Today I’d like to welcome Meredith Zeitlin author of the fun YA contemporary Novel Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters, which comes out March 1rst by Putnam’s.
I’m super happy she’s here today to share her story how she got published with us:
by Meredith Zeitlin (Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters)
What’s funny about this (and by funny, I mean tragic) is that in the middle of the story I’m going to tell you, I did an interview where I was asked this same question.
At the time, I thought the journey was almost over, so I said this:
“I’m in the editing stage right now. I technically have until December ’09 to turn in a final manuscript… Hopefully, it will be out sometime in 2010. Fingers crossed!”
Hilarious, right? Since it’s now 2012 and all?
But I’ll come back to this part in a bit.
I used to babysit for an amazing little girl… who is now taller than I am, by the way. (How did this happen?!?) Anyway, I would read her YA books while she did her homework… and with few exceptions, I found myself very bummed out by them. I thought they seemed cookie-cutter and not very well-written and, most importantly, not at all like the books I grew up with, which were filled with relatable characters who were kooky and awkward and desperately trying to figure things out. Instead these were all about super rich and sophisticated kids, the likes of which I certainly never met when I was fourteen.
Since then, I’ve been turned on to some amazing contemporary YA writers – they are definitely out there! But at the time, I was so disappointed. I thought, maybe I’ll write something myself.
So I did.
My friend Ellen had recently gotten a book deal, so I was able to pump her for advice on what steps to take. I queried agents. I crossed every digit I had. And I got really lucky – I signed with an agent, and she pitched the book, and an editor at Putnam bought it.
It was amazing.
And then… things started to crumble a bit.
Editing is hard, period. Editing when you slowly come to realize that you and the person you’re working with have a VERY different idea of what the end goal is… is like sticking your hand in a meat grinder. A meat grinder that keeps insisting it isn’t a meat grinder at all, but is actually a warm, soothing lanolin bath.
So now we’re back to the aforementioned interview. At that time, I had just spent two months completely rewriting the book in a TOTALLY different narrative style, as directed – and approved – by my editor. I liked the new direction, but it was not at all like the original draft, or the book you’d read today. About six months later, my editor finally got in touch to tell me he wasn’t really sure why I’d done this rewrite. Whose idea was that, exactly? I was gobsmacked. So was my agent. I had a bit of a nervous breakdown at that point. I painted my entire apartment – which has 12 foot ceilings – by myself. I ate a LOT of candy. I made a collection of voodoo dolls. (Okay, not really. But I came close.)
And then I went back to the original version and worked from there. And I turned in a new draft. And waited… and waited… and then I found out my editor had been let go. In an email.
So. I had no idea what would happen next. Would I have to start all over? Would Putnam still even want the book without the attached editor? Could I stand one more well-meaning friend asking me, “When’s your book coming out again? Any day now, right?”
I got really lucky – again. The new publisher, Jennifer Besser, came in and she elected to work on the book herself. My former editor’s assistant, THE AMAZING SHAUNA (that’s her magician name that I just made up), became Jen’s assistant. And this time, things clicked.
Unfortunately, the roster for 2011 releases was already filled up… so I got pushed back again. It didn’t matter that much – by this point I’d shoved the “book stuff” to the back corner of my consciousness and focused on other things. It was a protective measure, of course. But then I got the cover art… and I saw the book listed in Penguin’s catalog… and suddenly, it was all actually happening.
And now it’s REALLY happening.
And I’m incredibly excited. Finally, and completely.
I guess, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the ups and downs of my publishing journey. As you can tell from my book, I’m no stranger to disaster… not when I was in high school, and not now.
Maybe for the next book (and yes – I am working on something new. I haven’t given up! Hope lives!), I’ll just wait til it comes out before I tell anyone about it… think that’d work?
Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters
Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.
Things start out great – her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.
Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…