I met Tara through a social media site and she ended up interviewing me about my first book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? more than four years ago.
What touched me most about that interview was Tara’s personal connection with my story. Tara, herself a child of divorce, said, “I wish Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? was around back then to let me know I wasn’t alone in my back-and-forth shuffle.” So, Tara, what are you hoping people will say about your first book, The Monstore, that came out this June with Simon and Schuster? And can you tell us a little about this story’s journey from an idea to publication?
Tara Lazar (TL): I hope readers enjoy the book and think it’s a clever story. I hope it inspires readers to create their own monsters and their own secret hideouts.
The idea began with just a title: The Monstore. I smooshed “monster” with “store” to make a new word. So it remained a title for months, until an agent asked me for a premise and I thought, “A boy wants to return the monster he bought because it doesn’t spook his little sister.” Then when I began writing it, it seemed the only thing the Monstore manager could say to that boy was, “No returns, no exchanges.” The story snowballed from there. Of course it went through several revisions, including two rounds with my editor at Aladdin.
Carol Gordon Ekster (CGE): When did you begin your writing career?
TL: I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t get serious until I was pregnant with my second daughter who’s now six years old. That’s when I began writing with the intention of getting published.
CGE: You’ve been actively involved in the New Jersey SCBWI conference. Tell us about your role in it.
TL: New Jersey SCBWI was my stepping-stone to getting published. I attended every event I could, starting with first-page sessions. I went to mentoring events and the annual conferences. I learned about the craft and networked with other writers. I couldn’t have “made it” without that chapter.
This year I gave a presentation on social media for writers and illustrators, plus I gave the Sunday morning keynote about “The Myth of the Great Divide.” Before we’re published, we think there’s some huge separation between us and published authors, but in reality, we’re all the same. We all strive to tell the best story we can tell. Published authors, especially those in children’s lit, are extremely helpful and encouraging to newbies.
CGE: You’re also involved in Picture Book Idea Month, PiBoIdMo. Can you tell us how that came about?
TL: Well, that came out of pure jealousy! I saw so many friends involved with NaNoWriMo every November and lamented that there was nothing for picture book authors. So I created something. Writing one manuscript a day was too much, so I decided coming up with an idea a day was more feasible. After all, one of the first things writers are asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” I thought new writers would want to hear that answer from established authors, plus it would inspire them. The first year I thought maybe 10 people would join me—and 100 signed up! Last year there were 750 participants.
CGE: Your blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), has over 2500 followers. How did you become so knowledgeable in the field of children’s publishing? How much of your day do you devote to social media and marketing?
TL: I have no idea! Like my blog intro says, I’m just collecting shiny doodads on the path to publication and sharing them. I’m honest and I try to be humorous. People seem to like it!
Every day is different, but I try to fit social media in throughout my day. I call it the “21st century coffee break”. I don’t have a blog schedule; I just blog when the mood strikes me.
CGE: Can you tell us a little about securing your agent and your path to publication?
TL: My agent came via referral from two friends, quite by surprise. My friend Corey Rosen Schwartz (THE THREE NINJA PIGS) had won a critique with author Jean Reidy (LIGHT UP THE NIGHT) and didn’t have anything ready to send, so she sent THE MONSTORE instead. Jean loved it, mentioned it on social media, and then Ammi-Joan Paquette asked her about what she was reading. And there was my introduction. So I queried Ammi-Joan Paquette [of Erin Murphy Literary Agency] with THE MONSTORE, she liked it and asked to see more work. She loved it all and offered representation.
CGE: Tell us a little about how you structure your writing life.
I have very little structure to my day. I find that too much structure stifles my creativity. I try to do a little of something every day—a little writing, a little brainstorming, a little marketing & promotion—but I vary what and when. I don’t necessarily write every day. I find that my writing will come in spurts. Some months I’ll write 2 or 3 manuscripts while some months I write none, I’ll just revise.
CGE: What do you find to be the hardest part of writing?
The middle of a story is always the hardest for me. I tend to know how I want to begin and end, but getting my character from A to Z is a puzzle I have to figure out.
CGE: Can you share a something with this blog that others don’t know about you or your writing?
The first piece I ever had accepted for publication was a flash fiction story for adults published in “Six Sentences.”
CGE: What’s in the future for Tara Lazar?
More books! I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK will be released next year with Aladdin again, with LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD to follow in 2015. I will continue to write picture books and I hope to delve into middle grade novels, too. This is the career I’ve always wanted, and I’ll continue to work hard at it. My goal is to write someone’s favorite book.
Thanks for joining us, Tara! We’re sure THE MONSTORE will be someone’s favorite.
Connect with Tara:
Tara on Twitter: https://twitter.com/taralazar
Tara on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authortara
Tara’s Blog: http://taralazar.com/
You can purchase THE MONSTORE at:
Writers’ Rumpus is taking next week off in honor of the July 4th holiday. We’ll be back with our next post on July 9.