Monday, January 24, 2011

An Interview and Giveaway! Welcome, Author Michelle McLean!

I'm so excited to have author Michelle McLean as a guest on my blog today! In addition to being one of the nicest people I've met in the on-line author community, she's a contributor to the blog chain I used to participate in. I met some great people and found friends and crit partners through Michelle. And besides being an uber talented poet and fiction writer, her non-fiction book, HOMEWORK HELPERS: ESSAYS AND TERM PAPERS hit the shelves last week.

Tell us a little about your book, Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers:

Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers is a fun, user-friendly book that guides the reader, step by step, through writing a dozen different types of essays, including the dreaded SAT essay. Using straightforward, plain English, this book shows the reader exactly what they need to do, from start to finish, and includes rough draft, edited, and final draft versions of every type of essay discussed. This book also provides chapters that include tips and instruction on researching, proofreading, and citations.

What was your motivation behind writing the book?

My goal with it is to help people, especially students, get through their assignments with the least amount of pain and confusion possible. Essays are something that everyone has to write, whether they want to or not. Being confused by the process doesn’t make it any easier. It seems like most of the “help” guides out there are so full of complicated language and instructions they don’t help anyone. So I wanted to write a book that would actually help students through the entire process, from picking a topic to turning it in.

What issues did you address or target in Homework Helpers and what was your research procedure?

For the most part, I am just walking my readers through every step of the writing process for a dozen different types of essays. I also address things like researching, proofreading, and citing sources, and included a chapter with tips on how to write the SAT essay. As an English major, I’ve spent a lot of years writing every kind of essay and paper you can imagine. So, my research for the book mainly consisted of triple checking to make sure I had all the right rules for each essay. The sample essays in the book are actually my own essays from my school days, so I used them as a base and went from there.

Query letters vs. Non-fiction proposals: which would you rather write and why?

Ooo tough one LOL Query letters can be a pain, but I think I’d have to go with them. They can be kind of fun to play with and they are much shorter and less involved. A non-fiction proposal contains an overview of the book, a marketing section, a promotion section, an author section, a competition section, a detailed outline, chapter abstracts, and sample chapters. They can easily run 60+ pages.

Are you working on any other non-fiction projects, companions, or follow ups to Homework Helpers?

I am :) I am working on a book on how to write about two dozen different forms of poetry and a book that focuses on literary analysis essays and literary criticisms.

Aside from your non-fiction writing, you also write fiction. How long have you been writing fiction? Was it a natural path to follow from non-fiction or was your non-fiction borne of your fiction writing?

I’ve been writing fiction (with an aim for publication) for six years. I technically started with fiction since I’ve been writing stories and poetry for as long as I can remember. But I’ve always enjoyed writing essays and papers and even started my college career with the goal to become a historian or archivist. My first publications were non-fiction narrative essays in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
So, I’ve sort of always done both, hand in hand.

What is the hardest part of being a non-fiction writer? Fiction? Is one more difficult than the other?

Fiction is more fun, but harder for me than non-fiction. Writing stories for myself and writing them with an eye to get them published are two totally different things. There is an art to storytelling, one I’m still working on.

Non-fiction comes a lot easier to me. But then, I’ve been doing it “professionally” a lot longer. I have a master’s degree in English so I’ve spent a good 20 years writing essays and papers. Non-fiction is basically taking facts and presenting them to your audience. It’s taking information I know or can look up and arranging it in a logical and organized manner.

Fiction is a lot more messy :) There are more potential problems (plot holes, characterization problems, etc). It’s emotional as opposed to the more analytical non-fiction.

Tell us a little about your journey: What was your agent search like? Your submission process? Did you ever feel like tearing your hair out?

You know, I expected it to be hard. I’d spent a couple years repeatedly revising and unsuccessfully querying a novel in the past, so I’d definitely done my time in the query trenches and had more than my fair share of rejections.

So with this book, it was a shock at what a whirlwind it ended up being. From sending my first query to signing with my agent, it was only about 3 ½ weeks. My agent, the fabulous Krista Goering, emailed to set up a phone call within an hour of reading my proposal and I signed with her the day we spoke. It took about six months to get an offer for the book from Career Press.

Would you mind volunteering one random fact about yourself?

Um… my right foot is half a size larger than my left foot, courtesy of my pregnancy with my son :D

Is there anything else about your book you’d like my readers to know

While the book is mainly geared toward junior high, high school, and college students, it also contains chapters on researching and proofreading that can be used by any writer. The processes I outline for writing essays can also be applied to any project, so even if you aren’t currently in school and needing help with essays, you can still find useful information and tips in the book.

In celebration of Michelle's release, we're giving away some sweet swag!

All you have to do to enter is comment on the blog. I'll draw a winner from the comments, just please make sure I have your contact information if you don't supply it on your profile! Thanks for stopping by, Michelle! And good luck!!

If you want to find Michelle's book on the web, you can find it at the following places:

Barnes and Noble


Anonymous said...

Congrats on your book release, Michelle....happy blog touring!!

Matthew Rush said...

Michelle is the best!

Anonymous said...

Woot! Congrats, Michelle!

You're a Jack (or Jackie?) of all trades--NF, fiction, AND poetry!!! SO awesome! :D

Danyelle said...

Congratulations, Michelle! Sounds like an awesome book! Great interview. :D

Mary Lindsey said...

Love your blog, Amanda!

Michelle, you are awesome! Congrats on your release.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm definitely sticking with writing fiction. Queries sound so much easier to write. :D

I've read the book and it's awesome. I wish it were around when I was in school. It would have saved me a lot of grief. ;)

Carolyn Kaufman said...

Congratulations on your release, Michelle! And ooh, lookit the swag! ;)

Iona McAvoy said...

This was fascinating. Since I write a lot of non-fiction (maybe it is fiction to some though) at my work, and try to transition to fiction later in the day and on weekends, I found a lot of connection in your comments here Michelle. Sounds like you are one busy lady too!

Of course the real question is, how do you buy shoes and is your son helping to pay for them?

Rose Moriarty said...

This book sounds perfect for my middle school aged daughter. Can't wait to get it! Thanks!!

Janet Johnson said...

Wow, that non-fiction proposal sounds like A LOT of work! But what a great idea for a book! Congrats Michelle. :)

Jessica Capelle said...

Congrats Michelle!! Really looking forward to reading the book and recommending it to my SAT students!