Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to catch a quick lunch with author Jody Feldman, whose new book—THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES—has just been nominated for the American Library Association’s 2009 Best Books for Young Adults
Jody was on her way to a school visit and feeling in a bit of a whirl from her busy personal life and recent book promotion events which have offered numerous travel opportunities.
As we munched on our Asian-flavored entrees, I asked if she knew that THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES was being considered for the YALSA list.
“I had no idea,” she said. “The book is listed by my publisher for ages 10-14. I guess that makes it borderline young adult.” She explained that she’d been in total shock for at least 10 minutes when she first heard the news.
“How has your life changed since your book has come out?” I asked.
“I’ve not been able to write,” she said immediately. “I’ve been spending more time on publicity, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to writing.” She told me of her new plan to write every morning and leave her afternoons open for publicity work.
When I asked her what had been the most fun and exciting part of her book’s release, Jody said, “Being here and seeing it all happen—the whole bundle of going through what a regular author does. Holding the book in my hand. Getting that connection with the kids. The sense of fulfillment.”
Jody has waited a long time for her well-deserved fulfillment. The idea for THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES first entered her mind nearly 20 years ago as she overheard an unhappy child in the school library trying to find another book with the same feel as Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. She became determined to create a book for adventure-minded young readers. Readers who like puzzles and games and quick-witted contests.
THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES’ journey to print was itself a great adventure—not for the weak of heart. Jody wrote and rewrote the story; she submitted it and received rejection after rejection. She put the story away for a long time, until finally she joined an online writers’ group and began revamping the story yet again. When she finally found an interested agent, Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary, Jody still had to wait another three years before an editor, Virginia Duncan, at HarperCollins’ Greenwillow imprint ultimately perceived THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES’ great potential and helped Jody shape it into the amazing story it is today.
Currently, Jody is working on a new middle grade/young adult book with another seventh-grade boy main character. The book will border on the fantastical—“like you might experience in dreams,” she said.
As we wrapped up our lunch, I asked, ”What advice do you have for writers?”
“If you don’t really, really want to do it (write), don’t do it! Find something else.” She explained how determined writers have to be. “Willing to get down on their knees and scrub the floor sometimes”—knowing that there will be lots of hard work involved in the publishing process. It’s not the glamorous lifestyle so often portrayed in the media.
“And a writer needs to be open to knowledge from wherever you can get it,” Jody said. She likes to listen to kids and adults, to those who like and don’t like her stories. She explained that using all this information can help her write a better story.
I said my goodbyes to Jody as she refilled her to-go cup, fueling up for her school visit in just 15 minutes. She seemed a bit harried but quite happy with her new role as successful children’s author.