Today we are so thrilled to have Kim Culbertson join us as part of Sixteen to Read’s Visiting Author Series. Kim is the author of four YA books and one YA novella. She will release her fifth YA novel, THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW on January 26, 2016.
Shannon: Welcome, Kim! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I’ve been a huge fan of yours for some time and hope our readers know your books: SONGS FOR A TEENAGE NOMAD, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A BROKEN HEART, CATCH A FALLING STAR and the forthcoming THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW. Just the titles alone make me want to swoon!
Kim: Awww, thanks, Shannon – I look forward to becoming a fan of all the authors at Sixteen to Read!
Shannon: Because we’re a debut group, we want to hear about the beginning of your writing career. Could you think back to your querying process and tell us what that was like for you? I’m sure our readers would love to know the number of agents you queried, how many requests you received, etc.
Kim: My publishing experience hasn’t been very traditional. I was very devoted to being a full time high school teacher, so when I wrote my first novel, I didn’t go out much with it—went to a conference, talked to a couple of agents who were encouraging—but I got busy and stopped looking. Through sheer luck, SONGS FOR A TEENAGE NOMAD was published by a wonderful small press (Hip Pocket Press) in 2007 and won a few indie awards. After that, I decided to make more of an effort to get an agent. I queried 16 agents before signing with Melissa Sarver White. Oh, wait—did that sound simple? Because it was AGONIZING! As all writers know when they are querying, there is a lot of “it’s just not what we’re looking for” or “I like this, but—” and an enormous symphony of —crickets, crickets— and more waiting and rejection and maybe-I-should-become-an-accountant-on-a-deserted-island musings. But then it sort of all happened at once. I got an offer from three agents in two days.
Shannon: What made you sign with Melissa Sarver White of Folio Literary?
Kim: When Melissa called that first day to offer me representation, I got the vibe from her that she would be funny, smart, real, and devoted. She has been all of those things and more. This is not an easy industry. There is a public perception that doesn’t always match up with the daily reality. Melissa has been someone I can always talk to about the industry, project ideas, frustrations, triumphs. She has been a rock and at all times I have felt like she’s my biggest fan, which is what I wanted in an agent. I think the agent-author relationship is different for all authors, and the key is finding the one that works for your own personal goals.
Shannon: So well said, Kim! Do you have a day job or are you a full-time author?
Kim: Funny you should ask that—I’m going through a huge transition with that right now. I have been teaching high school for 18 years and I love it. I. Love. It. People think it’s a little nuts that I write for teenagers and teach them—that’s a lot of teenage energy in one life, but I’ve always managed to balance my teaching with my writing and being a mom. Lately, though, things have just felt like too much. In January, I’m taking a leave of absence from my job at Forest Charter teaching creative writing so I can focus on my writing (which was a really difficult decision because I ADORE my students). Not sure if the leave will be for just a semester or for longer…time will tell. I’m grateful to have this opportunity; it will be the first time I’ve focused full-time on my writing. And by full-time, I mean, the time in between being a mom, a wife, a friend….
Shannon: It’s a lot to balance for sure, but we’re thrilled you’ll have more time to dedicate to your writing. Do you have a favorite book from your catalog? If so, what makes it special in your author heart?
Kim: That’s hard—I think it’s a bit like having a favorite child or favorite friend or favorite student. I’m sure all authors say this, but I love each of my books for different reasons. They remind me of who I was/where I was when I wrote them.
Shannon: Fair enough! 😀 Can you share your writing routine? And has it changed over the years as your writing career has developed?
Kim: I’m taking a moment to laugh at the word “routine”—okay, I’m back. Yeah, I’m the worst with the whole idea of routine. When I first started writing, I was teaching high school theatre and English full-time, and directing multiple shows a year, which put writing on the back burner for me. Over the years, I’ve tried to come up with more of a balance between my writing and teaching, but I added being a mom to the mix, which changed the shape of my days too. Currently, I try to write at least a couple of hours a day, but some days it’s not at all and some days it’s for eight hours without stopping. This is entirely because I struggle to be more disciplined about it. I tend to make the time, but I get distracted. Somehow I get pages in each week and get the work done. I often set a goal at the beginning of the week (I want to write 15 fresh pages, I want to fix four scenes, etc.). I’m getting better about giving myself a break when I don’t reach that goal and also celebrating when I do.
Shannon: Do you have any advice to those going the traditional publishing route?
Kim: Traditional publishing, I think, is all about expectation management and persistence. It’s about believing in the work you do and surrounding yourself with people who love the work they do. It’s also a balance of being an advocate for your own book, while remembering there are many books out there. The industry only has so much time and space to cover and support them. There will always be someone in the industry out-performing you, walking an award carpet, getting onto a “best of” list, or having a gazillion followers on social media. It’s tough sometimes. Try to remember that we’re all in this same boat of loving books—but it is a daily practice.
Shannon: Were you a member of any debut groups?
Kim: I wasn’t—which is a bummer because it’s such a great idea. For my second novel, I was part of Stasia Ward Kehoe’s wonderful STAGES ON PAGES, which was a unique concept because it connected MG and YA authors who write in some way about the performing arts. I enjoyed the experience of participating in those book events with other authors—power in numbers! I think one of the many perks of being a YA author is that the community is so warm-hearted and collaborative.
Shannon: We’d love to hear about your new release THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW. What should our readers know about this book with the amazingly fantastic cover?
Kim: This particular book is close to my teacher-heart and grew out of an increasing trend I’ve seen in my experience as an educator—overscheduled, stressed out kids who are so busy looking ahead, they forget to explore who they are right now.
Mara James, is a stressed-out overachiever who thinks she has it all figured out. One day she has a melt-down in her calculus class at her elite private high school in San Diego—someone films it, and it goes viral. To escape the shame, she heads to live with her estranged ski bum father in Tahoe, CA armed with her “Now List.” She’s determined to live in the now, and she’s done the research on how best to do it!
Shannon: I just LOVE the sound of your latest book and I have no doubt it will be brilliant! And you have a special giveaway planned for our readers, is that right?
Yes! I have a signed hardcopy of THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW and a Tahoe-themed cozy reading kit to go with it.
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Thanks so much for talking so openly about your debut experience and THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW. I’m sure our readers are as excited as we are!
Before we end, how about some lightning-round questions?
- Your favorite time to write? When I’m alone in the house.
- Favorite place to write? My kitchen, especially in the fall when the colored leaves outside reflect in all the mirrored surfaces.
- Favorite writing snack? Coffee. Is that a snack? Let’s add a cinnamon roll to the coffee and that’s perfection.
- Last book you read? Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
- Favorite book? Harry Potter. All of them. They combine all the things I like about contemporary/boarding school fiction with magic. And J.K. Rowling has such a great sense of humor.
- If you could live in a fictional world, what world would it be? Definitely Hogwarts.
- If you could be a character from a book for a day, who would you be? Just to stick with the Harry Potter theme, I always thought it would be cool to be Dumbledore, just roaming around Hogwarts, knowing all the secrets.
Great! Again, KIM! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me and the Sixteen to Read girls!
KIM CULBERTSON is the author of the Young Adult novels Songs for a Teenage Nomad (Sourcebooks 2010), Instructions for a Broken Heart (Sourcebooks 2011), which was named a Booklist Top Ten Romance Title for Youth: 2011 and also won the 2012 Northern California Book Award for YA Fiction, Catch a Falling Star (Scholastic 2014) and The Possibility of Now (Scholastic 2016). Kim has also been a high school teacher for eighteen years, teaching high school English, Creative Writing, Drama and College Advising. In 2012, Kim wrote her eBook novella The Liberation of Max McTrue for her students, who, over the years, have taught her far more than she has taught them. Kim lives in Nevada City with her husband and daughter.
You can find her an all her lovely books here: