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Advice For Young Writers, Pride Sunday signing and more: Three Questions With Debut YA Author, Paul Coccia (CUB, Orca Books)

Paul Coccia is a Toronto author with an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and an avid home-baker. His debut young adult novel, Cub, is part of Orca’s Soundings Series: short, high-interest novels specifically for teens. Paul lives and bakes with his nephew, three dogs and a little grey parrot. You can find Paul on TwitterFacebook and Instagram, and also see Orca’s interview with Paul on their blog.

To Torontonians: Paul is signing his book as well as celebrating diversity (of all types) in kids’ books at Indigo Bay & Bloor (55 Bloor St. W.) on Pride Sunday, June 23, 2019 from 11:30 am – 3:30 pm; Paul is setting up a table with recommendations of books that appreciate difference. In case of last-minute event changes, please do check Paul’s @pauljcoccia Twitter account closer to the date.

Quotes from Kirkus review of Cub: “A gay Toronto foodie translates his love of pastry into love of self amid some mean-boy body shame.” “The tough truth of marginalized communities attacking their own is difficult to face but accurate in its exposure of toxic behavior; Theo’s shaky navigation is inspiring.” Find out more about Cub on the Orca publisher site.

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

My younger brother left Saint Dolly photo on my desk for a few weeks before making it clear that she was meant for me.

I think he bought it online but it is one of the few non-work things on my desk. Saint Dolly usually sits on top of my hard drive along with a gnome but as I was working in the garden, she came outside to hang with a different gnome crowd. Saint Dolly reminds me the value of a cup of ambition, working hard (at least 9 to 5), dreaming big (at least as big as a blown-out wig), and keeping a sense of humor particularly about myself.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

I first tried to get published at 17 years old and have a drawer of rejections that were mailed to me (that’s how it was done back then!) No one even read my manuscript. Admittedly, it may not have been that great. It took me almost two decades before I had my debut book, Cub, release when Orca Books took a chance on an unknown author. In those almost 20 years I didn’t get published, I worked on myself and at improving my craft. I was lucky enough to be able to pursue studying writing in university. I signed up for writing groups, entered contests and made a point of actually sitting down to write when I could have been distracted by other things. I pushed myself to explore new genres, try new forms or new styles even if only as an experiment, knowing that if I didn’t challenge myself, I wouldn’t grow. When I failed, and there were some epic fails (I’m likely never going to be a poet, for example), I tried to learn at least what didn’t work and why. The reward was the act of doing, not getting a contract or a book on the shelf, but producing work that I felt was done to the best of my ability and making me stronger.

As a result of making myself stretch out of my comfort zone , I walked away with more skills in my writer’s toolbox and the ability to keep acquiring skills. I had to learn it’s not being selfish to say no, to make time for your self-expression/art, to allow other people to do for themselves, and that my wants and needs are as valid as other people’s. I’m still learning this. I think it can be hard, especially when you’re not feeling you’re having professional success to see pursuing what you do as worthwhile and not to let self-doubt stop you. It’s great to be able to pay your bills doing what you love to do and exciting to see your work out in the world, but until that happens:

– Be passionate about each project, particularly for yourself.

– Learn a lot, especially from those who know more and are willing to share.

– Don’t be afraid to fail epically because you can grow by trying new things, but will stagnate if you don’t.

The little things build up, sometimes when you’re not noticing, and you end up able to approach each new project with more than you had to give before.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I’m really excited to be doing some baking! I’m sketching designs now of cakes for my nephew’s Pokemon-themed birthday.

I’ll need to ask him and his mom what their ideas are and that’s always fun to incorporate someone else’s ideas into a design. While I’m not a professional artist/illustrator or a professional baker, combining art and baking is a side of me that is not normally in use when I’m working on writing a book. It’s very different skills and sometimes those skills bleed into my written works (I did write a book about a teen baker!) I find that working with food as a medium reminds me that things don’t always go as planned, cake can have its own ideas about how it should work and settle, and that adapting to those unexpected challenges can be frustrating and rewarding… and if it all falls apart (and sometimes it does), you can eat and destroy all evidence.

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