FAQ

**How long have you been writing?**

A long time. As a child, I wrote short stories and plays (which I made my long-suffering siblings perform). As a teenager, I wrote lots and lots of melancholy poetry. Then, in college, most of my time was taken up by writing essays for my history, philosophy, and English classes (and waitressing. I spent a lot of time waitressing). 

After college (in 2001), I found myself adrift as I worked bookstore, nanny, and preschool teacher jobs, so I started writing fiction.  I also interned at Sourcebooks in 2003, but I had to leave that job due to a cross-country move. In general, I wrote everywhere and all the time— on my lunch breaks, on airplanes, in coffee shops. I even took writing with me on vacation (as you can see from this photo I just found…Waikiki 2005. I should’ve been at the beach, but instead I was in the dingy hotel, writing. Oooof.).

Writing in Oahu, 2005.

All this writing produced a lot of half starts, but I never a finished book and life got busy. In 2006 I went to grad school. Between 2008-2010, I had two kids. In those years, I ended up writing mostly non-fiction and memoir, especially about parenting and my oldest son’s autism diagnosis. This work was published in national magazines and extensively online. But I couldn’t give up on fiction. I interviewed writers whenever I could; I wrote while my kids were asleep in the car; and, eventually, in 2013, I finished a book. It was a MG fantasy that placed in a contest. It didn’t win, but I kept writing while juggling magazine work, teaching full time, parenting children with special needs, and just doing the work of staying alive. 

Between 2013-2019 I wrote seven more books, and I’m currently at work on many projects. Because of the demands of my parenting/work life, I don’t write every day, though I’m usually always jotting notes throughout the day. I also tend to binge write— so I’ll get a book done in a month or two. Then, I put it aside for a few weeks, draft something new, then come back and work on revisions. My goal is usually to draft 2-3 books a year. 

**Did you always want to be a writer?**

No. I always loved reading and I always wrote things, but I wanted to be a marine biologist or a brain surgeon when I went to college. But, after going to school in the midwest (so far from the ocean, weeps) and breaking heaps of expensive glassware in my bio lab work study job + nearly flunking Chemistry, I opted to nurture my humanities-loving side.

**Where do you get your ideas?**

Everywhere! I definitely pull deeply from my own life and past experiences, but I’m also currently writing a novel randomly inspired by a quirky boutique name in a tiny town near where I live. I’ve also pulled stories from historical tidbits I found while researching other books; from questions that pop into my mind; and, from trying to figure out what a certain type of character would do in a certain situation. I also get ideas from smashing two or more book/movie/tv comps together and challenging myself to think about what the resulting story might look like. Oh! And sometimes I scroll through MSWL threads on twitter to see what agents and editors are asking for and that can be inspiring in surprising ways. 

**How did you get your agent?**

I got my first agent via Pitch Wars 2015. She signed me for a MG adventure fantasy about Marco Polo as a kid. We parted in summer 2017, as she was only a book-by-book agent and we weren’t a good match in other ways. 

After that I wrote two new books, and spent a year in the query trenches. I queried my current agent, the marvelous Kate Testerman, in fall 2017 with a dark YA fantasy. She promptly asked for 50 pages, which I sent. Then I didn’t hear from her for a while. BUT, as it turns out, she’d been trying to contact me. She’d sent multiple emails asking for a full draft— which I never got. ACH! She finally reached out to me in early 2018 via Twitter DMs asking for a full draft. I sent it immediately (cursing my email the whole time and nearly crying over the fact that I’d missed all those emails). A few months later, I entered PitMad 2018 with a funny YA contemporary pitch. It did really well, netting me several agent offers, including one from Kate. I signed with her in summer 2018 and got to meet her that fall at the KT Literary retreat in Phoenix. 

Kate’s a magical human and the perfect agent for me— kind, smart, optimistic, knowledgeable, communicative, quick to respond to emails, and very, very good at her job. I’m also so grateful that she’s here for my whole career and always willing to hear ideas for next projects. Am I gushing? Totally. But, what can I say, I love my agent. <3 

Kate and Jamie, KT Retreat 2018

**Any weird writers habits?**

Since I write whenever and wherever I can, I think most of my habits are odd. I’m certainly not a light-a-few-candles-and-get-up-at-5-am type writer. Also, historically, I’ve not been the most organized: I have reams of notes on post-its and napkins, which I lose and/or find in the wash often. But I’m working on setting habits and getting organized. Thanks to a very supportive spouse, I get out of the house once a week for a 4-5 hour chunk of writing and, I’ve recently started buying enormous sketchbooks and keeping all my notes/outlines within them. Each new book or idea gets its own sketchbook. It’s a great way to stay organized and it makes me feel like they’re proto-books because they’ve got hardcovers and spines. I also swear by the Save the Cat method for outlining books, and that’s been tremendously helpful for all things pre-writing. 

Perhaps my oddest writers habit is that I obsessively buy domain names for my book titles and things related to the books. Last I checked, I owned ten (!!) domains related to my books. 

My sort-of non-messy desk and the stacks of sketchbooks I use for each new idea.

**What projects are you working on next?**

I hope to finish at least two new books this year: an adult rom-com and a YA fantasy. 

In between drafting and planning those, I’ll be working on edits for my YA contemporary and working on a revision of a dark YA fantasy. 

**When and where can I buy your books?**

More on this soon! 

**Any advice for new writers?**

Don’t give up. Writing and publishing can be a long, hard slog and I think it helps for new/young writers to go in knowing that. (I (and my fragile heart) had no idea when I started. Sighhhh). Persistence and a certain amount of stubborn goddammit-I-won’t-give-up will help gird you for all the rejections and vicissitudes of the process. We hear so much about young writers getting six figure deals for their first books, but those are always the exceptional, lucky cases. Publishing is about timing, luck, and many other factors outside your control. Writing is about the joy of finding and telling a story. As much as you can, guard that joy. 

I’d also say try to find a community and do everything you can to lift them up. Give more than you take and nurture relationships with other writers. Through conferences and Pitch Wars, I’ve made some dear friends who read my work (and for whom I CP for in turn). We also cheer each other on, talk throughout the day, and are generally just a tremendous support system. They’ve truly been there for me through *so* much that would’ve crushed me if I’d been going it alone. 

A few of the books from my writing community friends. (Sniff, sob, messy crying.. I’m so proud of them!)

Beyond persistence+ joy and finding community, I’d say practice your craft as much as you can. Not everything you write will be sellable, but you can learn a lot from writing it. There are also great writing resources out there, and using them for practice can help elevate your writing. I still feel like I have so much to learn and with each new book, I’m experimenting, pushing myself, and hoping to make something beautiful. 

**What are you hobbies besides writing?**

This is a tough one for me, as I don’t have a lot of time left after writing, teaching, and parenting to pursue hobbies. But I’m working to make more time for them. I love reading (working on my 100 books reading challenge this year, woot!), and I often post on Instagram and Goodreads about what I’m reading. I also love yoga, kayaking, being by/on big water, and I’m a huge fan of board and card games. Oh, and I also love playing Mario Cart and Splatoon with my son. I also like visiting museums, painting, going out to dinner + trying new food, going to the movies, and traveling. 

At the botanical gardens with my autistic son. <3

Kayaking with my youngest son. <3
Reading poolside=heaven.

**Can you read my work?**

Unfortunately, I cannot due to time constraints and working on my own projects. I would encourage you to connect with other writers through Twitter hashtags like #writingcommunity and also look into contests like #DVPit, Pitch Wars, or #AMM to connect with writers and mentors. 🙂