Freaky Friday-Interview with aspiring children’s author Edith Cohn

Filed under: Freaky Friday

If you’ve seen the movie Freaky Friday, you know that its premise is about change and growth through role reversal. For my Friday Blog entry I thought it would be interesting to interview aspiring writers; the same writers who spend lots of time reading the interviews of published authors and dreaming of the day when they might get their book on the shelves…
I’m going to hop right to it and introduce you to Edith Cohn. Edith is one of those great people who has a gravitational pull. I know this because we’ve never met, yet she’s made me feel as if I’ve know her forever. She’s also intuited how much time I spend with frogs. (Shameless plug for the Fishkill Frogs at Fishkill Elementary) Without having met, I’ve already shared many laughs with Edith on Livejournal and I bet by the end of this interview, she’ll have pulled you in too.
Alright Edith, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started your journey as a children’s writer.

This might be cheesy (those who know me well are familiar with my fondness for cheese), but I’d say my journey as a writer started when I learned to read. I have seriously wanted to be a writer since I was like five. There’s a book with a construction-paper cover, illegible handwriting, and hideous drawings of elves in a landfill somewhere. I’m sure it doesn’t make a lick of sense, but man, I wish I still had it ’cause it was my first. Funny how we get sentimental later in life. I threw it away (along with everything else I ever wrote as a child–including years worth of diary entries) when I went to college at 18 and didn’t even flinch. I guess I figured I’d write more. Luckily I was right.
Mmmmmmm I love cheese! Elves in a landfill sounds like an epic eco-fantasy. I do believe you may have been ahead of your time. What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a YA novel called PHOBIC. It’s a romantic comedy told in alternating perspectives about an extremely claustrophobic boy and a seemingly fearless theater girl.
Theater is in right now…get that book out there. I know Molly O’Neill has made a public plea for YA ala Glee.

I’m looking forward to meeting you in person at the NY SCBWI this year and maybe in LA too. You just got back from the LA Conference in August and I thought you could tell us a little bit about your experiences and shed some light on the pros and cons of attending. There was a recent thread on the Blue Boards about this topic and you really have some great insight having lived in both NY and CA.

I am sooo looking forward to meeting you as well! You are a funny gal, and I already adore you.
The timing for my book does seem good with all the chatter about Glee. I hope to be finished by the new year in time for the NY conference! I am a fan of both the winter and summer conferences, and each have their advantages. I haven’t found a match for the variety of workshops on craft at the summer conference, which is my fav. But if your mission is to meet the most editors and agents humanly possible, then I’d say the NYC winter conference is your choice. I recommend adding the Writer’s Intensive Day to your winter conference package though to make the weekend more worthwhile.
I strive for funny and I’m glad to occasionally hit that mark. :o) I have two NY conferences under my belt, but last year was my first time at the Writer’s Intensive. I plan on attending that event again too.

Your Bio talks about how you had a chance to study under the very awesome Sarah Dessen. You must give us the scoop!!! How did it happen? What was it like? What did you learn?

For a few years I worked in the Student Affairs office at UNC-Chapel Hill helping with their summer reading program. And one of my employee benefits was a free class each semester. So I took all the creative writing classes they had to offer, and one of them was taught by the fantabulous Sarah Dessen. It wasn’t a young adult writing class per se–but I wrote my first story with a teen protagonist in that class. Sarah really liked it, and she suggested I submit it to this local magazine contest called Carolina Woman. So I did, and it won 2nd place! And I got to read my story at a special event at Barnes and Noble, which was pretty much the coolest thing ever. Sarah gave me my first taste of what it would be like to be a professional writer, and I’m so grateful that she gave me that encouragement.
Wow! What a great experience. I’ve had the good fortune of attending a couple small workshops with the amazing K.L. Going, I can imagine how empowering the whole process was for you. Congrats on that 2nd place. Now I’ve held off as long as I possibly can…I’m very hungry right now…talk about the pizza!!!!

Mmmm…pizza! I always say my love affair with pizza began in NYC, because NYC and CT (yes, we drove to CT just for pizza) make some darn good pie. But it isn’t actually true. Long before this, Hubby was making homemade pies in North Carolina. And I remember vacationing to Italy and spending pretty much the entire trip tracking down pizza joints! I am not even kidding you that we didn’t ride a gondola or set foot in a museum. We ate pizza until we practically popped. Hubby is a great cook, and before I met him, I’m not sure I even liked food. Now I live for it, and if I eat a bad meal–even if it’s just lunch on a weekday, I get really upset. Foodie freak? Afraid so. Hubby spoils me! It’s both a blessing and a curse. For the record though, I only care about taste. The best pizza in the world is made by this old man who looks like Geppetto at a hole-in-the wall in the middle of nowhere Brooklyn.
I’ve been salivating over your pizza pictures for what seems like years now. One day you’re going to open your door and I’m just going to be standing there with my stomach growling. Oh and by-the-way. Don’t forget to check out THE SWEET LIFE OF STELLA MADISON, a great foodie YA by Lara Zeisis.

When you moved from NY to CA how did you make the transition as a writer? Did you keep the same writing group? Did SCBWI play a role in you finding new support? I know that there are lots of people who have to pack up and move…any tips?
It’s funny that you should ask me this, because just today I found out that I’ll be moving to Boston! Eeek! Moving across the country, it’s what I do. This will be like my sixth time? I don’t know, I’ve lost count. SCBWI is my savior when it comes to making friends and finding critique groups. Most areas have an SCBWI critique connections person and a list serve so you can find people who live near you. I’m actually the SCBWI Critique Connections Coordinator for Southern CA. I guess I’ll have to pass my crown now that I’ll be a Boston girl.
As for tips, I try to look at every life experience as writing fodder. Every new place I live is a new setting for a book. And meeting new people inspires new characters. I think this philosophy can get you through so many painful things. I just keep thinking, you know somehow I can use this in a story.
Ummmm all I’m going to say is Go Yankees!!! *giggle*. It has also come to my attention that you’ve worked as a 7th grade english teacher and as an online writer for a bookseller. I was wondering what these two life experiences have given you as a writer?

Working for Bookspan/Doubleday Entertainment taught me discipline. I had to produce what at the time felt like an impossible number of words every week. I learned how to put in the hours that writing a book really requires. And writing author bios all day, I was constantly reminded what I wanted my future to look like.
I’m psyched to put everything I learned as a teacher to good use doing school visits and readings. I can put together a presentation and feel comfortable in the classroom. And it’s great to know what the teacher is thinking when I write school scenes. I believe being inside the heads of all my characters, even if they aren’t the protagonist enriches my writing.
We have time for one last question. We need to know what your top 5 books are and don’t forget to tell us how they have influenced you.

1. Self Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King—This is the best book on revision I’ve ever read, and I felt like my writing went to a new place afterward.
2. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole—This is probably my favorite book of all time. It’s a rip-roaring comedy with an incredible main character, and I hope someday to write a book this funny and poignant.
3. Before I Die by Jenny Downham –I am in awe of this book about a girl with leukemia. The voice is amazing and life affirming.
4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins—Of course there’s been tons of buzz about this book and for good reason. I can’t remember a time when I was so riveted while reading. The pacing is something to marvel over.
5. Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block—The language in this book! Weetzie Bat reminds me that as artists we should let our inner creative go wild.
I have to agree with you on the HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. It had me up until 2am every night. It was an absolute page turner. The rest are going on my list to check out.

I want to thank Edith Cohn for being a little freaky and joining us. If she now has you in her gravitational pull, feel free to stop by and say hello to her. You can also find her on Facebook, Livejournal and Twitter. Edith, I’ll see you in NY…we’ll meet for pizza :o)


5 Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. Great interview! Now I'm hungry for pizza. 🙂 I'm also excited to see PHOBIC on the shelves–best wishes to you both for the winter SCBWI Conference. 🙂

  2. Yay! Thanks Kimberly!

  3. I have to agree about Edith's 'pull'. I met her at SCBWI NY and I think whether you meet her in person, online, or in a Brooklyn pizza joint she will friend you for life. She is without pretense or prejudice and will have following that will reward her talent with popularity. Can't wait to see her name on a book in Borders. Neat interview.

  4. I am so excited to meet her in person Monica-you just confirmed all my suspicions. :o) Ummm Edith-when Phobic hits the shelves….pizza party!!!!!

  5. I met Edith at SCBWI LA, and she couldn't be nicer if she tried. Great interview, and Edith, best of luck with the move!!

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