Authors on the Verge: Meet Jenny Moss, middle grade novelist

This week, we have the ingenious Jenny Moss. Jenny is a former NASA engineer who was secretly writing at night [prior to getting a contract]. As a child, she loved words. As a teen, she dreamed of hanging out in French cafes with other writers. But she also loved numbers, which led to a career in engineering. Now a full-time writer, she still hopes to hang out in those French cafes one day.

WINNIE'S WAR by Jenny Moss
WINNIE'S WAR by Jenny Moss

A little bit about Jenny’s book WINNIE’S WAR:

In WINNIE’S WAR, a twelve-year-old girl living in a sleepy Texas town during 1918 struggles with her fears of the war, death, graveyards, ghosts, and losing her family to the influenza pandemic sweeping the world.

Now let’s start the interview, Jenny. When you received your offer, what happened?

Walker Books for Young Readers will release my first book, WINNIE’S WAR, in February 2009. But my first offer was for SHADOW, a YA fantasy that will be published in 2010. I knew a couple of editors had taken SHADOW to acquisitions. My agent called with the news Scholastic had made an offer. I think my first word was, “Really?” Very profound.

So now that you have contracts, what’s it like to be on the other side-on the verge of publication? What does it feel like to be official?

Scary & happy.

(Snoop says, like a Jack-O-Lantern.)

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

In a way, I couldn’t stop writing. When I found my mothers’ unfinished novels after she died, I told myself I would at least write The End on one of my stories. That novel is now in a drawer. The response for SHADOW and WINNIE’S WAR was better, but I still got rejections.

And here’s our favorite question. How many rejections did you receive IN GENERAL (not just for this book) before you landed your first major publishing contract?

* 0-10
* 11-25
* 26-50
* 51-100
* 100+

Tell us about one of your most heart-breaking rejections and about one of your best.

It was not a rejection, but later I fought tears and felt foolish. At an SCBWI national conference, my critiquer was an amazing editor I admire. She was wonderful, pleasant, helpful . . . but didn’t ask to read the full manuscript. After the critique, I told a fellow writer that after many rejections on that story I thought I just didn’t have the talent.

The best was not really a rejection either. It wasn’t an acceptance – but the agent, Rachel Vater, sent me a long e-mail about SHADOW, suggesting a revision and telling me what she thought worked and what didn’t.

How long did it take to sell your books, from putting the first words on the page to receiving an offer?

  • 0-3 months
  • 3-6 months
  • 6 months to 1 year
  • 1 year – 2 years
  • 2 years – 3 years
  • 3 years+
  • The manuscript has been around longer than I have.

Prior to selling your books, you were …

During the years I was writing, I was also attending elementary school, junior high, high school, or college, or working in aerospace engineering, raising kids, or teaching.

Now that you’ve sold some books, you plan to …

I’d like to be a full-time writer, which I am now, but realistically, I’ll be going back to engineering or into some other field.

(Snoop says, does this mean you can hook me up with a space-suit?)

What are some of the new things you worry about now that you have a contract?

Many things, actually. But my main concern is not getting another contract.

If you’ve already begun or have finished the editorial process with your publisher, let you us know what that’s been like.

I like that we didn’t agree on everything initially. The book is better because of it.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

I don’t like to think of this as advice because most of the aspiring authors I know are working at their craft and are very knowledgeable and wise. But I can say what has helped me most with my writing and that is not to be afraid to write what’s emotionally difficult because that’s where I’ve discovered what I most need to say and has helped me get better at doing what I love to do.

This concludes our interview with our latest author, Jenny Moss. We wish her much success with her debut novel WINNIE’S WAR.

To see what Jenny is up to these days, visit her website at http://www.jenny-moss.com or her blog at http://jenny-moss.livejournal.com.

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