I am over-the-moon thrilled to shine the spotlight on talented friend and debut author, Elly Swartz! I first read a draft of FINDING PERFECT before she sold the middle grade novel to FSG, and I fell head-over-heels in love with Molly. Stay tuned for a chance to win a signed copy below!
Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz (FSG/2016)
Twelve-year-old Molly misses her mom when she moves out of the country to Canada for a job. Molly knows if she can win a poetry slam contest at school, her mom would come home and reunite with Dad and family. But, as the days go by with her older sister distant, her younger brother needy, and her father busy with work, Molly starts to notice certain habits are taking over – washing her hands over and over, lining up her glass animals perfectly with a ruler, making sure her homework is mistake- and smudge-free, and counting counting counting, until it’s all she can do to hide it from her best friends and family. In this touching story about trying to “find perfect,” Molly learns to let go of fear and finally get the help she needs.
Spotlight on Elly:
How did the idea for this story come to you, and what was your journey like from idea to sale?
One day, I woke with Molly in my head, and she wouldn’t leave until I told her story. At the time, I knew a number of adults and kids whom I was very close with who had OCD. I was awed by the disconnect between how they saw themselves and the world saw them. I then spent the next 7 years researching OCD, writing Molly’s story, and working with OCD pediatric specialists to authenticate the manifestation, discovery and treatment of Molly’s symptoms.
The journey was long, windy, and wonderful. Finding Perfect was originally written in alternating 1st person POVs between Molly and Hannah. It was a way for me to understand the vast discrepancy between how Molly saw herself and how Hannah saw her. Ultimately, I got to know Molly better, and rewrote the story from just her perspective. In doing so, I learned more about the dynamic between Molly, Kate and Ian, and Molly and her mom.
In the time between idea and sale, both the story and my love for Molly grew. She has stayed with me long after wrapping up my final draft. Truly, I think a piece of Molly will stay with me always.
Molly is struggling with a heavy burden, dealing with missing her mom, her parents’ separation, and feeling neglected/abandoned. What was it like researching for this book and getting to know Molly? What were the particular challenges and joys to writing this book?
Getting to know Molly was both inspiring and challenging. She was hiding in a dark place, and that is always hard to write. As the author, I had to get into her head, really embody her, and what she was experiencing to fully understand her feelings and write her story from a place of true authenticity. But, that’s what ultimately led to the greatest joy and inspiration. Molly’s acceptance of herself and recognition of her own strength.
The two most difficult scenes to write were Molly’s unraveling on stage during the slam poetry finals and her reunion with her mom. As a loving and affectionate mom of two sons, I wanted to protect Molly from hurt, sorrow, and fear. I wanted to wrap her in my arms and tell her it was all going to be okay. But, as the author, I knew that moment had to come later and it had to come from within Molly. She had to realize that she was going to be okay. That she was not OCD. That she was not one thing.
In the end, I was inspired by Molly’s courage, strength, and acceptance of imperfection.
Molly has a glass animal collection she cherishes. Do you collect anything? If so, what?
Unless you count all the books in my TBR piles, I don’t collect anything as an adult. As a child, I had two collections. A postcard collection – I think I just didn’t want to collect stamps or Wacky Packs like my older brothers. And, like Molly, I had a glass animal figurine collection. It started when my Great Aunt Ty took me to a museum and bought me a present on the way home. However, unlike Molly, I was way too sloppy to keep them neatly aligned anywhere!
Huge thanks for taking the time to get to know my journey, me, and Molly a bit better!
Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is a story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition determines everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Through the years, Elly’s been a Sesame Place ride operator, messenger, lawyer, legal author, and college essay adviser. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.
To win a signed copy of Finding Perfect for yourself, a young reader, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:
1. Comment on this post by Monday October 31st, by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Thursday, November 3rd (be sure to include your email address).
2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.
Good luck and happy reading!