Coffee Break Tuesday with Jody Feldman

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Hello! Please grab your favorite mug and fill it with your favorite hot beverage and join me in welcoming author, Jody Feldman!

Jody is the author of two fun adventurous middle grade novels, The Gollywhopper Games and The Seventh Level (HarperColins). I’m thrilled to be able to sit down with her (even if only virtually) to chat about her writing career!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

It wasn’t until one day about ten years ago. I was this-close to getting my first acceptance letter, or so the rejections said. But during my walk that day, in a moment of clarity, I came to understand how much I wanted to do this. That’s when I amped up my game, became more open to the revision process and ultimately succeeded. I’m glad I stuck with it because, for me, writing for kids is the Best. Job. Ever.

What was the first book you wrote what was it about? (Not necessarily the first book you got published.)

The first book that got published was a work-for-hire, a gig that came from my freelance advertising days. Too bad I didn’t get royalties because A Golfer’s Night Before Christmas is still in print. Before that came a whole slew of picture books, but I’m not sure which one came first; maybe an easy reader called Grandma Waffles. After my picture book phase, I tried a chapter book which I would like to revisit one day. I believe Mrs. Oddbody Up the Street still has a lot of merit but I just didn’t know how to write back then. And then there was my first middle grade, originally titled Gilbert and the Gollywhopper Games.

What was your journey to publication like?

Ha! You and I have talked about this a lot, Debbi. It was long. Very long. From that first picture book submission to children’s book publication? 20 years and a huge learning curve. I’m still learning.

What is your most recently published book or upcoming book? What is it about?

The Gollywhopper Games wasn’t supposed to be a series, but sometimes funny things happen in this life. And so number two in the concept, Gollywhopper Games: Game On will be followed by Gollywhopper Games: (Subtitle To Be Determined). Game On centers around a contestant named Cameron who’s certain he doesn’t have what it takes to win. (His brother Spencer does.) And yet, Cameron’s the one competing. For those who still love the old contestants, never fear. They will make cameos.

How have you changed from when you first started out as a (pre-published) writer to now?

Of course I’m wiser about the industry. But I’d rather talk about what’s surprised me recently in my own writing process. I’ve suddenly noticed I’m much more aware of the ideas I’m accepting into first drafts. I hear my editors’ and agent’s voices as I type. Is there enough conflict? Are the stakes high enough? What does your character really want? Is that the best way to show it? Can you explain this scene a little better? You need to know that, but do we?

It may take away a bit of spontaneity, but it compensates by delivering so much more clarity so much more quickly.

Favorite book from childhood?

There was this one teen book (they didn’t call them YA yet) which was a favorite of mine when I was about thirteen. It was some angsty love story whose title I’ve yet to remember. I checked it out of the library five consecutive times that summer. As for books I can remember: Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown and anything by Agatha Christie. (Do you see a theme?) Picture books, Dr. Seuss. Oh, and when our third grade teacher read us the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, yes!

A favorite book you recently read?

I rarely pick up non-fiction, but when it won all sorts of 2013 ALA awards, I was drawn to BOMB: The Race to Build–And Steal–The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. It has it all: spies, geniuses, drama, intrigue, ticking clocks. You can’t make this stuff up.

A bit of wisdom to share:

I’ve been asked a lot about writer’s block lately. Honestly? I refuse to recognize there’s such a thing. Sure, I may get stuck. Sure, I may not know where the story should turn next. Sure, I can feel somewhat stale at times. None of those, however, need to stop me from writing. I can always, at least, write one new sentence. It may not be good sentence, it may not be a sentence of any value, but the one after that might be. The one after that might be perfect.

So what do I write in that sentence?  That’s when I ask my character–or a random, imaginary person–a question. Tell me about some object you saw on your way home from school. How do you feel about waffles? What are you holding? That sort of thing. This gets them talking and gets me typing. Usually that will put me back on track. If it doesn’t, I go take a walk which somehow, magically, produces new ideas for me.

For fun – something not a lot of people know about you:

I cook a lot, and I’m not afraid of cooking for crowds. This weekend, for example, though not a crowd, I’m cooking for ten. On the menu: triple cream cheese with mango chutney, Jarlsberg cheese spread, salmon rillettes, beef tenderloin with horseradish cream and cilantro chimmichurri, chicken and spinach canneloni, grilled vegetables, salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette, fruit, carrot cake, and fudge pie with real whipped cream.

MMMMmmm! Wish I were sitting at that table! Thanks for stopping by, Jody! I’m looking forward to reading the next Gollywhopper Games book!

Jody Feldman, the award-winning author of The Gollywhopper Games series and The Seventh Level (all, HarperCollins/Greenwillow) may have enjoyed working as a treasure hunter, a codebreaker, a movie director, an artist and an inventor. But one thing she loves about writing–she can explore all those occupations and adventures with the characters in her books.A lifelong resident of St. Louis, Jody likes to travel, cook, watch football, and solve crossword-type puzzles. Oh, and she watches way too much TV.

For more about Jody and her books, check out her web site, follow her on Twitter, or friend her on Facebook!

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11 responses »

  1. I liked your article Sweetie. I was particularly impressed with her comment: How have you changed from when you first started out as a (pre-published) writer to now?

    Of course I’m wiser about the industry. But I’d rather talk about what’s surprised me recently in my own writing process. I’ve suddenly noticed I’m much more aware of the ideas I’m accepting into first drafts. I hear my editors’ and agent’s voices as I type. Is there enough conflict? Are the stakes high enough? What does your character really want? Is that the best way to show it? Can you explain this scene a little better? You need to know that, but do we?

    Thanks for including me in your writing journey.

    I love you,

    Bob Sent from my iPhone

  2. Sounds more like Jody is letting that TV run in the background while stuffing canneloni! I love the title Gollywhopper games – how could it not be fun! Thanks for the great interview ladies.

  3. Really interesting chat. The writer’s block tips are helpful, even for us bloggers. And I envy Jody’s talent for cooking for crowds. I would find that terribly intimidating! Nice job, ladies 🙂

      • My largest is 75…though I did have a little help before hand and that night, too.

    • Thanks, Lucy. And the cooking thing is not so intimidating if you grew up with a mom, aunts, and grandmothers who all took it in stride. It’s more a mindset (oh, and practice for timing purposes helps, too) than anything else.

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