This is the blog of children's book author and elementary school teacher, Stacy Barnett Mozer. I blog about my own writing journey, the journey of other kidlit authors, my classroom, and talk about books. Thanks for stopping by. Your thoughts are always welcome (and encouraged).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Interview With Middle Grade Author Laura Toffler-Corrie

Laura Toffler-Corrie is a freelance writer who holds an M.S. in school psychology, as well as an M.F.A. in dramatic writing from New York University, where she also taught writing. She has written for a number magazines including 'Parenting' and 'StoryWorks.' Laura lives in Westchester, New York with her husband, twin daughters and a variety of noisy pets. This is her first novel.

When I first met Laura, she was an aspiring writer. As a great networker, she used her connections to run a number of events for my group, The SCBWI Writers of Lower Fairfield. It's been exciting to know her as she went through this process of getting an agent and finding a home for her book. I hope her experience will inspire you.

How did you come up with the idea to write THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF AMY FINAWITZ?
Growing up, and into college, my best friend and I used to write each other these letters, in the form of plays, poems, short stories, just for a laugh. They were all about our lives, boys, friends, parents, neighbors. This inspired the letter format for AMY. The character of Beryl came from my experiences with the Chabad, an ultra religious Jewish sect. As far as the historical facts in the book, I stumbled on those, but they’re all true.

Who read your writing before it was published? Do you belong to a critique group?
I enjoy the social aspect of critique groups, but it‘s hard for me to share my unfinished work. Too much feedback (even when it’s intelligent and well meaning) just disrupts my process. I do attend Pat Reilly Giff’s writing workshops at The Dinosaur’s Paw in Fairfield. She’s an amazing teacher and often reads my work aloud to the class. That’s an invaluable, sometimes humbling but usually exhilarating, experience. I would recommend a good workshop to any writer.

I know you have an agent. How did you get her to represent you? What was the process like once you were represented?
I’m repped by Elana Roth at the Caren Johnson Literary Agency. I initially queried an agent at Firebrand Literary Agency, who expressed interest, but his plate was full. Just about this time, Elana joined the agency, so he passed my manuscript to her. It was great kismet for me! She was excited about the book and signed me on. We moved to CJLA and the rest is history. My agent found my editor, the wonderful Nancy Mercado at Roaring Brook Press, MacMillan. Basically, I trusted Elana’s judgment about the match. Then once Nan and I started talking about the book I knew that she was exactly the right person for me and AMY.

What was the process like once you started moving towards publication?
At first, it was a bit scary. You want to make your book the best it can be, you want to please your editor, you fear that she will discover you’re really an imposter and ask for your advance back! Really though, once you start working with your editor, it’s very inspiring. I’ve learned so much. Over the course of the process, I received a few ‘revision letters,’ with all of her suggestions mapped out. It was a useful tool to refer to. But there were phone calls too and emails that went back and forth. Primarily, it’s about mutual respect and communication. You both want the same thing: a great book.

Last question. What do you feel you do best as a writer? What do you need to work on?
I think I'm good at humor and character. I wish I was a bit more disciplined and was more creative in the morning. I’m pokey in the morning. As it stands, I do my best writing later in the day, but then sometimes at night, I’m just fried.

Thank you so much for answering these questions, Laura. I'm looking forward to reading THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF AMY FINAWITZ when it comes out this Fall of 2010.

For more about Laura and AMY visit her on her website, on
Facebook, or on Twitter.

You can also leave a question for her in the comments. She may stroll by and answer.

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