Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pub Story: Holly Cupala

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's an awesome thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

About Holly: Holly Cupala wrote teen romance novels before she ever actually experienced teen romance. When she did, it became all about tragic poetry and slightly less tragic novels. When she isn't writing and contributing to readergirlz, she spends time with her husband and daughter in Seattle, Washington. These days, her writing is less about tragedy and more about hope. TELL ME A SECRET is her first novel. Ten percent of the author's proceeds go toward World Vision's Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls.

The Pub Story:

I pretty much did everything you’re supposed to do when you want to be published—joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), took classes, formed writing groups, went to conferences and timidly offered up my pages for critique…

That is, until life dealt my writing path a fatal blow.

Up until that point, I’d been writing picture book manuscripts (horrid ones), craft articles, short stories, and had started a half-decent middle grade novel. I had a story in a Chicken Soup book and more stories on the way. And yet, I couldn’t write another word.

One devastating loss changed everything. Suddenly my writing seemed meaningless. I never
picked that novel back up, and I might not have ever written again if it hadn’t been for several key events.

A few months after, I attended an SCBWI conference, surrounded by encouraging friends.
We went to hear Libba Bray speak on shutting off your brain and getting to the heart of your writing…and suddenly there it was. The entire story raced through my mind like a movie trailer.

I knew I had to write it.

But I had no idea how. Delving into Miranda’s story of secrets and sister loss meant exposing sadness and difficult relationships, to break through to hope and even healing. I tackled it…one sentence at a time.

When I won an SCBWI Work-In-Progress Grant from Judy Blume, it was a signpost—I wasn’t totally wasting my time and babysitting money! (By then we had a second daughter, happy and healthy.) Not only that, it was an open doorway…but one with an expiration date. So I doubled my efforts to finish the novel in time for a NY conference.

I didn’t quite make it, but I did make a lot of excellent contacts, and people were buzzing about the book. So I finished as fast as I could! I’d met a few agents up to that point and had come to the conclusion I should find one, so I started my search in earnest—the grant opened a lot of doors (or at least emails!), and at one point I had five or six agents looking at the full.

That’s when I met my agent, Edward Necarsulmer, Children’s Director at McIntosh and Otis, at another SCBWI event. I read my first 500 words, and he said, “W-w-w-wow.” (Which totally wowed me!) A few weeks later, both he and another agent made offers. But Edward and I had completely hit it off—plus he was really passionate about the story (which didn’t stop him from telling me it needed revision).

We spent three months getting it ready to go, and immediately he sold it in a pre-empt to our top choice!

It’s really surreal, for people to be reading a story so close to my heart, but the response has been kind of amazing. Over and over, readers tell me how emotionally invested they are in Miranda’s story (that, and they stay up into the wee hours reading it!). I’m pretty grateful, actually—that something so hard could become so hopeful. I’m thankful for all of you.

And thank you, Steph, for inviting me to Reviewer X!
Are you kidding me? Thanks to Holly for this great guest blog!


Steph Su said...

Haha, I like how I had the same reaction as Holly's agent when I read the first 500 words: "Wowww."

holly cupala said...

Thank you again, Steph, and thanks to Steph Su for stopping by! I'm still so pleased you enjoyed the book, and this makes me smile all over again!

Anonymous said...

I love reading these. Gah, I must read this book very soon.

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