Tricia Springstubb

Tricia Springstubb writes gorgeously voiced and heartfelt middle grade and has received numerous starred reviews. She lives in Ohio.

Tricia Springstubb has written several MG novels, all published by HarperCollins, which have been very well received – the latest being EVERY SINGLE SECOND. She is also the author of the CODY chapter-book series, published by Candlewick, with whom she also has  a picture book, PHOEBE AND DIGGER.

She worked for many years as a children’s librarian in a public library, and has also been a frequent book critic for a Cleveland newspaper. In 2009 one of her short stories won the Iowa Review Fiction Award, judged by Ann Patchett. She is also a recipient of an Ohio Arts Council grant for her work.

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Author Interview

When and how did you start writing?

I began writing around the same time I began reading - the two have always twined together for me. I shamelessly imitated my favorite writers for many years.

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

I loved Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking and Mary Poppins, and I had an edition of Hans Christian Anderson with illustrations that made my hair stand on end. But the first book that made me truly swoon was A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST by Gene Stratton Porter. It was so romantic and heart wrenching and exotic, not to mention Elinor's struggles with her mother were even worse than my own. I both identified and was swept off to a totally new world.

Can you tell us about your writing career so far?

I published over a dozen books for children and young adults, all of them without an agent, and then for years focused on writing for adults, and working as a librarian. My first novel, GIVE AND TAKE, grew out of a short story that an editor urged me to expand. It's about friendship, family, identity, first love, how much of ourselves we keep and what we give away, and there's a lot about nature and gardens - all themes I continue to return to. A key moment came when my editor helped me see that it didn't have to have a happy, tidy ending - that, in fact, an ending like that would cheat my readers.

When I started to send out work for children again, I realized how much the publishing world had changed, and that I really, really needed an agent. I’m so glad to have landed at Greenhouse, and hope WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET is the beginning of the second half of my career as a children’s writer.

Tell us about FOX STREET.

I wrote FOX STREET at least three times. Originally it had far more sub-plots and a cast of thousands. A number of people who looked at it praised the writing but said there was way too much going on. I put the book away for a while, but never stopped thinking about Mo and Merce and the Wild Child. A key moment was realizing that what really moved and interested me was Mo’s relationship with her father — her coming to understand he isn’t perfect, and can’t protect her from everything. All the book’s other themes — the things we have to let go, the new things that replace them — flow from that.

I rewrote the book from scratch and this time it worked! I had to learn to let go of things myself, in order to find the heart of the story.

Was it hard to get an agent ? Can you talk us through the process?

When I began to look for an agent, I sent out eight queries. I got a couple of nibbles, but Sarah was the one who called me up on a Sunday night and said, 'I love this'. I've been grateful many times over for that passion of hers.

Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?

I make my coffee, read my e-mails, and then I write for as long as my brain holds out, or, if it's a work day, till I have to leave for the library where I work in the children's room. I'm very strict about all this! I have a desk by a window that looks out on the street, so I can watch people go by. I write fiction in the morning and work on book reviews in the afternoon, if I can.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?

I've gotten plenty of rejections, but somehow been too unimaginative to give up writing. I think persistence is key, and trying new things. Don't get stuck in one setting or voice or genre.

And be sure to have writing friends, who will reassure you you're not alone and not a lunatic.

Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?

Plot is something I always struggle with, but I think I'm getting better at it. Character and voice go together for me, and once I find either of the two, I'm off and running.

Which favourite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?

I'd love to have dinner with Virginia and Leonard Woolf. I think my husband and I would really get along with them!

No one but Harper Lee could have invented him, but I love Boo Radley.