About Anna and Grim

What is Grim about?

The novel follows Erika Stripling, a single mom unfortunate enough to get involved in a car accident that throws her into a freakish city of souls. It also follows her seventeen-year-old son Shawn, who is desperate to hold the family together–even after he and his sisters end up in the underworld too.

Is Grim part of a trilogy?

Considering the number of trilogies floating around in the YA genre these days, it’s almost always a surprise when I answer this question honestly. No, Grim is not part of a series. I’m working on my next YA novel, which is completely unrelated to the underworld Grim inhabits.

Where did you get the idea for Grim?

The first line of the prologue snapped into my head sometime in 2007 but I didn’t know what to do with it. The following summer, Jeremiah’s character showed up in a dream one night (cheesy, I know) and I started drafting an outline for NaNoWriMo as soon as I woke up. Putting the two things together felt very natural at the time and helped to give me a foundation for the complicated family dynamics that would emerge throughout the novel.

About the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

What is the PUSH/Scholastic Writing Contest?

Every year Scholastic Inc., in conjunction with many other respectable and venerable companies, hosts the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. These awards have been in full-swing for 60 years now (impressive, no?), but the latest addition came in 2003 with the founding of PUSH, an imprint of Scholastic Press dedicated to finding unpublished authors. This new imprint was the brainchild of David Levithan and was linked to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards via a novel-writing contest.

The PUSH/Scholastic Press Novel Contest seeks manuscripts of all genres from novelists grades 8-12. Prizes are given through the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards: honorable mentions, silver keys, and a single gold award. The gold key winner is then taken under wing by Scholastic Press and PUSH’s editorial director. Manuscripts are drafted and drafted again, a summer internship is offered, and, sometimes, the finished product sees print.

Can your submission be written in verse?

Yes! Your submission can be written in any form you wish. In fact, the 2006 Gold Key winner was a beautifully written novel in verse.

My characters are not young adults are children. Is that okay?

Since the contest is comprised of submissions from teens, I’m sure that YA predominates. But there is no age requirement set for characters, and nothing says that it must be a young adult work. My own submission, for example, while YA, does have two MCs in their late 30s. I think that it’s important to keep Scholastic’s market in mind, but if you feel really strongly about your work, submit regardless. I can promise that you’ll be read based on how strong your characters are–not on their ages.

What does PUSH/Scholastic mean by “outline”?

What they’re looking for is a standard synopsis, like any synopsis you would submit to an agent or editor. It seems that the judges don’t assume you’ve finished your novel, which makes it a little different from a normal pitch, but they do want to know where you’re going with it. I personally had finished my novel, so it was pretty easy to outline. Include all major characters, the setting and main plot points, and, if you have it, the ending. Mine was two pages exactly, double spaced. I don’t remember whether or not it said how long they wanted it, but two pages is a conservative standard so if they don’t specify I’d say go along those lines.
Here are a couple of resources:
Workshop: Writing the Novel Synopsis
How to Write a Synopsis (From Nathan Bransford, a former literary agent)
They can take a lot of work and honing, so don’t get frustrated if you find yourself slaving over writing and rewriting at this stage.

When did you find out that you were advancing on/receiving an award in the contest?

I heard on April 30th of 2008. Unlike other categories in the Art & Writing awards, novels proceed directly to the national circuit and all silver and gold keys are announced at once. The Gold Key winner normally receives a call, but I happened to be at work when the happy news arrived and received an email instead. I connected with one of my editors over the phone a few days later, and we went over the specifics of the competition and how things might progress.

What does Scholastic mean by “possible publication”?

Pretty much exactly what it sounds like, and believe me when I say I understand how nerve-wracking that can be. Hail Caeser and Magic City are both Gold Key winners that were eventually published by Scholastic, as is Grim. That said, publication after winning the competition is not guaranteed and comes down to whether the final, completed manuscript fits with Scholastic’s brand and to what would be best for both Scholastic and the author.

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