I'm buzzing to welcome today's book birthday beauty and her brand new baby to the blog. This is a book I have been sooooo looking forward to reading and you'll bet I'm heading off right now to get my copy!
Sarah Allen is the author of WHAT STARS ARE MADE OF. She has been published in The Evansville Review, Allegory, and on Writers Digest, and has an MFA from Brigham Young University. She’s a major lover of Pixar, leather jackets, and Colin Firth.
Who are you and what do you write?
Hi! I’m Sarah Allen, author of WHAT STARS ARE MADE OF. I was born in Utah and now live in Seattle. Like my main character Libby, I was born with Turner syndrome and never found a book where that was represented. I’m so excited to share Libby’s story with girls like me, and other kids who’ve felt themselves on the fringes of normal!
Here’s the fancy, official description of WHAT STARS ARE MADE OF:
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Twelve-year-old Libby Monroe is great at science, being optimistic, and talking to her famous, accomplished friends (okay, maybe that last one is only in her head). She’s not great at playing piano, sitting still, or figuring out how to say the right thing at the right time in real life. Libby was born with Turner Syndrome, and that makes some things hard. But she has lots of people who love her, and that makes her pretty lucky.
When her big sister Nonny tells her she’s pregnant, Libby is thrilled—but worried. Nonny and her husband are in a financial black hole, and Libby knows that babies aren’t always born healthy. So she strikes a deal with the universe: She’ll enter a contest with a project about Cecelia Payne, the first person to discover what stars are made of. If she wins the grand prize and gives all that money to Nonny’s family, then the baby will be perfect. Does she have what it takes to care for the sister that has always cared for her? And what will it take for the universe to notice?
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Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
There’s a scene in STARS where Libby tells her sister about getting teased for wearing hearing aids. That moment is drawn from my own middle school life, which is really just to say that I often felt closer to characters in books than kids in real life. I wasn’t shy, but somehow felt I just couldn’t quite fit myself into normal social dynamics. And so I did a lot of reading, and then storytelling, until I realized that telling stories, especially for and about kids who felt a little different, was all I really wanted to do with my life.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
Long and wonderful! STARS is my fourth book. I’ve written poetry and short stories and essays since middle school, but I got serious about writing novels in 2011 and began querying in 2012. Several novels and hundreds of rejections later, I applied to the MFA program at Brigham Young University, and found the help and support I felt I needed to tell the story I really wanted to tell. I began STARS in that program, and began querying several months after graduating. A little over a year later, I had that fateful phone call with my absolute dream agent, and then a few more months and some revisions later, we went on submission and found the perfect home at FSG!
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
I am a ridiculously impatient person, so the waiting has probably been the hardest! And there’s a lot of waiting that goes on in every stage of publishing, because that’s just the nature of the biz! Honestly I can take rejection and big, heavy edit letters more easily than the waiting sometimes, because at least with those I can roll up my sleeves and get my hands in! But really there’s so much to do, and I love every bit of it! The most enjoyable aspect I think is the friends. Friends at conferences, online, writing groups, etc. Writers are just so smart and so interesting. Book people are, simply put, the best people.
Would you go back and change anything?
Only my impatience and anxiety! Despite the nearly decade-long journey, I can honestly look back and say that everything has worked out exactly as it was meant to. I am so much more prepared now, and STARS is absolutely supposed to be my first book. I would only go back to my younger self and tell her to calm down, to just keep working and it will all work out. Publishing is about readers and the work; it’s not a race and there’s no rush!
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
My biggest hope is to keep publishing books! Lots of middle grade, of course, and I’d also love to publish young adult and chapter books and picture books too. Even poetry and non-fiction! I plan to keep publishing books for as long as they’ll let me!
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
My best piece of advice to new writers is to build up your grit and your friendships. The rest will follow in its time. But I honestly believe grit is the determining factor in this business. You’ll need grit to finish projects, to submit those projects and then move on to the next. You’ll need grit in the face of long waits and inevitable rejection. This is what makes the difference between writers who learn and work and grow until they make it, and writers who give up.
The other invaluable thing you can do is make good friends who get the writing journey, and are on it with you. However works best for you (conferences, writing groups, social media, etc) make friends with the other people who are at your stage in the publishing process. You can buoy each other and support each other. Learn from writers further along than yourselves, and if possible, find yourselves mentors. They can make all the difference.
Ketchup or Mayo? Ketchup, definitely!
Night or Day? Working in the day, movies at night!
Inside or Outside? Inside, unless I’m at Disneyland…
Dogs or Cats? I’m a shmoosher of all fur babies (and scaly babies!), but…dogs.
Twitter or Facebook? Instagram
Ebook or Paperback? Paperback for sure!
Sun or Rain? Whichever I haven’t seen in a while!
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? Drafting on a keyboard, brainstorming in a notebook
Comedy or Drama? Comedy 😊
Chips or Chocolate? Chocolate!!
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!