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Advice for young writers, finding one’s voice and CRUSHING IT: Three Questions Interview with Joanne Levy

I met Joanne Levy through the local Torkidlit group. I love her wry wit and also loved her middle grade, Small Medium At Large (Bloomsbury); you can see my interview with Joanne from a few years ago, where she talked about how she wrote the book, her work process and advice for aspiring authors. I’m loving her new book, CRUSHING IT, which debuts *today* from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster as part of their MIX series for tweens.

A survivor of the corporate world, Joanne Levy works from home, creating the friends she wishes she had when as a kid. She lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, mischievous cats, mean African Grey parrot, and sweet but not-so-smart dog. Joanne’s books are: Crushing It and Small Medium at Large. You can find Joanne at JoanneLevy.comFacebookInstagram and Twitter.

CRUSHING IT is published by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, for ages 9-13. If you’re in the Hamilton, ON area, do come out to Joanne Levy’s CRUSHING IT Launch Party on Jan. 28, 2-4 pm at the Hamilton Public Library, Westdale Branch, sponsored by Bryan Prince Bookseller.

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Kat woos the boy next door on behalf of her best friend, and in the process realizes that true beauty—and true confidence—comes from the inside in this hilarious M!X novel from the author of Small Medium at Large.

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

I must say first off that my office is a giant mess. I’m embarrassed about it and have tried to tidy it up many times, but after about a day, it always goes back to being cluttered and messy. My desk is especially awful. I would have sent along a picture of that, but, well, it’s embarrassing. So here’s a picture of a button that is attached to my desk at about eye-level where I can see it at all times:

It’s a direct quote from author J. Anderson Coats, who I have the pleasure of knowing via the Class of 2K12 (a group of authors whose debuts all came out in 2012). Our fellow 2K12er, Gina Rosati, had the quote made into buttons and distributed them to all of us. I think the button speaks for itself and while a bit graphic, encompasses how horrible the process of writing can be. I love the button because it’s a reminder that in the end it all works out and that I’m not alone in what can often feel like a very solitary and isolating job.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

One of the things that took a while for me to learn is that a writer shouldn’t deny her voice.

I started out writing books for adults and I had this notion that writing was to be clever and important. I guess because I wanted to come across as clever and important (who doesn’t, really?). But as I went on, my writing started to evolve and while I was still struggling to make a sale to a publisher, I was being told that my writing was funny. Well, that’s nice, but while humor is nice to have within a story, it shouldn’t be the main focus. Should it? Literature shouldn’t be sophomoric to be good.

Then I read a clever and very funny story about a very serious subject. The book was called Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. This book literally changed my life as a writer. Not in a religious way, but because I learned that humor—even ridiculous and silly humor—can very much have a place in literature. That it was GOOD to be funny.

From that moment, I embraced my natural voice and changed my approach to writing. I am naturally a funny person and I would be denying my readers if I didn’t put that humor into my work. Not to mention that I got greater enjoyment out of letting my inner comedienne loose. It was like I took the ‘serious writer’ cloak off and became myself. And myself likes to laugh. She hopes you do, too.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I am excited about having another book out in the world. It’s been a while since SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE came out (in 2012) and I’m eager to get out and connect with kids again. Nothing is more fun than reading to kids and making them laugh with my words. Maybe I can even inspire a few while I’m at it. I’ve really missed that in between books and can’t wait to get out there!

With my friend Joanne Levy a couple of years ago

For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.