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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Brigit Young here to share about her MG contemporary mystery WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. I’m really into mysteries these days so am looking forward to reading this.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Whether it’s earrings, homework, or love notes, Tillie “Lost and Found” Green and her camera can find any lost thing—until a search for a missing person forces her to step out from behind the lens.

Ever since a car accident left Tillie Green with lasting painful injuries, she's hidden behind her camera. Through the lenses, she watches her family and classmates, tracking down misplaced items and spotting the small details that tell a much bigger story than the one people usually see. But she isn’t prepared for class clown Jake Hausmann’s request: to find his father. In a matter of days, Tillie goes from silent observer to one half of a detective duo, searching for clues to the mystery of Jake’s dad’s disappearance. When the truth isn’t what Jake wants it to be, and taking photographs starts exposing people’s secrets, Tillie has to decide what—and who—is truly important to her.

Hi Brigit! Thanks so much for joining us!

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Thank you for having me here! As a kid, I always wrote, but I never considered myself “good enough” for things like the fabulous local Ann Arbor Poetry Slam team or writing awards in school. To be honest, I didn’t even think I was smart. But I did have a writing teacher back then who believed in me: Tracy Andersen of Community High School. Her support gave me confidence, and even though I didn’t immediately focus on writing when high school ended, in retrospect, her encouragement gave me a place to always come back to: the word. Consequently, when I was an aspiring young actress in New York City without a college degree and I experienced a painful heartbreak, I dove into writing as a way to heal. It soon became a way to entertain myself, and a way to speak out, and a craft to master. Eventually, I was publishing poetry and short stories on a steady basis and, after a big push from fellow writer Jacob M. Appel, I went back to school to get my Bachelor’s! I’d always worked with children, first as a nanny and then as a creative writing instructor, and when I began to work on the longer form of the novel, writing for kids was a natural fit.

2. That's great that you had your teacher's support. Where did you get the idea for your story?

The initial inspiration for the book came from a conversation with my lifelong friend, Tillie Spencer, an eternally creative spirit. I told her I wanted to write a book for kids and she said, sort of offhandedly, “I’ve always thought it would be neat to read about a girl who finds lost things.” And although my friend pictured that scenario in a fantasy setting (involving a magical Laundromat!), her “girl who finds lost things” became my contemporary realistic middle grade fiction muse. This girl, vivid and fully imagined, began to swirl around in my head. She had a camera on a ratty strap around her neck. She hid behind long, ashy brown hair. She’d experienced trauma. She was looking for something, for a way through the trauma, and also searching for her true self. I named this girl after my friend Tillie, introduced her to a slightly goofy boy named Jake who I’d formed in my head as well, and the story grew from there.

3. This is in part a mystery. How did you plot this out and what tips do you have for an aspiring mystery writer?

Although I love mysteries (shout out to Tana French), when I began Worth a Thousand Words I had never written one before. I look at mystery writers with the utmost admiration for their specialized skill. Mysteries are not easy! Before I began to write, I plotted out the entire mystery by getting to the answer first and working backward. I added in seemingly insignificant details throughout the story, trying to find those little moments that stick in a reader’s head but don’t raise any alarm bells. That way, when the reveal comes, the whole story retells itself in the reader’s mind with those objects, images and pieces of information gaining significance. My advice is to discover the ending, those details, and also– crucially - to let the protagonist’s personal fears inform the tension. When writing a mystery in the middle grade realm, my advice is to try to see the adult world through a child’s eyes and allow that to drive the plot. Kids can wildly misinterpret the actions of adults, and those misunderstandings can play a large role in any middle grade mystery.

4. I love your really practical advice on this. It sounds like Tillie goes through a lot of personal growth too. Share a bit about how she developed as a character for you.

As I mentioned earlier, Tillie appeared to me fully formed, and I instinctively felt a lot of her “what”
and “how” but I didn’t know her “why.” Yes, she’d been injured in a car accident, but why exactly did she retreat from the world behind her camera? When I began to play around with her relationship with her father, who blames himself for his role in the accident, I discovered the real reason for that retreat. Ultimately, Tillie’s physical trauma affects her day-to-day routine, but her father’s debilitating guilt is the most difficult wound for her to navigate. Sometimes it’s not the traumatic event itself that lingers, but the disappointing or maddening responses of those around us to said event. That aspect of trauma featured strongly in my development of Tillie.

5. What was a challenge that you faced in writing this story and how did you overcome it?

One of my greatest challenges in writing Worth a Thousand Words was my depiction of Tillie’s physicality and her own relationship to it. My vision of Tillie’s complicated experience with her body, specifically her right leg, sprung from my own intense chronic pain and my own “unusual” right leg. Now I know that I have fibromyalgia, but at the time I was writing the book my pain was a mystery. This mystery pain resulted in huge lifestyle and life choice changes, and for a while I felt devastated by the alterations in my plans (despite knowing I had so much to be grateful for). As I wrote about Tillie, I tried to put those emotions into the mind state of a younger me, of my mind as a child. How would this pain have changed me then, particularly if it had been significantly heightened, as it is in the book? And what if it sprung from physical trauma? I had to have a conversation with myself about that and work from there (as well as interview multiple physical therapists and people who share Tillie’s particular walk).

Although I was in a fairly angsty place with regard to my own chronic pain as I wrote, it was extremely important to me that Tillie have no self-pity. I wanted Tillie to have her own complex feelings about all aspects of her life, including her physical challenges, but to never wallow. Her body is just her body and that’s that. It’s really her father that wallows in the self-pity, and I wanted that contrast between them to be a lesson in itself, so I struggled to finesse that contrast.

6. Your agent is Melissa Edwards. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

It took me many years to get an agent. I wrote another book before this and it was rejected everywhere, and probably rightly so. I didn’t quite understand the market at that time, and I hadn’t read enough middle grade fiction. Once I began to read more middle grade, particularly Rebecca Stead and Hilary McKay, my own writing blossomed.

I sent out Worth a Thousand Words in two rounds. In the first, no one bit. I did what I thought was a minor rewrite, and in my next round I received real interest. Apparently the rewrite had not been so minor after all! In that second round, I queried agents who were actively seeking work that very much fit my book’s description, and who expressed a similar sensibility to me, like the types of characters they loved. When I received interest from Melissa, I knew immediately that I’d work with her. She spoke about my book with deep affection, which made it clear that she’d work hard to get it out into the world, and she also happened to be a witty and kind human being. She’s since proven to be a dedicated agent who is an incredible advocate for my work.

7. That's great that your rewrite had such an effect on the response to your query. Your book has already been published in Italy and you’re now just debuting in the United States. How have you promoted your book in Italy and connected with readers there?

I didn’t do any pre-promotion in Italy, and it was exciting to see how the ball can just roll somewhere even when you haven’t done interviews or tweeted or done giveaways! Worth a Thousand Words even received an Andersen Prize, which was a delightful surprise. I learned from that experience that there is truly so much that is out of a writer’s control, and a book will have a life of its own in ways you don’t expect. When the book came out in Italy, I made sure to re-tweet and repost as many reviews as I could on both Twitter and Instagram. This allowed me to promote the book as well as to make a connection with reviewers/readers. Fun fact: my dad can read in Italian, so he read the reviews in the original language. He could then impart the reviewers’ thoughts about the book to me so that I could see beyond the confines of Google Translate. That was nice!

8. That is a fun fact about your dad. What are you doing to market your book here and what advice do you have for other debut authors about promoting their first book?

Postcards, postcards, postcards! I strongly adhere to the advice of Caroline Starr Rose. I sent postcards to libraries, bookstores, and schools. Even if not as much comes from the postcards as I hope, it’s given me a task that I can control in the face of so much that is beyond my control! Additionally, I have tried to become more active on social media in the past two years and connect with people in a genuine way (the genuine part is key!). I’ve tried to engage in Twitter chats and Instagram challenges as well. They’re fun!

If you’re totally lost about all of this, which I was only a few months ago, I recommend Paper Hearts: Some Marketing Advice by Beth Revis. That book helped me get a handle on the world of promotion. And lastly, my lovely agent reminded me a few months ago that I’m my own best advocate. I should re-tweet reviews and proudly self-promote. That’s easier said than done when you’re a Midwesterner used to apologizing for yourself, but I’ve taken it to heart!

9. Great advice about the postcards. And I really found Beth's book helpful too. What are you working on now?

I’m revising my next novel, The Prettiest, out in winter 2020! It tells the tale of three very different eighth grade girls navigating the after-effects of an anonymously written list announcing the “Top 50 prettiest girls” in school. Banding together, the three girls attempt to resist the superficiality that has been hoisted upon them. Additionally, I’m scribbling away on the beginnings of another middle grade book, and I continue to try to get a poetry collection out there! One day…
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Brigit. You can find Brigit at:
Twitter: @brigityoung
Instagram: @brigityoungbooks
Website: brigityoung.com

Brigit has generously offered an ARC of WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through September 1st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The giveaway is U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up (FYI I'm on my summer schedule.):

Friday, August 31st I'm participating in the Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, September 5th I've got an interview with debut author Rebecca Shaeffer and a giveaway of her YA science fiction NOT EVEN BONES and my IWSG post

Monday, September 10th I've got an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Larissa Helena

Friday, September 14th I'm participating in the Clean Your Shelf Giveaway Hop

Monday, September 17th I have an interview with debut author Amanda Rawson Hill and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC

Monday, September 24th I have a guest post by debut author Laura Weymouth with her agent Lauren Spieller and a query critique giveaway by Lauren and a giveaway of Laura's YA fantasy THE VANISHING KINGDOM

Hope to see you on  Friday, August 31st!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Congratulations, Brigit! Teachers can be so instrumental in helping encourage and support budding writers. I had a teacher like that, too. Good luck with the release!

Jemi Fraser said...

That sounds like a fabulous story! Thanks for the tip :)

Greg Pattridge said...

Wonderful in-depth interview. This story has such an intriguing plot and I agree reading makes you a better writer. All the best with your book, Brigit.

Patricia T. said...

Congratulations Brigit! I know little about writing mysteries, so I was intrigued with your process of plotting backwards -- knowing the ending and planting your clues. Sounds like a great MG read. I loved mysteries as a kid, so your book would have appealed to me!

Tonja Drecker said...

Congratulations, and what a packed interview! I had to read this one twice. And the postcard idea was new to me. Good luck with the book!

Danielle H. said...

Mysteries are my favorite to read so I loved this interview. I also love "meeting" a fellow MI author. Can't wait to read your book. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/177208157967/brigit-young-interview-and-worth-a-thousand-words

Natasha said...

Great interview!
Worth A Thousand Words sounds like an amazing read!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

This is a fabulous interview! What a neat idea about the postcards! Also, the book sounds absolutely great! Thanks for the interview!

Rosi said...

I listen to a lot of podcasts and heard one recently about a guy who had an accident, and after that he could find lost things. I would love to read this book. Thanks for the informative interview.

MorganeG. said...

Great interview! Thanks for the giveaway :)

Taffy said...

Happy book day!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

A wonderful interview. Enjoyed "meeting" you, Brigit. Congratulations on your book. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Suzanne Warr said...

Such a great interview! Many thanks, and so much luck Brigit, with your lovely book's success!

Angie Quantrell said...

Sounds wonderful! Great interview as well! Congratulations! Looking forward to reading your book. :) angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Annmarie said...

I love the concept of this book and the advice on marketing.

Jarm Del Boccio said...

Oooh. A mystery! Sounds like a great read. Thanks for sharing your story, Brigit!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a lovely MG book. Thanks for the giveaway!

DMS said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I love that the idea came from talking to a friend- even though Brigit put her own spin on it. I will have to keep my eye out for this one. Thanks for the giveaway. All the best to Brigit.

Unknown said...

Thanks to everyone for the support and kind words!

georgina said...
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