Monday, July 7th, 2014 | Posted under People I Find Fascinating
Many people — myself included — dream of writing of a book someday. But how exactly does that happen? Well, I’m thrilled to tell you about my friend Tara Dairman’s debut children’s book, ALL FOUR STARS, about a young girl who becomes a famous restaurant critic in New York City. Tara and I met in 2007 when she was the web editor for a diabetes magazine that I freelanced for. Since then, Tara got married, quit her job, traveled the world for two years with her husband (they went to SEVENTY FOUR countries!), and then settled down in Denver.
ALL FOUR STARS comes out this Thursday, July 10, and Tara was kind enough to share a bit about her book, as well as her international travels. And don’t forget to enter to win a copy of ALL FOUR STARS! The book already has more than 4 stars on GoodReads. The winner will be announced in this week’s Friday Finds!
An Interview with Tara Dairman
TD: It was a long process! I started writing ALL FOUR STARS in 2005, and worked on it slowly while holding down a full-time job and producing plays I’d written in festivals on the side. Thanks to the encouragement of my monthly writing critique group, though, I didn’t give up, and had about 2/3 of a first draft written by 2009, when my husband and I quit our jobs to backpack around the world. I ended up writing the last 1/3 of the book very quickly, in five days while my husband was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2010. Then I put the manuscript back in my backpack for another eight months, until we returned to the states. The revision began after that, and there were months of it before I found an agent and a publisher.
How did you go about finding a publisher for your book?
These days, most fiction publishers won’t look at unagented submissions, so my first step was to find a literary agent to represent me. I researched agents who represented children’s and young adult books (querytracker.net and agentquery.com are great places to start) and worked hard on writing a strong query letter to pitch my book to them. I began to query agents by e-mail, and also entered a few online contests that were judged by agents. I ended up connecting with my agent through one of those contacts. Once I had signed with her, she submitted the book to several editors; Putnam (my publisher) asked me to do a few revisions to my manuscript, which I did, and then they offered me a contract to publish the book.
I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how supportive the children’s literature community is. I’ve made so many friends through blog contests, my literary agency, and online debut author groups, and it’s heartwarming to see how genuinely fellow authors cheer each other on both online and in person. I couldn’t have lucked into a more welcoming professional group.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for a budding author?
Find critique partners you can trust, and listen to them. If multiple readers are telling you that something in your book isn’t working, then it probably isn’t, even if you don’t have the distance from the work to see it. (Taking the time to get that distance, rather than rushing through the processes of writing and revising, is another piece of good advice, and one that I often need to be reminded of myself.)
Now for a couple non-book questions! You and I met just before you and your husband got married and went on a two year around-the-world honeymoon to some pretty exotic locales. What tips do you have for people who want to travel off the beaten path?
I could probably fill a whole book with tips, haha. Well, of course, it’s important to do research about what kinds of vaccines and preventive pills (such as antimalarials) you’ll need for traveling in different parts of the world, and also to know what kind of paperwork you’ll need if you’ll be picking visas up along the way. My husband and I traveled with a ton of passport-sized photos, which we were using constantly on visa applications.
But, more generally, I’d advise people to embrace the local lifestyle wherever they go. Instead of paying big bucks to stay at a resort, cut off from the local population, stay in small, family-run hotels; eat at the markets and street stalls; take public transportation. You may be less comfortable, but you’ll make more friends and stretch your money a lot farther. And then, when you return home after your trip, you’ll appreciate things like electricity and clean water and paved roads so much more!
What’s one underrated place you think more people should visit?
Yunnan province in Western China is pretty amazing; it’s popular with Chinese tourists, but few foreigners go there. The mountain scenery is spectacular, though, as is the food (think yogurt, cherries, hot fried bread in the morning, and tasty yak kebabs). The skies are blue, the rivers are clear, there are plenty of beautiful hikes to do and Buddhist spots to visit, and the prices are much lower than in the big cities of the east. You can get there overland from Laos or Vietnam, or take the train or fly out from eastern China. [http://andyandtarasworld.blogspot.com/2011/05/i-love-yu-nnan.html]
Are you working on anything new?
I’m working on final edits on the sequel to ALL FOUR STARS, which will be published in the summer of 2015. I just saw a cover sketch, and it’s fantastic! I’m hoping to reveal the title and cover a little later this year.
Giveaway open to US resident only