I am very exicted to be doing my first blog interview. Newly published Young Adult author Dream Jordan was kind enough to answer a few questions. Jordan's first book Hot Girl was published earlier this year by St. Martin Press. It is nominated for the 2009 YALSA Quick Picks for reluctant reader awards.
1. Please tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York I think I came into this world with a book in my hand. I was reading Franz Kafka at age 12, although I didn’t understand half of what was going on! I loved the library as a youngster, and I think my time spent there ultimately led to my writing career. I love to laugh, make people laugh, and I’m an all around cool chick.
2. Who are some of your favorite authors?
I don’t have a favorite author. I just love books by writers who are real and true to their stories.
3. When and where do you like to write?
I love to write at night, and I usually write at home. But I wouldn’t mind writing in Starbucks, if only I could find a cool table in the cut, sip on a Mocha Frap and let the muse take me away!
4. Are you in a writing group?
No, I’m not in a writing group, but I’ve been thinking about joining one. Writing is such a solitary vocation.
5. How did you get started writing YA lit?
Fellow writer C.J. Morales suggested that I write for children. I took it a step further and decided to write for teens. I still feel young, and I relate to children very well, so I think this is my perfect calling.
6. On your Myspace page you mention that at 12 yrs old your honor roll grades dropped drastically. What happened? What would you suggest a parent do if their child is in a similar situation?
The major event that happened in my life was - believe it or not – my best friend moving to Florida. We had such a unique standing in our school. We weren’t super popular, but a lot of boys liked us – especially her. We chose to compete with our grades, and weren’t too concerned with our outer appearances or other superficial matters. When my BFF moved, I fell in with a different crowd. They weren’t bad girls, but they weren’t into the do-good-in-school thing. I recommend that parents talk to their children, explaining the purpose of school. When parents emphasize the need to get good grades, without explaining the connection to a brighter future, (in a loving way) a child feels pressured instead of encouraged. I’m not saying my parents should have done anything differently. They did the best they could. And if I didn’t go through what I’ve been through, I may not have seen the need to help other at-risk young adults realize their full potential. I find that a lot of people who don’t struggle, or face challenges, don’t believe in coming back, and giving back to others.
7. Tell us a little about New Youth Connection? How did you find out about it?
Youth Communication trains teens in journalism and related skills. The organization also encourages teens and the adults who work with them to use their publication to stimulate reading, writing, discussion and reflection on important topics such as safe sex, college life, you name it, they cover it. When I worked for the Brooklyn Public Library, New Youth Connection was delivered there. I picked up a copy, loved the realness of the teen voices, and I called up the office asking if they’d be interested in my article idea. They loved my article, published it, and seeing my first byline in print gave me the confidence to pursue a writing career. You can check them out here: http://www.youthcomm.org/
8. Did you go to college right after high school?
Say what? College right after high school? Now that’s a big laugh! I almost didn’t graduate high school. Owing to me messing up in high school (getting left back) and graduating from an alternative high school, I had many setbacks before I made it to New York University. But when I finally enrolled at NYU, I attended evening classes, part-time while holding down a full-time job. It was rough, but I did it!
9. You graduated manga cum laude from NYU. So how good are you at Jeopardy?
I can answer at least four questions during the entire half hour of a Jeopardy program.
10. I love the strength of the first chapter, it quickly grabs the reader. How many rewrites did you do?
Gee, thanks for the compliment. I should’ve kept track of my rewrites, but I can tell you that it didn’t come out right the first, second, third..um, you get the idea! My agent is no joke, and never let me settle for the okeedoke.
11. Tell us a little about Hot Girl?
Hot GIRL is the story of 14-year-old Kate, a reckless foster child who manages to get on the right path, only to be sidetracked by a fast girl who leads her down a long, treacherous road.
12. Kate's a tomboy who loves basketball. Do you like or play any sports?
I don’t play sports, so I can’t explain why I wanted her to play sports. Maybe I wanted to exploit the tomboy aspect of her personality. My reasoning escapes me.
13. Why did you decide to create a character who has grown up in the foster care?
I wanted to create a character who is faced with insurmountable odds, but succeeds anyway. A lot of children are made to believe that their environment or circumstances shape who they are, and what they become. Through Kate, I want to represent a strong black girl with street smarts and book smarts. She demonstrates that school can be cool, and her future is in her own hands.
14. How much research if any did you do about foster care?
I did a TON of research on foster care. With my first draft, I depicted the typical incidents that I’ve only heard about on television. But several rejections later, I got on the good foot, and delved into the world of foster care. I found a really bleak picture of the system. So I wanted to paint a brighter side, because brighter sides do exist, and we need to hear about them. HOT GIRL is such a story. A lot of readers have told me that they felt hopeful after turning the last page of my novel.
15. How many editors rejected Hot Girl? What did you do with the rejection letters?
HOT GIRL received a total of 39 rejections. At first, I ripped the rejection letters to shreds. Then I calmed down, and decided to save them, so I could look back and laugh.
16. What did you do when heard Hot Girl was picked up by St. Martin Press?
I didn’t do much. Of course I was happy, but it’s been such a long road, I guess I just sighed with relief.
17. Even though 13 editors turned down the book, some students from P.S. 41 read and loved the first two chapters. How did they get a hold of your work?
On several occasions, my father’s wife asked me to visit her school to give talks about life as an author (I self-published a book in 2002). The high I got from talking to the children never left me. So when I needed to test my two chapters out, I asked her to pass the work around. The children gave their excited feedback through letters. When I started doubting myself and my purpose, I read those letters, and got myself amped up.
18. So you met YA author Coe Booth. How and where did this happen? Have you added Kendra to your short list to help make my reading dream of Kate and Kendra meeting come true? It doesn't even have to be a novel a short story will do. It doesn't even have to be published. I will happily accept it as a personal gift and I promise not to sell it on ebay.
Well Doret, I think you’re psychic. Imagine this. When you told me about Kendra, tell me why I met Coe Booth the very next day through the most unlikely of circumstances. Since I’m not in the YA mix yet, I wouldn’t have met Coe if it wasn’t for a wonderful librarian named Amy Cheney, who invited Coe and I to share a night of her being honored. Coe and I clicked right away. She’s extremely funny, and down to earth. I definitely hounded her about us collaborating, and she’s down with the program. If only we can find the time! But thanks for the idea, Doret. Of course you’ll get an honorable mention.
Congratulations on Hot Girl's, nomination for the 2009 YALSA Quick Picks for reluctant readers award. Its well deserved recognition.
Thank you, I appreciate that.
This or That
Coffee or Tea - Tea
Boots or Sandals - Boots
Project Runway or Next Top Model - Project Runway!!
Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit - Scrabble
Cats or Dogs - Cats
The Club or the Couch – The Club
Summer or Winter - Summer
Chocolate Brownies or Cheesecake – Chocolate Brownies
Hot Girl is valued priced at $9.95 Read the first chapter