Today I'm happy to introduce a fellow author with Muse It Up Publishing, Barbara Ehrentreu, who wrote the YA novel "If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor." Welcome, Barbara!
Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.
I started out as an elementary teacher and taught for 13 years. Then I stopped to have my children and stayed home until they were old enough to be by themselves. I started going back to substitute and finally decided to take my Masters degree in Reading and Writing. So I got my Masters in Reading and Writing K-12. One of the things we needed to do at Manhattanville College where I took my graduate work was attend Writers’ Week twice. On my second Writers’ Week a workshop was offered with Paula Danziger and she required us to have 3 chapters to get into the class. I have spoken about this before, but she told me to cut most of what I had written. She rewrote the first chapter for me and told me it had potential. That was enough for me. I took her advice and went home and rewrote it and finished the novel. After much critiquing and rewriting and 5 years of submitting and hoping it was finally accepted by MuseItUp Publishing and I became an author at last!
What is one of your favorite books and why?
It’s hard to pick just one book, but I love the whole Dresden Files series. I also love anything by John Irving, John Russo and Barbara Kingsolver.
What inspired you to write this book?
My daughter was on the brink of becoming bulimic and she had a very bad body image so I divided this and made one character with a body image issue and the other one with an eating disorder. The idea that Paula Danziger thought my idea had potential kept me going.
How would you describe your writing process?
Most of the time I am what is known as a “pantser." That is, I pretty much sit down and write whatever comes into my head. After awhile I stop and think about the characters and do a character sketch for each one. At one point in the book I just published I had to stop and figure out the plot lines for each character. In the book I have not submitted yet, I ran into trouble on a certain chapter and I had to outline the chapter. Otherwise, I just write and then I have to revise and usually cut a lot of what I have written.
How have you marketed your book?
I had a book launch both online and in person and I gave away free copies of my book from a drawing. I had postcards made up and I was part of a month long Blog Fest for YA/MG writers. In addition I have been the guest of many different authors and I have both a blog and Facebook page as well as being on Twitter. Also I blog twice a month for DowntownYA. I am a member of several different writing groups on LinkedIn and Facebook and I am a member of Goodreads. Before my book was published I took part in a very large reading of several chapters which was international and helped to get my name out there. I have a large amount of Facebook friends and I have become involved in following a lot of writers and authors from my group on both Facebook and Twitter. Also, I am planning to try to get my book into some independent bookstores here in Connecticut where I live. I take advantage of any free advertising I can get!
What advice would you give to other authors?
With only one book published I’m not sure I’m the right person to do this, but for other writers who are looking to be published, my advice would be to keep trying. Put your ms in the best shape it can be and send it out often. Be persistent and don’t give up, because you never know who will see it. Also, attend writing conferences. Those are excellent for contacts and even online ones are good. In fact, I got published from the Pitch Session on the Muse Online Writers Conference.
Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.
I spot him walking toward my locker with a small box in one hand and a plastic fork in the other. My Crush! He hands me the box, and I open it. Inside is a piece of luscious chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I look up into his blue eyes and give him the box so I can touch his cheek as I smooth his dark hair.
“You always know just what I like.”
He smiles and feeds me a forkful of cake. I don’t have to worry about eating it because I can eat anything I want and not gain weight. He places the cake box in my locker so he can put his arms around me.
The first bell rings in my ears. I ignore it because I’m thin and blonde and floating in the arms of my dark-haired crush. The other cheerleaders run up to us laughing and kidding around, and I’m about to speak. The ringing gets louder.
The dream evaporates, and I realize it’s the darn alarm piercing my sleep. Slamming my fist onto the snooze button, I get this nagging feeling. Then I remember. I have something to do. Worse luck, I have to do it, not as the slender blonde beauty in my dream, but as the real Carolyn Samuels with my brown curly hair hanging like shriveled spaghetti, mud brown eyes, and a body too large for fashion.
I see my new book bag is packed and ready by the door with the initials C. S. in blue, my favorite color. Suddenly it hits me, and I get this dizzy let-me-plop-on-the-pillow feeling. Freshman year of high school— first day. My brain is ready, but my body isn't. Jennifer will be there. Math class and Jennifer; gym class with Jennifer. My body curls into a fetal position, and I throw the covers over my head. Don’t faint Carolyn, I tell myself, panting.
Dangling over the chair are those size twelve jeans, clown pants— hardly a fashion statement. I groan. Paired with the red long-sleeved T- shirt, they looked so good on the mannequin; I’ll look like a stoplight. What was I thinking? How could I possibly go to school looking like such a freak?
Actually, the real reason I can’t go is Jennifer, with her long straight blonde hair, perfect body, and clothes from magazines like Teen and Seventeen.
Yuck. I feel sick, sick with Jenniferitis.
I hear Mom's footsteps on the stairs.
“Why are you still in bed?” She comes upstairs and peeks into my room with a puzzled look on her face.
Moving the blanket up to my nose, I say, “Mom, I can't stop shivering, and my stomach and head hurt.”
She feels my head and looks at me with mother vision. “Carolyn, did you think I'd fall for your tricks?”
I cringe. Now my stomach and head ache for real. Defeated, I climb out of bed and get washed. I slip the hated outfit onto my body and glance at my bloated reflection in the mirror. It's too late to change. I’m stuck with this. If only I could be like Jennifer Taylor.
After picking up my book bag, I race down the stairs, take a couple of bites of a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin and a few sips of non-fat milk. I almost trip over a lump blocking the door. Max, our five-year old Newfoundland raises his massive bear-like head, sniffing like he’s never eaten a thing in his life when he sees my muffin. I glance at his empty bowl and throw the rest of the muffin into it. He sees it and licks my face; now I’m going to smell like dog food all day. Grabbing a paper towel, I wipe my face and lean to ruffle his soft fur. At least Max doesn’t care what I wear. Feed him and rub him under his chin, and he’ll cover you with slurpy kisses.
Mom is already in our three-year-old silver Malibu that, like my jeans, doesn't quite make a fashion statement.
On the drive to school, I'm looking forward to seeing Becky and Janie my two best friends from forever. Don't want to see Jennifer's face on the first day of high school.
Where can readers find you and your book?
Muse Bookstore link:https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=203&category_id=6&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1
Barnes and Noble:
My blog, Barbara’s Meanderings:
Thank you, Barbara! This is definitely going on reading list!!