writing books, probably 50 of them, but one book that I read over and over again is The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success by Donald Maass [now available as a free download].

Maass is an author of a dozen books as well as a top agent in New York. He knows the business inside and out. The Career Novelist is not a book geared particularly for children’s/YA writers, but it’s chock-full of writing and publishing experience and advice that fits any kind of writer, no matter what genre of novelist you aspire to be.

Because we’re seeing in this new 21st century a change in the way that children’s books are being bought, published, and marketed – much more like the way adult novels have traditionally been published, Maass’ books become even more relevant, not less, for us children’s literature lovers.

The Career Novelist is a book I read for fun. Once you dive in, you can’t stop. Maass backs up his advice with personal experience and anecdotes that are fascinating as well as delicious.

The first chapter is called “The Dream” – how can you resist that? Every writer starts out dreaming of publishing a book and wonders/hopes she can and will have success. Maass gives you the realities of the hard work and the disappointments and the opportunities, how to choose an agent, what “the market” means, how to write in different genres and the reality of the numbers game – AKA $$$.

But the magic of this book is that Donald Maass gives you the information and tools you need to carve out your own career and make it work. It’s like a shot of optimism, and he makes you believe that you really can become a novelist if you want to. Every time I read this book, I get excited all over again about the career I’ve chosen—or the career that’s chosen me.

I’m currently reading his newest book, The Fire In Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great (Writer’s Digest, 2009). The introduction alone is worth the price of the book. He asks the provocative question: Are you a status seeker or a storyteller?

So far, what’s the most fun you’ve ever had working on a book? Why?

“On Location in Egypt: How I Met The Queen of Sheba During Spring Break” all began one morning with two writer friends, Carolee Dean and Jana Striegel, around a meet-up for breakfast. All three of us had had books published, but were struggling, trying to sell our next projects (of which we had many in various stages) and getting more and more discouraged.

At the time, chick lit and romance were selling like hot cakes, and unfortunately, none of us had one written. Yet.

We started comparing notes on the books coming out from New York, our own extremely varied research (desert tribal people, a 16th century queen of France, and the chocolate-eating habits of the ancient Mayan people).

Giggling over eggs Benedict and jumbo muffins, we started throwing out wild and crazy ideas about a story told from three different 13 year-old girls’ point of view, and soon Kimmie, Jenna, and Lena emerged from the ashes of our own projects.

Kimmie’s father was an Egyptian movie director, Jenna was a dancer hired for his latest B film being shot “on location” in the Middle East, and Lena was visiting her mother, the makeup artist, for spring break–throwing all three girls together for the first time. It’s hate at first sight.

Then the girls discover that they each own a mysterious medallion given to them from a fortune teller in Venice Beach, and when the medallions come together–watch out! The girls soon find themselves a thousand years in the past, trying not to get killed by tribal raiders and with Kimmie being married off to the sheik’s son.

We smartly planned three books in our series, each book featuring one of us–I mean our characters!–in the lead role and jetting around the world to various movie locations.

Many more hilarious breakfasts were scheduled over the next few months, complete with laptops and notes and ideas flying.

We wrote a proposal of 60 pages, many version of a hilarious synopsis, but then we all were in the process of changing agents and the project got shelved for a long time.

“On Location in Egypt” was further shelved when Jana Striegel’s breast cancer came back after twelve years, reappearing in her brain.

After fighting it for another two years, the cancer took Jana’s life, but through her medical procedures and declining health, we continued to meet and write and encourage one another.

Jana was a professional ballet dancer before she donned the writer hat, and you can read her novel, Homeroom Exercise (Holiday House, 2002), about a ballet dancer with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Writing “On Location in Egypt” changed my life in many ways. Carolee, Jana, and I were able to help each other through some enormously discouraging times, not only in our careers but in our personal lives. Writing together also brought back the fun and pure enjoyment of story and creation into our lives and work, something all three of us had been greatly missing.

How do you reach out to teachers and librarians?

With two other authors, I launched a brand new newsletter this past September. It’s directly geared toward teachers, librarians, homeschoolers, and parents, and called “Spellbinders: A Newsletter for Teachers and Librarians to Help Create Lifelong Readers.”

The newsletter features interviews with well-known authors as well as librarians and teachers, along with regular columns about curriculum connections, literacy in the community, and book buzz.

I also do author visits at schools and libraries and conferences. Please visit my Author Visit page on my website for details! I have a fantastic hands-on writing workshop that has proven very successful and loads of fun for grades 3-8. Don’t hesitate to email me!

In your own words, could you tell us about your latest book?

My upcoming middle-grade novel–The Healing Spell (Scholastic Press)–is about eleven-year-old Livie Mouton who is hiding the biggest secret of her life when Mamma comes home from the hospital in a coma. Her daddy is determined that Mamma will only get better surrounded by the people who love her best, but Livie is terrified of her mother’s lifeless condition—and some sins are so dangerous they’re better left hidden.

Summoning her courage, Livie travels into the forbidden recesses of the swamp to seek out the mysterious traiteur, hoping that if she buys a healing spell, she can bring her mother back to life. Then Livie discovers that her mamma is hiding a secret of her own…

What can your fans look forward to next?

I’m currently writing The Traiteur’s Daughter (Scholastic), which is also set in the Louisiana bayous, about a girl who gets involved in a dangerous clash between the traiteur folk healers and hoodoo magic through a secret circle of girls at school.

And Secret Rites of the Goddess (Scholastic) is a sexy YA romance about the roots of belly dance and the ancient goddess temples of the Middle East. It’s the YA version of The Red Tent [by Anita Diamant (Scribner, 1998)]!

Cynsational Notes

The Craft, Career & Cheer series features conversations with children’s-YA book creators about positive aspects of their creative and professional lives.