RAWing with Terry Trueman answering the five questions of doom
Tell me how you got started writing, in particular writing for teens. What is it that draws you to tell the story of teens, in particular those living lives filled with great stress.
I’m not sure I ever really have written for teens as much as allowed and cooperated with being edited for teen readers. I’ve always tried to write what moves me and is important to me and I’ve trusted terrific editors to help me mold the things I’m writing into a form that might give them the best chance to find readers. There were a lot of people who gave me great encouragement when I was fairly young, my first creative writing teach way back in h.s Dr. Kay Keyes, was the very first
Several of your books appeared on my Two Hearts list of high quality titles which are also accessible to the non-reader. Is that intentional? What is it about titles like Stuck In Neutral or Inside Out that hit this sweet spot
Again, I have to give my editors at HarperCollins, for those two books particularly Antonia Markiet, a lot of credit for helping me see a shape and path forward for those stories to make them more powerful and affecting. I’ve never really even thought of myself as so much a ‘storyteller’ (someone like Laurie Anderson or Chris Crutcher) as I am a poet. The meaning (aka theme) of my books is always way more important to me than the plots. And as for the non-reader part of your question; I was a non-reader until I was about 17 years old. Everyone’s a non-reader until they are first grabbed by something that won’t let go of them.
I know from my trip there that you are “the king” (or court jester depending) of the big Rochester Book Festival. Tell people who have never attended that event about what it is like and maybe convince them that they should be doing teen book festivals.
I’m not sure Stephanie Squicciarini, the true godmother and founder of the festival would be willing to share her throne with me, so let’s settle on court jester—I already was identified as a ‘co-founder’ in the Wikipedia entry about/for me LOL. The Teen Book Festival (TBF) in Rochester was actually largely inspired by a similar festival in The Woodlands, just outside Houston TX. Stephanie and I were both there and had dinner and got the ‘dweaming’ about her doing something similar in her upstate NY habitat, and so…she did! It’s a great event; our first year we had about 400, it’s grown larger and larger every year with a great group of librarians and teachers etc. and thousands of kids. It’s a first class operation and it’s beginning to be copied. In Washington State, both in eastern WA in the Tri-cities and western in Tacoma just south of Seattle, they have started festivals; I was at both and they have strong structures and committed folks: organizers, authors and attendees. A final note, TBF’s are wonderful events for kids who are readers more than anything else—kids who love books etc. Terrific events!
I see that you’ve dived deep into the Ebook only end of the pool, including a sequel to Inside Out and even books of poems. Tell me a little bit about why you decided to take your work directly to the people bypassing the NYC gatekeepers.
LOL, “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me!” In a recent blog just posted on Will Weaver’s and Don Gallo’s fabulous site Litweaver.com , a subscription service for schools, libraries and readers, I discuss in gory details the difficulty these days of trying to find a publisher and the struggle to place anything that doesn’t fit the mold of the last/most recent ‘big thing.’ Bean-counters and marketing ‘experts’ have more power and say than ever before. But not to sound too bitter or crazy, I recognize that all things change and it’s foolish to whine about the changes. It’s just the way the business has adapted to e-books etc. The new world!
What are you working out now?
Actually the answer to this fits in nicely with the answer to the pervious question. I’m not able to write about Wizards/Vampires & Virgins/dystopian futures/Zombies etcetcetc. I AM able now to go back to my first love, poetry and specifically poems written for a more adult audience, no-holds-barred stuff that is probably a bit over the top for teens and y.a.’s or at least that their parents and schools might think is over the top. So I’m writing poems again, great stuff, I think/hope that everyone who reads them (all 62.4 readers) tell me are great; and of course I believe them. My backlog of y.a. teen type materials I’ll keep submitting to Litweaver and am open to hearing offers from others, but that stuff isn’t my primary interest any longer.
Let me just add this though, if it hadn’t been for librarians and reading teachers and kid readers, and if it hadn’t been for the amazing good luck of winning a Printz Honor Award with STUCK IN NEUTRAL, none of these other things, including you taking any interest in me or ever even hearing of me could have happened. So I’ll always feel indebted to YALSA and ALA and all the great people in those groups, no matter how many times I’m passed over for the Edwards award… just kidding…kind of…