Friday, January 17, 2020

Interview with Elly Swartz, author of Give and Take

Can you tell us a little about your books?

            I am so grateful to have 3 middle grade novels out in the world. My most recent book is GIVE AND TAKE (Farrar Straus & Giroux) and it flew into the world on Oct. 15, 2019. In GIVE AND TAKE, you meet twelve-year-old Maggie who knows her new baby sister who smells like powder isn’t her sister for keeps. Izzie’s a foster baby awaiting adoption. So in a day or a week, she’ll go to her forever family and all that sweetness will be gone. Except for those things Maggie’s secretly saving in the cardboard boxes in her closet and under her bed. Baby socks, binkies, and a button from Bud the Bear. Rocks, sticks, and candy wrappers. Maggie holds on tight. To her things. Her pet turtle. Her memories of Nana. And her friends. But when Maggie has to say goodbye to Izzie, and her friend gets bumped from their all-girl trapshooting squad to make room for a boy, Maggie’s hoarding grows far beyond her control, and she learns that sometimes love means letting go.
In SMART COOKIE (Scholastic), Frankie’s equal parts spunk and heart. But since her mom died many years ago, she feels like a piece of her is missing. So, Frankie secretly puts a dating profile online to find her dad a wife. No spoilers, but what she finds instead, is her herd. Her community. We all have one. And this herd is often so much bigger and wider than those with whom we share a name or childhood.

And in FINDING PERFECT (Farrar Straus & Giroux), my debut novel, you meet Molly Nathans. To Molly, perfect is:
•     The number four
•     The tip of a newly sharpened number two pencil
•     A crisp, white pad of paper
•     Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines
What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving for a faraway job. Molly hatches a plan to bring her mom home: Win the middle school slam poetry contest. But there’s a problem. Molly’s poetry is becoming hard to create. Actually, everything’s becoming harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and world from spinning out of control. Ultimately, Molly learns there’s no such thing as perfect.
Are you working on anything new?
Yes! I just finished writing a new middle grade novel which I am super excited about. In this book you’ll meet Autumn and her pet guinea pig named Cheetos. This story is about friends and choice. About finding yourself and your voice. And about choosing to do the right thing even when the right thing comes at a cost. It’s a story filled with animals and lots of heart. 
What’s your writing process like?
My writing process differs with each stage of writing. If I’m working on a first draft, I begin with a loose outline that has lots of holes. In my latest novel, I knew the beginning and the end, but not the middle. So I filled in the parts of the outline that I knew and where the middle would have been, I wrote, “Something Great Happens Here!” I’m a big believer in the idea that writing does not have to be linear. Color outside the lines! Explore! Discover! 
Once my first draft is complete – and by complete I don’t mean done, I just mean I have a beginning, middle and end. I dig into revision. This is my favorite part. This is where the heart of my story lives. And when I’m revising, I like to write in big gulps. I sit for six to eight hours at a time, wrapping myself in the story and the characters. At some point during this process, I begin to dream and think like my character. That’s when I know I’m close enough to this character to share her story from that place of true connection, emotion, and authenticity.
Then I revise and revise and revise until I feel I’ve captured the heart and essence of my character and her journey. 
What piece of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
My advice to aspiring authors would be to read everything. And write what matters most to you. If you write from that place of true authenticity, the place that tugs on your heart, you’ll find the voice and words and story that will connect with readers.
            I would also recommend jumping onto social media, and Twitter, in particular. Meet the educators and librarians who are talking books. They are the most gracious, kind, dedicated group of people. Their love of their students and their love of reading is palpable and wonderfully contagious. Introduce yourself, engage. Connect with other authors. Create community. 
Then follow your heart and embrace the journey! 
What are you currently reading?
            I always have a few books going at once. Right now, I’m loving, The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel, Anxious Charlie to the Rescue by Terry Milne, and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens., curriculum guides, school visit information, and more!)
My YouTube Channel
Give and Take Playlist on Spotify

poetry competition that will determine everything. In her second book, SMART COOKIE (Scholastic, 2018), you meet the spunky and big-hearted Frankie. Frankie’s all about family with a dash of mischief and mystery! Then in October, 2019, say hello to Maggie in GIVE AND TAKE (FSG). With the help of a foster baby named Izzie and Bert the turtle, Maggie learns that sometimes love means letting go. Elly lives in Massachusetts with her family and beagle. You can find her at,on Twitter @ellyswartz, on Instagram @ellyswartzbooks or on her webseries #BooksintheKitchen with author Victoria J. Coe.

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