January 18, 2017
This week we are pleased to feature middle-grade author, Erin Teagan. Be sure to enter into her giveaway to win a copy of her book, THE FRIENDSHIP EXPERIMENT!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I always wanted to be a writer. And, actually, I loved writing so much, that I was afraid I’d mess something up and lose some of the joy if I studied writing in college and chose it as a career right away. So I went into science – the obvious second choice! I worked in science for ten years and I wrote in the mornings and sometimes during lunch if I could get away. I went to SCBWI conferences, read lots of book on craft, and sent out queries.
By the time I met my agent, I had seven or eight practice manuscripts in my drawer. Science and writing, for me, was the perfect pair. When I got home after a long day of working in the lab, the writer side of my brain was still ready to go. And now, so much of the experiences I had as a scientist inspire my writing today.
Congratulations on your debut middle grade novel, THE FRIENDSHIP EXPERIMENT! Tell us about it and how it came about.
Thank you! THE FRIENDSHIP EXPERIMENT is about Madeline, a girl growing up in a family of scientists. She relates to the world by writing standard operating procedures and following them – until she gets to middle school and finds out it’s going to take more than science to make it through.
The science in the book was inspired by work I did in a lab at the National Institutes of Health where I researched a common blood disorder (that few people know about) called Von Willebrand Disease. It is the same disease that Maddie and her family deal with throughout the story.
Maddie’s character came to me when I was working for a biotech company. I brought my coffee mug upstairs to be washed and noticed that a scientist had put a very detailed and very official standard operating procedure onto the dishwasher in a building where everyone knew how to work an everyday dishwasher. I pictured his home with SOPs taped in key locations. By the TV, at the coffee maker, maybe an SOP on How to Brush Your Teeth taped to his kid’s bathroom mirror. This was when Maddie first popped into my head.
Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?
Long and windy! I started submitting my first book around 2003 and had some great luck initially. My manuscript made it to an editorial meeting and I had several requests for revisions and not long after, a phone call with my dream agent. I couldn’t believe it! My dream was coming true with my very first manuscript! Except, then of course, it didn’t.
I never heard back from the dream agent and my manuscript didn’t make it past the editorial meeting. It ended up being ten more years of writing and submitting and learning before I met my agent, Marie Lamba (and she is a total dream!).
What are you working on now?
I’m working on an exciting work-for-hire project for middle school readers that I can’t wait to share. I’m also working on a second middle grade novel for HMH that is a little less science and a whole lot more middle school angst.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same advice you'd give to aspiring authors?
Share your dreams! When I was young I kept the things that mattered most close to my heart, so close that sometimes nobody even knew they were there. I would give this advice to aspiring authors as well. The road to publication is a lot less daunting when you’re surrounded by people that support and understand what you are doing. I ‘wrote in the closet’ for many years and it was much harder to deal with the ups and downs on my own. If you’re writing a book, tell people, they will cheer you on!
That's great advice. What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I once had to have a splinter surgically removed when I slid across the wooden bleachers in gym class in 8th grade. (And yes, this will be in a book one day.)
Where can people find you online?
Erin Teagan worked in biochemistry labs for more than ten years. She is an avid reader and an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her debut middle grade novel, The Friendship Experiment, came out on November 1 with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.