Speaking of young writers, 20 year old Jessica Burkhart got her start writing for Teen Ink (I guess great minds…). Since then, her writing has appeared in numerous magazines including Girls Life and she recently landed a book deal with Simon and Schuster. Read about Jessica’s writing projects below…
Urban Muse: Tell us about your upcoming novel.
Jessica: My upcoming tween novel, High Jumps at Collins Academy, will be published by Simon & Schuster as part of a four-book series starting in summer 2008. The book follows small-town girl Sasha Silver from her sleepy hometown to a prestigious boarding school where she competes with the equestrian elite.
UM: How do you brainstorm for ideas?
J: I read magazines, newspapers and books to get ideas. I also watch TV and movies and draw from stories or characters I find intriguing. For magazines, I keep a list of “evergreen” topics and recycle those each year while putting a fresh spin on the topics. Magazines often run articles such as sunscreen tips, winter skin care and other yearly topics so I pay attention to dates and query months in advance to stay ahead of publication schedules.
UM: Do you prefer writing for magazines or books? How do you adapt your writing for each?
J: Both are so different that I can’t compare them. I equally love each field and I’m lucky to be able to do both. When I want instant gratification, I write a magazine article in a couple of days. Or, if I feel like working on a longer project, I’ll switch to novel writing. Magazine articles are about getting the facts out fast and accurate. Novels are slower and there’s lots of simmering that goes on when writing a novel. When I’m writing a novel, I have to remember to slow down and describe each scene with the depth it requires.
UM: How have you dealt with editors who would rather work with someone older or more experienced? Has this been an issue for you?
J: I’ve been lucky not to encounter any discrimination because of my age. I started freelancing when I was 15-years-old and if editors were wary about my age, they never said it to me. I often received complements and encouragement because editors liked my attitude and unflagging work ethic. A couple of weeks ago, an editor I’ve been working with for over a year gave a quote about me to a newspaper interviewer. The newspaper asked how responsible I was for a 20-year-old and she told them she had no idea I was twenty. She thought she was working with someone much older. That’s a high compliment!
UM: What tips would you like to pass onto other writers?
J: I would tell other writers desiring publication in magazines to pursue it relentlessly. Until I started writing my novel, I had up to 30 queries circulating at any given time. I rely heavily on my Power Tracker software to alert me when queries need follow-ups, if I have an upcoming deadline and other important reminders. Keeping great records is vital for any freelancer.
Thanks, Jessica. Check out the 5 Q’s Archives.