author of See All the Stars (August 14, 2018)
Author, I Never is a segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.
Question the first: Kit, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
The summer after my high school graduation, I was asked to choose a “first year studies” course at my future college, a year-long class in a discipline of my choosing. I debated long and hard between a theater option and a creative writing option, and I chose writing. In retrospect, that decision feels like a small first step toward a serious writing life, one that I would choose again and again throughout college, after graduation, and into my adult life.
Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?
There have been many highs: signing with my agent, going on submission, receiving an offer of publication for my debut YA novel, then another for my debut full-length poetry book, signing my contracts, revealing my cover, seeing my book go up for pre-order, etc. But probably the proudest moment so far happened in NYC in March of last year, when I had the opportunity to get together for dinner with my YA editor, Ruta Rimas at S&S/McElderry Books, and my agent, Erin Harris at Folio. In that moment, sitting down to dinner as three smart, literary, driven women, it really hit home how fantastic the team behind See All the Stars is. It was a moment of trust and affirmation: I wrote this book, and now it has the best possible team behind it to usher it into the world.
That sounds like such an amazing moment! Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?
On the one hand, I felt like I’d “made it” the moment I first spoke with my agent on that thrilling offer of representation call. Erin’s clear and insightful editorial feedback and industry acumen were affirming signals that even if this wasn’t the book, even if there was a long road to publication ahead, I’d found a fantastic literary and business partner, and I would “make it,” sooner or later. I was lucky, of course, that See All the Stars went on to find a fantastic home at McElderry, another signal that I’d “made it.”
But on the other hand, when do we really settle into the feeling that we’ve succeeded as writers, that we’ve arrived and are here to stay? I don’t know. I don’t think that confidence and conviction comes to many of us easily, and I know for me, it hasn’t yet. Maybe that feeling will settle in a bit if my debut sells well, or when I sell another book. There’s always something else to aspire toward in the publishing industry, but for me, “making it” is not about the potential accolades or awards or reviews, although of course they have their place in the big picture of success. But my personal sense of “making it” means sustaining a long-term career as a writer, which means writing and publishing not just a first and second book, which I’m thrilled to be doing through my two-book contract with McElderry, but writing and publishing books—hopefully many books—beyond that initial publishing contract. And that’s going to take a combination of time, determination, and luck, just like getting that first book deal took time, determination, and luck. So, check back with me in a few years, and I hope to say yes, I’m still here, I’ve made it.
I'll circle back in five. Hopefully we'll both be on deadline. Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?
Oh my gosh, yes. I’m so grateful to the mentorship I received from the creative writing faculty at Sarah Lawrence College as an undergrad in the early 2000s, and then through Syracuse University’s MFA program in 2009-2012. The faculty with whom I studied are all experienced authors—many of them poets as well as a few fiction writers—who pushed me to expand as a reader as well as a writer and to hone my craft in both poetry and prose. These authors had made the writing life a reality for themselves, and that example resonated as loudly as any craft advice I received. Being a writer was a possibility, a path I could choose.
So, I come from a formal background in writing, with a poetry focus, but I am equally indebted to the peer young adult authors and those just a step or two ahead of me in the publishing process who took the time to read my work, to celebrate and commiserate with me, and who encouraged me to continue to level up my writing as I worked toward the pursuit of publication. It was from peers and those a step ahead that I learned the most about the practicalities of pursuing agent representation and a traditional path toward publication.
Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?
In a big picture sense—no. I’ve never even remotely considered giving up writing. There have been manuscripts I’ve shelved and times when I’ve had to acknowledge that a particular project wasn’t going to be “the one.” But I don’t think it’s ever occurred to me that writing was something one could just stop doing. I think that kind of stubborn determination has served me well.
Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?
I used to carry around a little notebook in my bag for the ideas that come on the subway, at a party, at work. Now the “notes” function on my phone serves that purpose, and it’s never terribly inconvenient to jot down a quick idea. Recently, I had to dig out my phone on the treadmill at the gym when the exact phrasing for my dedication hit twenty minutes into my workout. Now the only inconvenient place is the shower—maybe I should invest in a waterproof phone case!
Always the shower...Question the seventh: Can you give us hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?
In February of last year, I completed a big developmental revision on See All the Stars for my editor, as part of the post-deal editorial process. As part of that revision, I wrote a new scene wherein Ret brings a copy of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son to the riverbank to read. It was one of my favorite books as a teen, and I knew Ret would share a similar affinity for Johnson’s dark and lyrical short stories. Three months after handing my revision into my editor, Denis Johnson passed away, and while I’d rather have Denis back, putting more words into the world, I’m now especially happy to memorialize him in some small way in See All the Stars’ pages.
That's lovely! And now it's time for the...
I Never Round
The basic rules of I Never, the kid friendly version- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.
I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting.
In Ch. 17 of See All the Stars, the girls share an in-joke involving my made-up word “chai-mai,” a reference to a drink they’ve concocted. The copyeditor kindly queried my invention, but my drink persevered.
I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.
Well…yeah, I never. I’ve been known to turn the light back on to jot something down when drifting off to sleep. (This is when that “notes” app really comes in handy!) I don’t think my brain is wired to allow me to ignore book ideas, even when they definitely don’t hold up in the morning light…
I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.
Ha! My first (trunked) novel, a YA dystopian set in Brooklyn, NY, absolutely began with the main character waking up. The opening changed in revision, but dystopia’s heyday was over, so, onwards!
I never worked on two manuscripts at once.
Absolutely guilty as charged. Multiple times. Sometimes in multiple genres.
I never went several days or even weeks without writing.
Oh, yes, I am more than happy to debunk that “you must write every day” myth. If you want to be a serious writer, you must write. Period. Maybe it’s daily, maybe it’s weekly, maybe it’s on some other schedule of your own design. If writing daily helps you to build a focused, routine writing practice, then wonderful. I’m not here to knock anyone who writes happily on a daily basis. But the longer I tread the path of a professional writer, one who writes as a career, the more my writing practice is scheduled to meet contracts, deadlines, and other external goals. This means that I schedule time to write in a focused way. It might be only on weekends. It might be three days a week. Sometimes, when I’m deep into first drafting, it is every day. The important thing for me is that I schedule my writing time in the same committed way I schedule my day job deadlines—and then I stick to my schedule.
I’ll also add that I’m a firm believer in setting a manuscript aside between drafts to let it simmer away on the back burner for a while. Often I’m working on more than one manuscript at once, in different stages of drafting and revision, so this is easy to do while still moving forward on another project. But if not, that’s okay too. That time away from your manuscript can be just as critical as the time you spend with it, so that you can return to it with fresh eyes.
The break is crucial! I never wrote "for a long moment."
I literally just revised this out of my WIP. How’s this: “For a moment that stretched out so thin and sharp I thought the air might snap and send me reeling, we stared at each other.”
I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.
I’ve never actually attempted NaNoWriMo in November, but I’ve done “Camp NaNo” twice, the past two summers, to help keep me on task while drafting. I…didn’t cheat! Haha. Really. But I also don’t necessarily set 50K goals for the month. I think NaNo can be a great motivator, but I also like the flexibility to adapt it to my own goals. Which I usually exceed. You can hate me now. J
Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for having me, Dana! This was lots of fun. Here are all my key links:
PRE-ORDER See All the Stars:
Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/See-All-Stars-Kit-Frick/9781534404373
Connect on SOCIAL:
Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Kit edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press, edits for private clients, and mentors emerging writers through Pitch Wars. Her debut young adult novel is See All the Stars (Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, August 14, 2018), and her debut full-length poetry collection is A Small Rising Up in the Lungs (New American Press, fall 2018).