Monday, September 7, 2015

MIRACLE MEGGIE by Toni De Palma - Interview and Giveaway

Today I have a very special interview. When I first started out writing it was just me, quietly, secretly writing. I only told a few close family members. Then I started venturing out into the online world of writers. I found so many other writers and authors. And they all said the same thing - Get a critique group or critique partners. So I signed up with the SCBWI and found a critique group that met near my home in New Jersey. Toni De Palma was one of the amazing authors in my firt critique group. I love her writing. If you haven't read any of her books, I order you to do so now. She is clever and witty and just all around awesome when it comes to writing.

To celebrate the release of her newest book, Miracle Meggie I decided to interview her and host a giveaway of Miracle Meggie.

Here's a little about Miracle Meggie:

When 10 year old Meggie hears Wanda announce that she’s setting up a summer business selling miracles, Meggie thinks Wanda’s finally gone off the deep end. But that’s before Meggie’s sister is born way too early. Now, the doctors aren’t sure if the baby will live and mom and dad are spending all their time at the hospital. Suddenly, Wanda’s miracles don’t look so crazy anymore. But Wanda doesn’t just sell Meggie a Miracle. She wants an assistant. If Meggie wants to save her sister, she’ll have to first help Wanda transform an elderly neighbor into Madame Butterfly and get her a gig singing at Carnegie Hall. Coordinating a concert at Carnegie Hall isn’t as simple as it sounds, but if Meggie can’t pull it off, she’ll never learn the secret to saving her little sister or making miracles.



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Q.
I love the idea of creating miracles. Especially for the middle grade age kids. They're at that place where they aren't a kid, not quite a teenager, and still trying to figure out where they fit in with the world. What was your inspiration for writing Miracle Meggie?

A.
Though my books are fiction, all of my stories are rooted in something personal. Miracle Meggie is based on my own son’s premature birth twenty-one years ago. Thinking back to that time, I was very young in my own thinking when I had him (though I was twenty-eight). I believed that if I did the right things – ate right, took my vitamins, etc. I would have a healthy baby. Well, what I came to find out is that, life has its own plans even when you believe you’re following the exact right recipe to create the ideal results. Thankfully, he pulled through (yay to the wonderful doctors and staff of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Jersey Shore Medical Center) and he’s a wonderful young man, currently pursuing his own creative dreams. But the experience made me realize the faultiness of my thinking, which was magical, and actually quite childlike. So, essentially, this story has been brewing in my mind for twenty-one years, perhaps because it’s taken me that long to understand that, while we can’t control what happens to us in our lives, we can choose our reactions to those circumstances, and it’s our reaction to hardship and our resilience and hope that is a miracle unto itself.

Q.
I've found that in some of my own manuscripts my favorite character isn't necessarily the main character, sometimes it is. Who was your favorite character to write in this book? (My favorite to read, about was Wanda. lol)

A.
Funny you say that! I love Wanda too! Many of my books have a pal or buddy character and that may be because, as a kid, I did have a best buddy or partner in crime. I would hope that every kid has that special friend that they feel they can share secrets with and go on adventures with.

Q.
Will there be other books within the world of Miracle Meggie? Possibly a companion novel?


A.
I haven’t considered what might come next in this story, but I am interested in writing Meggie’s Miracle Manual, which would be a kind of journal or guide to help kids explore what kinds of miracles they would like to create in their own lives. Before I wrote for children, I worked as a school social worker and always looked for tools that could give kids the resources they needed to feel more empowered.

Q.
Most of your books are for the young adult crowd, but you have a couple middle grade also. I have a really hard time writing middle grade as my writing voice is never young enough. What do you find the most rewarding writing for both of these audiences?

A.
I really let the stories dictate the audience. When I first started writing for kids, I wrote for the middle grade set, possibly because my son was that age and I was reminded of my own childhood by observing him. My Young Adult novels similarly coincided with his teen years. And now that he’s out of the house and in college, I find I’m gravitating toward more adult stories as well. What I love about being a writer is that there are no rules. I follow the muse wherever she takes me!

Q.
If you don't mind sharing, what do you have up your sleeve next for your books?


A.
After I wrote Miracle Meggie, I wrote a few short plays that were read in New York City. That was really exciting. Writing plays is very freeing because it’s all about the dialogue, which is probably the element of writing that I love best. For me, constructing plot feels like having a root canal 

Q.
One thing I've always noticed about your writing is that your characters are extremely vivid and full of life. What's your secret?

A.
Ha! I think a lot of that comes from having grown up in an Italian-American family where no emotion and definitely no opinion is ever held back. I am Southern Italian and the culture is typically very dramatic and expressive.

Q.
You have taught writing classes in the past, what is your favorite piece of advice to give aspiring authors?

A.
I think the best piece of writing I’ve ever been given and what I try to instill in my students is to have fun. If you are having fun with your story, most likely your reader will enjoy it as well. When did writing become so serious, I wonder?

Q.
Miracle Meggie is your first self-published piece of fiction. How was that process different from having a publisher? Did anything surprise you about the process?

A.
I resisted self-publishing for a very, very, very long time, mainly due to my own ego and the false belief that, if a traditional publisher didn’t choose to publish my book, then it probably wasn’t good enough. Then one day I realized that everything I’d put into my first traditionally published book – the skill, the heart – was what I’d put into Miracle Meggie (probably more so since my skills as a writer have definitely developed in the 8 years between both books). I realized it wasn’t me that had changed, but the publishing industry, which has made it close to impossible to get a rather quiet book like Miracle Meggie published. Now that I’ve finally taken the step, I am tremendously pleased. I love the final product and think it’s my best book yet. While I wish I could have the help of a marketing department to get more attention for my book, I’m enjoying doing my own marketing. I’ve walked into bookstores and libraries and have introduced myself and created some really nice connections. I’m also running a contest to give away a free classroom set of books. When it comes down to it, I believe in this story. Miracle Meggie has never really been about me promoting myself as a writer, so much as my desire to empower children through a strong story.

Q.
You recently started exploring the world of screenwriting. I'd love to try it out, but I don't know where to start. So for those of us too unsure of trying it yet, what has that been like? What are your plans for your future in screenwriting?

A.
Plans? LOL I don’t really plan anything when it comes to writing. I participated in a 48 hour film festival recently where I had 8 hours to write a short film. Nothing like a little pressure to motivate a writer. It was great. Very freeing. I think the trick to any writing is not to take your first draft too seriously. Just see where it takes you.

Q.
And because I'm always looking for book recommendations (not that my bookshelf needs more books). What are you currently reading, or what was the last book you read that you loved?

A.
Actually, I’m rereading The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer. It’s not fiction obviously, but I love how he can always give me a good dose of positivity.

Check out all of Toni's books.


Under the Banyan Tree

Jeremy Owl

The Devil's Triangle (#1)

The Devil's Temptation (#2)

Miracle Meggie

The Character on the Couch

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About Toni

Toni De Palma was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her first middle grade novel, Under the Banyan Tree, was published in 2007. Under the Banyan Tree was selected as a Kirkus New Voices Pick and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. Her second middle grade novel, Jeremy Owl, was published in 2010. Toni holds her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College and she is a recipient of a New Jersey Arts Fellowship. She currently resides in New Jersey.
 


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