Monday, April 4, 2011

GRAFFITI WALL: C.Lee McKenzie, PRINCESS of Las PULGAS

Link 2 other particiants

Caring, Creative, & Committed all begin with the letter C. And so does my next guest who's gracing the GRAFFITI WALL with her publishing splatters, today.

Welcome, all you A-Z Challengers, to the Alleyway and a post spotlighting a fabulous lady and writer. Normally, I keep my posts shorter. But today I think you'll appreciate the length and the fountain of knowledge shared with you. Also, you can ENTER for a chance to win a 1st Five Page critique and a brand-spanking new book!! Read on...

The written word is her second nature, having been writing for as long as she can remember. Being an experienced traveler has given her a respective view of the world, cultures, and people. She's a woman with an endearing heart of gold.
C.Lee McKenzie, Author of PRINCESS of Las PULGAS (YA, Fall 2010) & SLIDING on the EDGE (YA, 2009)

I first met C.Lee when I joined my online writing community of YAlitchat. She was so dear to review some of my work. Her kid-glove yet honest approach gave me courage to finally hammer out a useful query letter, gaining me some requests of material. We're even closer now, being two of eighteen who run the operations of YAlitchat. I'm thrilled she's here today.


Where you an avid reader as a child?

Yes. I always loved to read. I spent a lot of time in the library because I usually lived with my grandparents and their book selection had real page turners like The Life of Boswell--you know, the guy who wrote diaries and bios for famous people in the 1700's. A few paragraphs of old Boswell and I was nose down in the book. I did use it to teach myself how to type though. That saved me a semester of Typing1. Thanks, Boswell.


What first made you want to write?

I've always written something. When I was in grade school I wrote plays and conscripted the kids in my neighborhood to play the parts. We would put on plays in my grandfather's garage and charge a nickel. No overhead. No capital investment. All profit. Maybe all that early financial success is what kept me engaged in writing. Probably not. I just like doing it.

When I started writing Sliding on the Edge I really wanted to express my concern and confusion over the issue of young people's self-abuse. That was the motivation; then I got hooked on the process and kept going. I don't think I planned to be a novelist; it just happened.

What was your favorite book during the middle grade years? High school years? Why did these appeal to you and how are they different from said age literature today?

Alice in Wonderland was my favorite early book. I never got tired of following Alice down the rabbit hole. In high school, The Last of the Mohicans then Catcher in the Rye then To Kill a Mockingbird . . . so many that I can't list them. Alice appealed to me because of the magical possibilities in the story. Later, it appealed because of the social comments, but that's after I became somewhat "sophisticated."  I think I liked Alice better before my sophistication set in. Adventure was what made me love Mohicans, the total boy-jerk-lost and pathetic aspect of Catcher got to me--It's kind of dated now, but it was a break though novel that made a lot of writers aware of the young readers. With Catcher you had an MC you could identify with. In Mockingbird, the message about prejudice and hate and love and right versus wrong--all of that made the book appealing.

I don't think there's a difference between good literature of the past and the present in terms of the voice and the compelling stories (language excepted). I do think that many of today's books try to satisfy the need for immediacy that our TV media brains demand. And I think that because we're used to the thirty minutes, everything-resolved-at-the-end kind of story, some books do just that. However, some don't, and I think those will be the "new" classics in the future. IMHO That's why I like to read Rostoff and Hinton and Cormier. They stir the pot, don't give you a lovely ending and leave you thinking.


I have to say, I love your second answer. It's so true about concise TV episodes and how as a society of watchers/readers we've grown the need for instant gratification. 


Favorite book on writing.

Sol Stein's Stein on Writing. He taught me sooooo much about writing fiction. I've recommended him to my writer friends whenever they ask for a t.

I know you've been speaking at some schools. What are the most popular questions the kids ask?

It doesn't matter where I speak. The first question is usually, "What does the C stand for in your name?" 

Hah...so appropriate for this A-Z Challenge!!

How much do you think a writer's life experiences and upbringing impacts their writing?

Oh, a lot. Our life experiences are the "grist for the mill." We draw on all that we've done, all that we've known, the people, the places in our lives. Of course, we filter all of this, so when it comes to the page it's seldom as we experienced it. That's what's interesting. My mom reads what I write and she'll say things like, "That's not the way that place looked."  Or, "That didn't happen when we lived there."
"No, Mom, that's the way it looks or happens after my adult brain gets through with it."

Three most important lessons you've learned from building a writing career.

It's not a nine to five job.
It's important to be kind and be fair and expect the same. If you don't get that from people, move on.
Maybe consider coal mining instead?

Like chocolate? If so, dark or milk chocolate?

I like dark with nuts. Without crunch, chocolate doesn't interest me.

You have a wonderful website you have, particularly the section for teachers and parents. I think it's fantastic. 

Thanks for the compliment. I do love my website, even after these three years of looking at it. It was important to have the teachers and parents section when I wrote Sliding on the Edge because I was passionate about the seriousness of self-abuse and suicide. I wanted to contribute something to help and this was my way--increase awareness. 

How long did it take you to write Princess of Las Pulgas, and where did the idea come from?

The truth is I'd sold Sliding on the Edge a week before I was scheduled to go to New York for a special pre-conference session at an SCBWI conference. This pre-conference was giving writers an opportunity to have editors discuss their first pages. After selling the book I intended to ask for help on, I had nothing to take, so I sat down and wrote: "What if a girl who has everything suddenly has nothing?" That was the beginning of Princess. Ironically, a year after I started, the economy tanked, so I thought either my editor was going to hate this because it's right on, or she was going to love it because it's right on. Guess it was the latter. I finished Princess in about a year.

The Princess of Las Pulgas is a story about a girl who has everything, and then suddenly almost nothing. Book trailer. 

Share with us your other writing experiences.

Some things about writing Sliding on the Edge: I researched until I was buried in notes about self-abuse and suicide. I learned a lot that I hadn't expected to learn, and since learning new stuff is always exciting, this experience whetted my appetite to continue doing something that required research and organizing that research within a story so it was "enjoyable."  (Whew! Long sentence.) Another interesting thing: I was surprised when readers asked me about my own self-abuse. That was really a surprise to discover that people thought I'd written from personal experience.

I love to write Middle Grade adventure stories and I've written three. Two are still on my C Drive and haven't seen the light of day outside my crit groups. And I really love to write MG short stories. I've had a couple of those published. Then, sometimes to kind of floss my brain, I write non-fiction. In fact, one of my non-fiction pieces will be out in Stories for Children in May. I heart that ezine.

Tell us a bit about your MG work. And any works ready for submission...

I'm subbing one right now, but with little success. It's a story I wrote a few years ago and have edited fiercely because over the years I've learned a lot about how to write. The early versions were pretty terrible--so much so that blush to think I actually sent it out. No wonder it came back like a rocket. Agents and editors should have flamed it.  I like to have things wrapped up and having that  MG novel out there would make me feel I'd accomplished what I set out to do.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and wisdom with us all!

ALLEYWALKERS, In need of a 1st FIVE PAGE Critique?? ENTER by leaving a comment, tweeting, facebooking. *Those are required.* If you choose to link the contest via your sidebar or even do a blog post, those will count for extra entries. Please leave your links with your comment. TY!!

For the PRINCESS of Las PULGAS BOOK GIVEAWAY, just leave a comment. Easy-peasy!!

Following me and/or C.Lee is not necessary to enter, but we'd love to have you. The contest will run until April 17th. WINNERS, chosen by random.org., will be announced on the 18th. 
Want more C.LEE? Visit her Website, Blog, or Facebook. Better yet - purchase her books! 

34 comments:

  1. Awesome C post, and great interview!! I love the sound of the Princes of Las Pulgas, I always like to hear about the background on the inspiration for books. ;-)

    PS: Is the critique for YA only?

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  2. Loved the interview. So much great advice. Sound like a great book. That's so funny C. Lee's first question at school visits is about her name.

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  3. Very inspiring and informative interview. Thanks for publishing this!

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  4. Great interview! I thought C.Lee got the best compliment ever when readers thought she'd written Sliding on the Edge from personal experience. Loved the trailer for Princess... too. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. You don't need to enter me for the contest, but just wanted to say "great interview" and so glad to see C. Lee joining you here on the GW.

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  6. I think it's funny that everyone wants to know what 'C' stand for.

    Here in Mexico, Pulgas are like flea markets that line the streets on a weekly basis, is that what you meant by it?

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  7. Thanks for the great interview, Sheri and C. Lee! And I love the new look.

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  8. Funny, the first thing I thought when I saw C. Lee McKenzie's name for the first time was, "I wonder what the C stands for." Apparently I'm still a kid. ;)

    Great interview. I loved hearing the inspiration for both books, each of which sound fantastic.

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  9. Nice to learn more about Lee. Great advice on writing, too.

    Thanks, ladies! :)

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  10. BTW, Lee you have an awesome website!! Love the bookshelf links!

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  11. I've met C. Lee before. Glad to get re-acquainted. Cormier is one of my favorite authors. He did write the kind of books that will endure, those with great depth of character and theme.

    And I'm happy to meet you, Sheri, through the A to Z.
    Ann Best, Long Journey Home

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  12. I haven't read Sol Stein's book. Must head over to Amazon!! :-)

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  13. Great interview. C. Lee is amazing!

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  14. Wow! Did I write all of that? Thanks so much Sheri and thanks to your guests. It has been wonderful to be here on this great blog.

    To answer the all time favorite question, my first name is Cheryl. :-)

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  15. Fantastic interview, ladies!

    Count me in!

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  16. This is fabulous! Thanks again, please just enter me for the book giveaway :)

    Vivien
    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

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  17. awesome interview, and I love the premise of the Princess novel. Great stuff, Thanks, guys! And it's funny b/c I was thinking about suicide in YA books as my post for Thurs. Cue Twilight Zone music~ :o) xoxo

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  18. You all are so wonderfully sweet! Thanks for visiting and supporting C.Lee...Cheryl. Too funny.

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  19. An excellent interview ladies! Alice In Wonderland was always one of my favorite's too! I loved learning more about C.Lee and her work!

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  20. I would love to win a copy of the book - - thank you.

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  21. Excellent interview and wonderful words!

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  22. Fun interview :) Isn't it interesting that people always think our books are based only on our life experiences? And yet, where would that leave SF/F (or romance!) as a genre if it was only our experience?

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  23. Cool interview! I love Alice in Wonderland too, and I've got that Sol Stein book. Princess has a deep storyline, and very relevant to the times.

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  24. Very creaTIVE 'c' Post. C.Lee I have missed you:)

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  25. SO awesome of you to promote another awesome for your "C" post. I don't need to be entered into the contest, but I will check out C Lee's work!

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  26. *Waving* out here to you all. So nice of you to stop in and say on Sheri's super blog.

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  27. lovely interview...

    if you write poetry and wish to share weekly with fellow poets in a poetry community,

    please check out

    http://jinglepoetry.blogspot.com/
    http://thursdaypoetsrallypoetry.blogspot.com/

    welcome join any of those communities.
    comment to ask questions.

    thanks.

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  28. I've had the pleasure of working with Lee on my first five. She did a great job, and was very kind.

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  29. Cool. Great interview. I tweeted!

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  30. I'm a follower of both of y'all and this book has ben on my TBR list for awhile so I'd love to win!

    http://twitter.com/#!/writerWyoming/status/56232846733484032

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/margoberendsen/posts/153054448091084

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  31. Another great interview, Sheri! Now I'm off to check out C.Lee's website...

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  32. Great interview Sheri! It was nice to get to know C. Lee better. Both books are on my TBR list. They look great.
    I will put the contest in my sidebar.
    Thanks.
    email christine(dot)danek(at)verizon(dot)net

    Love the new look!

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  33. Great interview, Alice in Wonderland is the best!!!

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