Carol Gordon Ekster: I had the pleasure of living in the same town as Alyson and watching her grow up into a beautiful, intelligent, and talented woman. When I heard she was working with the amazing editor, Cheryl Klein, I wanted to find out her story behind her story. Here goes:
Tell us about your debut novel BRACED.
Alyson Gerber: In BRACED, 12-year-old Rachel Brooks is excited for seventh grade. She’s finally earned her place as a forward on her soccer team with her best friends. She really likes a cute boy named Tate. And she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.
Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.
I wrote BRACED because I have scoliosis, and wore a back brace during middle school. There wasn’t a book that talked honestly about this experience, and I wanted to change that.
CGE: Tell us when you began writing and about your path to publication.
AG: After I graduated from college, I took a writing class at The New School with Susan Shapiro. The first essay I ever wrote in her class was about being monitored and treated for scoliosis. It was the first time since my brace came off that I’d really thought about my experience and the impact that it had on me. While taking the class, I published articles in magazines and newspapers and started to really think seriously about writing.
Eventually I applied to MFA programs and decided on the Writing for Children program at The New School, where I learned so much about writing young adult and middle grade fiction and about publishing. I started writing Braced after I graduated and revised the manuscript with beta readers from The New School as well as other author friends.
For me, the hardest part of getting published was the very long and painful process of querying agents. I found it challenging, because I was by myself advocating for my own writing. Once I found the right agent, Kate McKean, a wonderful advocate for my work, I wasn’t alone. I had a partner who I knew believed in my book.
As we were getting ready to go on submission with Braced, Cheryl Klein tweeted that she wore a brace for years and was looking for a book involving scoliosis and bracing. Kate sent my manuscript to Cheryl, and it worked out!
CGE: What is your writing schedule like?
AG: I get my best writing done in the morning, so I’m usually up very early. I try to exercise first, and then write at least 1,000 words per day unless I’m on a tighter deadline. I’m not a very fast writer, so writing more than that can be challenging for me.
What does the future hold for Alyson Gerber?
AG: For right now, more middle grade!