Wednesday, 17 March 2010

SCBWI Undiscovered Voices Winner: ANNE M LEONE

writing as 


Anne's winning novel 
ADELE by Anne M Leone

Adèle is a ghost story about 13-year-old Jaynie. She’s escaped her pushy parents to spend the summer with her great aunt in Michigan. It’s supposed to be the best summer of her life. But then she sees a ghostly face in the window and learns her aunt’s house hides a dark past of abuse, slavery and even murder. Jaynie wants to help the ghost, but all memories and records of the ghost woman’s entire life will vanish unless Jaynie can find the courage to speak up for both of them.

Hi Anne and welcome to tall tales & short stories. 
Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself and your experiences since finding out you were one of the winners?

I’m currently living in Bristol and working towards my MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. Before I moved to the UK I lived in Chicago and worked as a literature and history teacher. I love dogs, blueberries and ghost stories, of course.

I started writing regularly in Chicago in the summer of 2002. I was lonely, overwhelmed by the city, the difficult inner-city school I worked at, and I wanted to escape everything. My first novel wasn’t very good, but it was a tonne of fun.

I started Adèle in a fiction writing class at the University of Chicago in 2003. Since then I’ve worked at it off and on. It’s been through many drafts and reiterations, the novel that I kept on writing and rewriting. In my spare time I’ve attended a few writing and classes and been privileged to be part of two writing groups, a Chicago one and a Bristol one. My MA at Bath Spa is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my writing.

I love kids and love working with kids, so writing for kids was a natural step for me. Something about the combination of childish wonder and the gritty reality of many kids’ lives has a real pull for me. Since I started writing for kids, I started reading the genre more and more, and now I’m a little embarrassed to say my “adult” reads are few and far between.

I was an avid reader as a child. Some of the books I returned time again and again were Harriet the Spy by Lousie Fitzhugh, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

Inspiration? My family used to visit northern Michigan during the summer holidays. There was a haunted restaurant/hotel, and I was struck by the spookiness of a ghost amidst forest, lakes and nothing else for miles around. I began Adèle while I was working as a history teacher in Chicago. As a child, I had imagined history was cut and dry, with winners and losers, facts and dates. Of course it’s much more complicated than that, and I wanted to write a story about where history comes from, who tells it, and whose stories are forgotten.

Being Part of UV: When Sara called to tell me I had won a place in UV, I sat down on the floor and silently cried. When the first winners were announced in 2008, I had recently moved to the UK. I have since seen them become agented and published. When Sara called, I hoped a door was bursting open for me as well.

Since then life has been a whirlwind. Editors and agents regularly call and email. How bizarre is that? I had spent the past year working on a different novel entirely, so when I learned Adèle had won, I spent an afternoon re-reading it. While it is finished and I love the story, I’m not entirely pleased with it. I sent it to a few interested agents, and their responses confirmed my feelings. However, as I’m in the midst of working towards my MA and completing a novel I totally love, I’ve decided to stick with my current work in progress. I will graduate at the end of September and hope to have a manuscript to send out then. I’d also love to return to Adèle in the future and give her the story she deserves.

The book launch was a crazy mixture of joy at meeting fellow writers and friends, nerves at speaking to real editors and agents in person, excitement at hearing people loved my work, and frustration at not being ready to pursue those contacts. But I could still hear the whooshing of thousands of doors swinging open, and I’m excited about what may be in store for me.

If I could recommend only ONE book… I’d have to give a plug to Keren David for When I Was Joe, which just came out this year and is SUCH a page turner.

I discuss my MA, my writing, and the expat life on my blog Critically Yours

I blogged about the launch party here 


Sue Hyams said...

Great interview. Good luck Anne with the novels and with the MA. I look forward to Adele being published one day soon. I loved the sample in UV!

Nick Cross said...

Hi Anne,

I think you're very brave to pursue your latest book rather than Adèle, but by the sound of things you're very right as well. So much of this stuff has to happen on instinct and I'm sure you'll come back to Adèle and get it published yet. After all, Katie Dale (from UV 2008) came back to "Someone Else's Footprints" after quite a long period away and managed to snag an agent for it!


Keren David said...

Congratulations Anne, and I'm sure your instinct is right and the new book will be wonderful. Thanks so much for mentioning When I Was Joe!

Candy Gourlay said...

so proud of you anne!

Anne M Leone said...

Awww! Thanks Sue, Nick, Keren and Candy! Really appreciate your support and encouragement.

Jane McLoughlin said...

What an excellent post, Anne, and what a hard act to follow. Good luck with everything! I, too, was going to mention "When I was Joe" but felt odd singling out one amazing book, so I'm glad you got that mention in. XX JANE

Paula Rawsthorne said...

Hi Anne,
Really enjoyed your post! I'm even more intrigued by Adele now that I know as well as being a great ghost story, it also explores the fascinating issue of where history comes from.
Good luck with your novel in progress. Once it's ready you'll be spoilt for choice about which door to go through. I'm sure all your great contacts will be eager to get their hands on it.
Paula x

Anne M Leone said...

Thanks, Jane. Hard to go first too... ah the trial and tribulations of alphabetising! =)

Happy one of us could get a mention of Joe in--hopefully that means others will highlight some of the other great books out there!

Thanks, Paula. Talking about Adele, and the deeper issues there, really ignites my passion for the story all over again. Glad to hear you were intrigued by it, too!

And thanks for the encouragement about open doors, too. I'm crossing my fingers. At least I'll have some very successful cohorts to point to!

Emily George said...

HI Anne. I have the same thing with adult reads now - I'd much rather read kid's books. Although I try to read adult books when I'm working furiously on my own stuff, because every time I read a children's book my writing feels inadequate in comparison!! Good luck with your MA etc. Emily

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