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Interview with Author Beth Pollock

A warm welcome to Canadian children's author Beth Pollock!

Hi Beth! Thanks so much for allowing me this interview. You have two published middle-grade novels, THE NEXT STEP and HARLEY’S GIFT, can you tell us a little about them?

Harley’s Gift is the story of an eleven-year old girl who lives in a single-parent family. Her biggest Christmas wish is to reconcile her feuding mother and grandmother so they can share Christmas dinner together. Her wish is granted, although not in the way she had imagined. By the end of the book, Harley also develops the courage to respond with integrity to the homeless people she encounters.

In The Next Step, Clara is an eight-year old girl whose mother has just died. Her new life includes buying clothes with her father, eating her nanny Tessa’s cooking, and taking more responsibility for her little brother Calvin. Hardest of all, she doesn’t know how to tell her dad she doesn’t like ballet class. With the help of her good friends and a caring teacher, Clara learns how to grow up without leaving the memory of her mother behind.

Both books were published by James Lorimer & Company – Harley’s Gift in 2007 and The Next Step in 2009.

Both stories sound wonderful. I love the themes behind them. What did your journey from aspiring author to published author entail? What were the key milestones along the way?

My path has been anything but straight! As a child, I loved to read and write more than anything. But I couldn’t imagine myself making a career in it so I studied Economics at university. After a couple of years working, I went back to get my MBA.

I got a job at a bank, moved to Toronto, and shortly afterward got married. I worked at Scotiabank for ten years, cutting back to part-time when my oldest daughter was born. When my youngest daughter turned two, my husband and I decided that we could make it work if I stayed at home with them. I was too embarrassed to tell most people, but I decided I’d also like to try writing children’s books, having fallen in love with so many of them as I read them to my girls.

It's a good thing you dove in despite your initial embarrassment! How did you come to work with your literary agent? If you don’t have one, how did you come to work with your publisher?

I don’t have an agent. I’m one of those writers who was discovered in the slush pile!

Ooo, another slush discovery! I love that. Is there anything that you’ve learned or experienced during the publishing process that’s surprised you?

I’m constantly delighted at the kindness of other writers. They’ve been generous with their help and advice, and I always try to repay that kindness to other writers, beginners and experienced.

I’m also surprised at how much fun school presentations are. I love the energy of the kids and, for me, giving presentations is almost as much fun as writing.

Speaking of kids, you began your writing career as a stay-at-home mom. What has that been like?

It has been a complete joy. My daughters are now fifteen and twelve, and I treasure the many hours we’ve spent together. Even if my writing had never come to anything, I’d still consider I made the right decision by leaving the bank to be a stay-at-home mom.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Don’t give up! I have more rejection letters than you can imagine. Keep sending your work out, but never stop improving it.

And do whatever you can to get input from other writers. I’ve taken several writing courses that have really helped me improve my craft. I’ve been a part of two writers’ groups – one that I heard about through a course, and one that I formed with two friends. Getting and giving feedback as part of these groups has made improved my writing immeasurably.

Love the advice not to give up. Sometimes it's so tempting! But stories like yours can really rejuvenate a weary writer.

On your website, you have a picture of you and your children the day you found out your first book would be published. The caption says, “We look remarkably good, considering we were twelve hours off a trip that involved three continents, four countries and five airports — most of them unintentional.” I definitely have to ask! What’s the story there?

I’ll try to condense this story, but if I ever meet you or any of your readers, I’ll tell you the long version! We were returning from a family holiday to Morocco. Ironically, the Moroccan part of the trip was smooth and problem-free. But when we arrived in London, the line for security was unbelievable. By the time we made it to the desk, the agent told us we wouldn’t make our connecting flight to Toronto. There was also a terrible winter storm over much of northeastern U.S. and Canada, and airports were shutting down. She couldn’t get us to Toronto, but could fly us into Boston, with a flight from Boston to Toronto the following day.

We took it, and ran to make the flight. The plane was about an hour outside of Boston when they announced that Logan airport had been shut down, and they were rerouting us to Montreal. Good news for us – right? Montreal is much closer to Toronto, and maybe we could get a connecting flight that night! However, when we arrived, the flight attendant said that no one could get off the plane unless everyone did. After an hour and a half sitting on the tarmac, another announcement was made that Logan airport had reopened and we were flying back!

When we arrived in Boston, it was past midnight – sometime the next morning in Moroccan time. A worker in security told us every hotel in the city was sold out because so many flights had been cancelled. Undaunted, we decided to double-check at the Hilton, which is directly connected to the airport. Indeed they were sold out, but after hearing our sorry tale, they were able to find half a suite that wasn’t being used. It had no bed, but we were happy for the pull-out sofa and the extra cot they wheeled in.

Wow, this story is way too long! If you ever interview me again, I’ll tell you how we got from Boston to Toronto. However, it was a thrill to get back from all those adventures and read the e-mail saying that Lorimer wanted to publish my first book that fall.

That's quite the story! And I must say, I love the happy ending. You must be working on something new. Can you divulge anything about your current work(s)-in-progress? I beleive you have another book coming out this year as well, when can we expect it to hit shelves?

I love having lots of projects underway! I have four unfinished manuscripts in various stages, although I only work on one at a time. The one I’m busy with at the moment is a third book for Lorimer. It’s lighter in tone and more humorous than my first two books, and will be published in Fall 2010.

In addition, I have a completed middle-grade manuscript that I’ve been sending out to a few publishers and agents to a (so far) complete lack of interest. To my earlier point, it’s time to consider what I should do to improve it. I also have a young adult novel that I’m dying to get back to. The main character, the voice and the plot are completely different from what I’ve had published, and I really miss working on it. My final manuscript is the dark horse – it’s a fantasy, and I’m not sure it’ll ever see the light of day.

It sounds like you have a lot of great projects in the works. I'm sure we'll be seeing them in the future! Where can readers stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest on you and your books?

My website is at www.bethpollockbooks.com. . Please check it out – and I’d love to hear your comments!

Finally, what’s one interview question you haven’t been asked and wish you would be? And please, answer it!

Q: I love the picture of you in grade three on your website. Do you still have the same sense of style?

A: Unfortunately, yes.

Ha! What a great way to finish things off. Thank you for allowing me the pleasure of interviewing you, Beth. Here's to a successful writing career!


Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great interview. Beth, do you have any advice on how to market a middle grade book through social networking other than a website? I'd love to hear what worked for you.

Beth said...

Thanks for the interview, Casey. My first ever, in the blogosphere or anywhere else!
And great question, Natalie. I'm a neophyte at using social networking to market my books, but I can tell you what has worked and what I hope to do in the future. Getting a website was imperative, as it makes a writer look so much more professional when arranging school visits. Not inexpensive, but I think it's the price of doing business. Doing a virtual book tour on blogs like this is also a great way to gain exposure. Facebook is more easily updated than a website, and will let you update information on signings and appearances quickly. It also lets you spread the word to everyone easily, and lends itself to contests to increase excitement about your book. I haven't even mentioned twitter or listservs, other great ways to network. Good luck!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great advice.

Jemi Fraser said...

What a great interview! Lots of fun & good points :)

Heather Kelly said...

Casey and Beth--great interview. And Beth--your books sound intriguing. I'm going to check them out!

Beth said...

Thanks to all for your kind comments. And Heather, I hope you enjoy my books!

Casey Something said...

Thanks again for the interview, Beth! I didn't know it was your first. How fun! I'm honored.

Carla Sandrin said...

What a great interview, Beth! I enjoyed reading about your writing journey and about the new projects you're working on. I think you are on a path towards many more exciting literary ventures.

As a writer myself, I love your tips - especially about persevering and improving, which are the ultimate means to publishing success.