Friday, January 17, 2014

Q&A with Author Meredith Zeitlin Take 2!

FRESHMAN YEAR & OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS was your first novel. What big takeaway messages would you give to writers around the following themes:

  •     Craft

This is a tricky one. I think the best way to perfect the craft of writing is to read, read, read. See how lots of different writers use words, voice, etc. An editor will help hone your work, but the essence of it has to come from you. And the more you read and write, the better you get.

  •     Seeking representation

DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Pretty much everything you could want to know is online - there’s no excuse for not using the Internet as a tool to be as specific with your queries as possible. For example, pitch to agents that are looking for what you’re writing (ie, don’t send a fantasy novel to an agent who doesn’t rep fantasy novels). Don’t send a full manuscript to an agent who wants a first chapter and a summary. Learn how to write a great cover letter, and personalize it for each pitch; respect the fact that you are asking a real person to engage with you, and that person won’t want to feel like he or she is getting a generic query. It’s worth your time to customize everything you send out to whoever you’re sending it to.

  • Working with editors/agents

Patience. Patience, patience, patience. Everything is going to take ten times longer than you think it will - selling the book, getting notes, receiving your contract. It’s maddening, but reality. You have to get used to it and find a way to focus on other things while you wait. And wait. And wait...
  •    Marketing

This one is kind of depressing, honestly. The biggest thing I learned is that if you want people to read your book, you have to get the word out all by yourself - unless you’re JK Rowling, the publisher isn’t going to do a thing. That was a big surprise to me; I thought selling the book was the biggest hurdle, and that after that the publisher would set up a great campaign or something… nope. I had to do pretty much everything all by myself to create any kind of buzz, and it was hard and exhausting and took an unbelievable amount of time. That’s just the way it is, and it is pretty frustrating. I was very lucky to get great responses from bloggers and friends of friends… but I never anticipated having to be my own PR rep on top of being a writer.

Kelsey feels so relatable. Her voice was one of the strongest I’ve seen lately in YA. What do you think makes for a character who “sticks” long after the final pages are over?

Again, thank you so much!!! Readers relating to Kelsey is really what the book hinges on, so that’s wonderful to hear. I think a voice that seems REAL is very important - even if you don’t like the character, being able to imagine him or her as a real person makes a huge difference.

How did your idea of the publishing process compare to what it’s really been like?

Oh, man... Well, it’s harder than I anticipated. It’s more frustrating. I thought it would be smooth sailing with money and a book tour at the end of the journey, but there was none of that. And yet… it was more exciting than I’d imagined, too. Holding the first copy of the book in my hands - actually seeing my name on the cover - was surreal. And because of that moment (and the emails I’ve gotten from readers, or the joy of reading an ecstatic review), the disappointing things seem less important.

What can we expect to see from you next?

My second book, Sophomore Year Is Greek To Me, comes out Spring 2015!

Where can people follow you online?

FY has a facebook page (, I tweet at @zeitlingeist, and there’s a website for the book with a blog (that I really need to start updating more frequently) at

Anything else to add?

I’ve had an amazing and eye-opening experience with the publication of this book, and the best part has been the response from readers. I’m especially grateful to the YA blogging community for helping me get the word out!

 Super thanks to Meredith and so excited for spring 2015! I know my freshman year unnatural disaster was an unfortunate hair cut I got that I now affectionately (or not) refer to as "the Chia pet." It even made it into my very first post ever on the blog. So tell me, what are some of your high school disasters you've lived through or outgrown? 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to Meredith for answering the questions and to you Sarah for the great interview. Really interesting stuff! I always love hearing author's perspectives on the craft and all the highs --and lows--of the pub industry.