Authors on the Verge: Meet Erin Dionne, young adult novelist

This week we have the ever-amazing Erin Dionne, who has lived on two coasts and in four states. Her debut novel, MODELS DON’T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES (Dial, February 2009), was inspired by events that occurred in seventh grade, when she wore a scary peach bridesmaid dress in her cousin’s wedding and threw up on her gym teacher’s shoes (not at the same event).  Although humiliating at the time, these experiences are working for her now.

Erin lives outside of Boston with her husband and daughter, and a very insistent dog named Grafton. She roots for the Red Sox, teaches English at an art college, and sometimes eats chocolate cookies.

MODELS DON'T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES
MODELS DON'T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES

So tell us about your book, Erin.

 

Thirteen-year-old Celeste Harris is no string bean, but comfy sweatpants and a daily chocolate cookie suit her just fine. Her under-the-radar lifestyle could have continued too, if her aunt hadn’t entered her in the HuskyPeach Modeling Challenge. To get out of it, she’s forced to launch Operation Skinny Celeste-because, after all, a thin girl can’t be a fat model! What Celeste never imagined was that losing weight would help her gain a backbone . . . or that all she needed to shine was a spotlight.

A hilarious debut featuring friendship, family, mean girls and even celebrity crushes, Celeste’s story is a delicious treat that doesn’t add a pound.

(Snoop says, so is it made of romaine or radicchio?)

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

When my agent called, I started giggling uncontrollably-so much for professionalism! It was so unreal, I barely followed what she was saying. After we hung up, I called my husband-and promptly lost my voice. He could barely hear me whispering my news. I wrote about the whole experience on my blog. For more details, check out the entry: http://bostonerin.livejournal.com/55751.html

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

It’s exciting, terrifying, thrilling…and wonderful. Watching all of my hard work materialize into an actual book for readers to enjoy has been amazing!

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, but really concentrated on it after college. I received my MFA from Emerson College, which is where I decided to focus in writing for children. During grad school and for five years after I graduated, I worked on one middle grade novel-one that will never see the light of day! I also published short stories and wrote for newspapers; anything to develop my craft. MODELS grew out of a short story. It was ten years from when I began my MFA program to when I sold my first book.

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. 

My best rejection is my most heartbreaking: MODELS went all the way to acquisitions at a major publishing house (before I had my agent) and it fell through because of a Sales & Marketing issue. The editor, who had been a big fan of the manuscript and worked with me on revisions, called and told me personally. We both mourned it. I saw her at a conference a year later and she was still bummed that her house hadn’t bought it! That’s when I knew that the book needed an agent/advocate.

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 …

Working a full-time job in the writing industry.

I am a college English teacher.

Now that you’ve sold a book, you plan to …

Not change a thing.

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

Marketing the book so that it finds an audience, making my second book a strong follow-up to the first, balancing the demands of my full time job, writing, and being a new mom…Okay, enough. I’m stressing myself out!

(Snoop says, you have a new baby bun?!  Congrats!)

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Write, write, write. And read, read, read. Learn about the industry. And don’t be reluctant to accept constructive criticism. It’s the only way your writing will improve.

What is one of the biggest myths in children’s book publishing that you wish aspiring writers would just forget about?

That you have to “know someone” in the industry to get published. I knew no one. I just worked as hard as I could on being the best writer I could be. And I persevered.

Finally, Snoop wants to know: do you work with a critique group?

YES! I love my group. They’ve been instrumental in pushing me to be a better writer. They help me to identify the problems in my manuscripts, encourage me to think creatively in their solutions, and never, ever let me cut corners on my work. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

This concludes our interview with our latest author, Erin Dionne. We wish her much success with her debut novel MODELS DON’T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES coming out February 5, 2009.

To see what Erin is up to these days, visit her website at http://www.erindionne.com or her blog at http://bostonerin.livejournal.com.

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