2014 Conference

Interview with Patrice Caldwell

In preparation for Ch1Con this coming weekend, we’re posting interviews with all our wonderful speakers this week! Our first interview is with Patrice Caldwell, who will be speaking Saturday on world building and on our panel.

Patrice Caldwell

1. Tell us about yourself.

Hi! I’m a 21-year-old student at Wellesley College in MA (this upcoming year is my last year!!). I love to read and write and bake and spend time with family & friends. As a fun fact, well, I don’t know how fun this is, LOL, but I’m slightly pigeon toed.

2. You’re an Associate Publicist at Spencer Hill Contemporary. How has working on the “other side” affected you as a writer?

So much. Both good and bad. The good is that whenever I get to the point of having my books published, I’m going to be all over the marketing and publicity side of things. I have developed a strong eye for what works and doesn’t work in relation to the publishing industry, and I’m hyper aware of the importance, especially for debut authors, of getting in house backing in terms of marketing and publicity. It’s much better to go with a smaller house who is committed to marketing a book and publicizing an author than a larger house who is going to give you the basics. Sales matter a lot, especially pre-release day pre-orders and sales around the first month of a book’s publication, and an author’s sale record determines future books, advances, etc…

However the bad is that because I see things through a heavy marketing and publicity lens. It’s often hard for me to follow through on a story idea that I know is crowded in the market now. In other words I’m really big on not chasing trends, which, though mostly good, can sometimes be bad if what I’m working on happens to be trendy.

3. You won the 2014 SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Winter Student Writer Scholarship. (Congrats!) The scholarship provides an opportunity for student writers to attend the SCBWI winter conference in New York City and meet with publishing professionals while there. Did winning this scholarship affect how you view the publishing industry and/or interact with others in it?

Thanks you! You know I really haven’t told many people about that award, but I should because it’s such a great opportunity. I encourage those eligible to apply. The conference was both amazing and overwhelming. I was exhausted by the end of every day. It was worth it though. I met amazing editors such as John Green’s editor, who was a part of my critique circle (spot-on feedback), and one of my dream editors. I also met agents I’d seen on twitter (made me realize they’re people, too) as well as writers I knew from Twitter (that was so cool!). At first I was so nervous, but the experience proved that the children’s writing community is made of some of the nicest, most energetic people you’ll ever meet. I was one of the youngest people there, but that didn’t scare me away, it only made me more determined to get my stories out into the world!

4. You write both middle grade and young adult fiction. What are some of the differences in writing the two?

YA comes easy to me. It’s so fresh in my memory, and I know people say this isn’t so, but there are topics you can touch on in more depth (or more direct, e.g. heavy romantic plotlines) than you can in MG. But, MG is where my heart is. It’s the age I learned to love reading, and the books I read when I was in that age range left a vivid mark on my life. The feeling of loving a book that I had then is one I rarely have now. I love creating stories that have the ability to give a child that.

With MG voice is key. People are always saying agents, editors want MG, but the thing is that it’s a hard voice to nail. My writing for children class I took last Fall had an in depth discussion on how the books that many consider classics, like Narnia, wouldn’t, or would be hard to, sell today.

With YA, though romance doesn’t have to be a strong element, readers like it as some part of the book because this is the age when you’re experiencing those firsts.

I don’t think everyone can or should write both YA & MG. There’s been a lot of adult authors trying to write MG lately and so many of those books are horrible. I work extremely hard to capture the MG & YA voice. Luckily for me, I have four siblings. One is smack in the middle of the MG age range so I just listen to her and her friends talk.

5. What are some of your interests outside of writing and reading?

I have so many. Unfortunately, college makes them hard to pursue. I really like baking. I also like traveling, being outdoors (my college’s campus is beautiful and I’m from TX so I love the sun) and seeing plays and musicals. I did theater (costumes, makeup, and acting) for 7-8 years and almost went to acting school so I love nothing more than to see a live performance and dissect it in my head (e.g. how did they build the set, what kind of makeup did they use, etc…). Theater also helps my writing because I see my stories as live performances or movies. Speaking of which, I love watching TV & movies. Some favorites are Leverage, Game of Thrones, OITNB, Ocean’s trilogy, anything with Natalie Portman, Matrix trilogy, Star Wars (yes, all 6), LOTR, X-Men, and anything by Joss Whedon. I also have a growing addiction to Pinterest (I blame my writing for this). I love fashion (wanted to go to fashion design school when I was younger), and it’s a dream of mine to go to all “big 4” fashion weeks (NYC, London, Paris, & Milan).

6. What is your dream career path for after college?

I feel like I’m already living it. I want to be a writer and I want to do publicity or marketing for a publishing house. So, yeah, it would be a dream if I could keep doing what I’m doing and have time to travel as well. I’d also be super happy working at a lifestyle magazine as a Creative Director (eventually)…getting to write about movies, plays, fashion, that would be awesome (I write for the Arts section of my school’s newspaper).

7. Quick: List five books (either coming out or already released) that you’re excited to read.

I’m going to cheat a bit (the first two I’ve read).

ILLUSIVE by Emily Lloyd-Jones – X-MEN meets Ocean’s Eleven. Got it? Okay. You want this book. Out July 15; it’s her YA Sci-Fi Thriller debut. Emily sent me an ARC, and I’m reading it now. Has one of the best openings I’ve ever read.

POINTE by Brandy Colbert – OMG, so good. It’s a YA Contemporary novel that came out in April. It is beautifully written and has a bit of a mystery/suspense twist. Brandy sent me an ARC, and it changed my life.

TRUST ME, I’M LYING by Mary Elizabeth Summer – This one is a contemporary con book. Says fans of Ally Carter’s Heist Society will love it, and I LOVE that series. It’s her YA Thriller/Mystery debut. (Yes, I’m a bit obsessed with con books and movies. Might be because I’m working on two…)

MONSTOROUS by Marcy-Kate Connolly – I. CANNOT. WAIT. THIS. BOOK. OMG. It sounds so good. Here’s the snippet of the blurb: Reminiscent of Frankenstein and tales by the Brothers Grimm, this debut novel stands out as a compelling, original story that has the feel of a classic. It’s Upper MG/lower YA with girl MC! Comes out in 2015. (Why is that so far away??)

WICKED LITTLE SECRETS by Kara Taylor – It is the second one in a YA Mystery series. The first one was her YA debut and it was titled, PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, and it was so good. Anne Dowling, the protagonist is a girl you want on your side. She’s so funny and witty. I have this book now, but I have a few books before it in the queue. My review of the first one is on my blog and it shows how much I adore it.

Thanks so much!! This was fun.