Posted by Tamera Wissinger
Today, Carmella Van Vleet is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Carmella’s debut middle grade novel ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER, Holiday House, released on 02/14/2014! Congratulations, Carmella!
Here is a bit about Carmella:
Carmella Van Vleet is a former elementary school teacher and the author of numerous books for children and adults. Her work has appeared in Highlights for Children and Parenting. This is her first middle-grade novel. She lives in Ohio.
Here’s a description of ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER:
A preteen girl struggling with ADHD must stick with a summer taekwondo class to prove that she’s dedicated enough to pursue her true passion: cake decorating.
Now it’s time to hear from our guest:
Smack Dab Middleview with ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER author Carmella Van Vleet
1. In a nutshell, what does your main character, Eliza, want?
Eliza desperately wants to take a cake decorating class with her best friend, but her parents tell her “No.” When she overhears them saying it because they think she’ll just give up, she decides to prove she’s no quitter by taking over her brother’s spot in a taekwondo class.
2. What is in her way?
Eliza’s biggest obstacle is herself! Because she has ADHD, it’s hard for her to concentrate in class and keep track of her handbook, which she needs to test for her yellow belt. A “mean” girl from school also shows up in class and complicates things.
3. Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote? How did the story evolve?
Eliza’s personality came to me pretty easily and quickly. She’s very much a combination of me and my daughter, who has ADHD and was bullied like Eliza. What she wanted evolved, though. In the beginning, she just wanted to find a way to take the cake decorating class. But when I began revising with my agent’s feedback, it became clear that what she really wanted was to prove she could stick with something. I think Eliza was surprised as anyone that she actually liked taekwondo!
4. Was ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER always for middle grade readers or not? If so, why did you choose middle grade? If not, what had to change for it to be considered a middle grade novel?
ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER was always intended for middle grade readers. She just seemed like a natural fit for that audience. There’s a lot of anxiety about starting middle school. (At least there was for me!) And it’s a time when friendships are changing and kids are feeling the pressure to fit in. Eliza feels like an outsider; kids call her spaz and other names because of her ADHD. But I wanted to show kids that there’s a lot of really cool things about thinking outside of the box. I don’t think Eliza succeeds in spite of her ADHD, I think she succeeds *because* of it.
5. What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?
Where do I begin?! Middle grade readers are awesome because they’re funny, smart and a lot wiser than many people give them credit for. And they’ll give an author a fair shot before they put a book down.
I also enjoy writing for that age group because you can keep the story simple. By that I don’t mean that stories for them shouldn’t be challenging - because they’re up for challenging - I just mean that you don’t have to worry about things like romantic relationships or complicated plot lines. There’s something pure and universal about middle grade books.
6. Is there any downside?
Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it’s really like to be that age. It can be a real balancing act to write as your inner kid and still be an adult with some perspective.
7. Your chapters in ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER are, at most, just a few pages long. And one of them is a single word! Why is that?
Eliza was a very talkative MC, but she also came to me at random times and in short scenes. So that’s the way I ended up writing her story. I discovered that I love using short chapters as a writer.
8. How do you know so much about taekwondo?
I’ve been training in taekwondo for about eight years, so I totally relate to Eliza’s struggle to step outside of her comfort zone.
Thank you for joining us at Smack Dab in the Middle Blog, Carmella. Again, congratulations on the release of ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER!