Interview with Heather Petty

Heather Petty graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in English and a minor in Journalism. Her love of reading as a kid quickly turned into a love of writing for kids. But it wasn’t until friend and author Cynthia Cotten nudged her toward fictionalizing her experiences working at Hume Lake Christian Camps that she discovered and fell in love with Young Adult books. Heather is represented by Eleanor Jackson of the Markson Thoma Literary Agency. Her novel CAMP WYLDE is currently on submission.

Do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite?
I am so beautiful, sometimes people weep when they see me. And it has nothing to do with what I look like really. It is just that I gave myself the power to say that I am beautiful, and if I could do that, maybe there is hope for them too. And the great divide between the beautiful and the ugly will cease to be. Because we are all what we choose.
— Margaret Cho
I adore Margaret Cho. And really, this is one of those quotes that inspires giant conversations that go deep into the night fueled by wine and coffee.

Recently you landed a great agent, Eleanor Jackson. Big Congrats! What’s the best way she encourages you?
I think the coolest part about Eleanor, beyond her professionalism and utter brilliance, is that she really gets what I’m trying to do with my work, and her notes reflect that. But she never dictated the way an issue needed to be fixed. Working through revisions with her, she would point out something that needed to be changed, but then let me decide how to fix it creatively. I think that is essential for me—that she trusts me artistically to find a way through the problem.

When you look back on your college days was there a professor/teacher that left an impression on you? What did they do?
Yes, actually. I was lucky enough to have some amazing professors in my degree program. But the two that stand out are Lorena Stookey, who helped me reconnect to my love of folklore and mythology, and fantasy author Susan Palwick, who was my mentor in college. She saw something in my work (as horrid as I now think it was), and even opened her home to me when my work schedule conflicted with one of her fiction seminars. With Prof. Palwick’s guidance, I really started to see kidlit writing as a career I wanted to pursue.

Was there ever a time someone discouraged you? What did you do to turn into something positive?
I think the whole industry is kind of discouraging. It has to allow the best work to come to the top. But really I’m so stubborn that the minute someone tells me I can’t do something, I have to prove they’re wrong. I knew I wanted to do this for a living, and that I was willing to work as hard as I needed to make it happen.
I guess I was lucky, though, in that I never had anyone in my life who went out of their way to minimize what I was doing or discourage me from the path. My friends and family have supported me in every step.

You are also a mother. What’s the best time for you to sit down and write?
I’m a mother and I work full time, so writing time is at a premium. These books would never have been written without the support of my husband and parents, and my mother-in-law, all of whom have spent hours and hours watching and loving on my daughter so that I could have time to work on this.
Really, I treat it as a second job. Depending on how close I am to finishing a project, I eat dinner with my family and then either disappear for writing time then or after my little girl goes to bed. I spend a majority of my weekend writing. I meet with a few fantastic writing friends on Friday night for writing time. I write through most of Saturday, and then our SCBWI Critique group meets Sunday mornings for either work days or critique sessions.
It sounds like a lot, but I love the work, so it doesn’t feel like a hardship.

Are there ever times when you feel your creative spark dying? If so, how do you light it back up?
Creativity is never the problem for me. I usually have so many projects on hold, that when I get stuck on one project, there are plenty of other ideas to kick around. The real problem is my schedule. After eight to nine hours of sitting in front of a computer for work, coming home and opening the laptop again can be very hard.
But, again, I love the work. And I think that’s what keeps me going at the end of the day—I love to spend time in these worlds and create stories where my characters can play.
That’s not to say I never get blocked. The two things that almost always work to break my block are changing medium and venue. So instead of typing on the laptop, I pick up a notebook and pen and write that way for a while. Or, instead of going up to my room to write, I go to the local coffee shop or even to the grocery store and work until closing. I wrote over half of CAMP WYLDE at the little Starbucks closest to my house.

Thanks Heather and good luck with Camp Wylde!  If you would like to find out more about Heather you can here.

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