Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Giveaway with Valerie Bodden

Hey everyone! I want to introduce you to my wonderful critique partner, Valerie Bodden, who just barely signed with Jane Dystel of Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret!

Hey Valerie! Let’s start off with a generic question. Tell us a little bit about yourself!

That should be an easy one, right? But somehow, it never is! Let’s see. I’ve been writing children’s nonfiction for the school and library market for 12 years now and have written more than 200 books about everything from history and biography to bugs and roller coasters. I’m also a mom of four and a wife. So busy times – but I love it!

I love that you write children’s nonfiction! How did you get into that market?

I always loved writing both fiction and nonfiction, but I actually kind of stumbled into the nonfiction market when my husband and I were newly married. There happened to be several publishing houses in the area, so I decided it was time to go for my dream of being a writer/editor. I will always be grateful to that publisher (Creative Education, which I still write for) for giving me my first chance in publishing.

You’ve been doing nonfiction for quite a while then. What’s the biggest difference you find between that and writing fiction?

Both offer their own rewards and challenges, but I think the biggest difference lies in voice and intent. With my nonfiction, I’m working to present facts in a compelling manner that will keep readers interested, without ever losing site of the information I’m relating. But in fiction, even though there’s still plenty of research to do, I want the facts to be woven in so seamlessly that readers don’t even notice them. That, and the fact that I can completely make things up in fiction, of course.

Tell us about the book that you’re hoping to publish.

It’s called DROWNING IN AIR, and it’s a young adult contemporary novel told from dual point of view. Calli is a swimmer trying to do everything while taking care of her dying mom. Noah is a heart-transplant survivor taking risks to prove his life isn’t some cosmic mistake. I think the story is a little bit heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful, and I hope it shows that sometimes our greatest strength comes in making ourselves vulnerable to others.

How long did it take you to write and revise before you started querying?

I started this novel for NaNoWriMo 2014 – my first NaNoWriMo! I finished the first draft by early 2015. Then I set the book aside as I was swallowed with nonfiction deadlines. I came back to it in the summer to revise, and somewhere during that time, you read it and gave me great feedback (including keeping me from making a really embarrassing mistake about heart monitors!) and I revised again. By early 2016, I thought I was ready to query, so I sent out a small batch but then got sidetracked again by deadlines. The first queries didn’t result in an offer, but based on feedback, I did another revision this past summer. By fall, I was ready to query again, especially after polishing my query letter and first 250 words in the Nightmare on Query Street contest. So about two years, on and off.

I was so excited when you had me read through it! I thought you did such a great job of showing teenagers trying to figure themselves out, especially when they have to deal with illness too.

Thank you!

Did you base it off real experiences, or were your characters inspired by someone you know?

Fortunately, I have not personally gone through the struggles my characters face. But I’ve known teens who have cared for sick parents, sometimes without much help. So that really sparked Calli’s storyline. And Noah’s storyline occurred to me when my daughter’s class made gifts for a young boy with cancer from another school. I started wondering what that boy would be like when he grew up – how does a childhood illness like that impact the rest of a person’s life? And what would happen if they ever met? Of course, I took those initial seeds and expanded them into something completely different and unrecognizable, but that’s how it all started.

I’m so excited that Noah and Calli’s story is going to be out there! How did you react when you finally got an offer for representation?

Thank you! Reading that email took my breath away. And only my preschooler was home to confirm that the email really said what I thought it said. I kept telling her I couldn’t believe this was happening. Fortunately, she just went along with it, giving me big smiles and nods, like Mommy acted like this every day. After I talked on the phone with my agent (which still feels a bit surreal to write) it took a while for everything to sink in – I mean, like days. But then my family took me out to dinner to celebrate and that made it feel a bit more real. It’s been really fun to see how excited my kids are about it. I didn’t think it would matter much to them, but they’re so happy for me, which is sweet!

So I guess the biggest questions is: How do you find time to write with four kids?

Haha! I do a lot of juggling around naptime, bedtime, and any time I have to take them to practice or somewhere I’ll be waiting a while. Plus, my husband is incredibly supportive and takes care of things around here as much as possible when he’s home so that I can have time to write. It’s gotten easier in the past year or so with my daughter in preschool part time, but it’s still a challenge. Fortunately, I love what I do, so that makes it worth the missed sleep.

I’m glad, because you definitely wrote something I think a lot of people are going to love!

Aw, thank you! I hope so!

Congratulations on finding your agent! I hope we hear more good news in the near future!

Thanks so much Krista! You’re the best.

And it looks like you have something planned to celebrate too, right?

Sure do! I was helped by so many people in making my query and manuscript shine, and I’d love to do the same for someone else. So I’m giving away a query and first 10 pages critique to one lucky winner.

I can speak from experience. Your critiques are fantastic!

Thanks for taking the time to do this, Krista! I’ve had so much fun!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Our Lucky Winner is Megan Cutler! We'll be sending you an email with the specifics! Thanks to everyone who participated! 

Valerie Bodden is the author of more than 200 children’s books. Her books have received favorable reviews from Booklist, Children’s Literature, Foreword Magazine, Horn Book Guide, VOYA, and School Library Journal. Valerie lives in Wisconsin with her husband, four children, one dog, two cats, a growing collection of fish, and miscellaneous bugs that her children have ‘rescued’ from the outdoors. She spends most of her time writing or wrangling children and animals. Visit her online at