From Goodreads: Carolyn Samuels is obsessed with the idea of being popular. She is convinced that the only thing keeping her from happiness is her too heavy for fashion body and not being a cheerleader. Hyperventilating when she gets nervous doesn't help. When she is paired for a math project with the girl who tormented her in middle school, Jennifer Taylor, she is sure it is going to be another year of pain. With Carolyn's crush on Jennifer's hunky junior quarterback, Brad, her freshman year in high school looks like a rerun of middle school. When Jennifer is the only student who knows why she fell in gym class, Carolyn is blackmailed into doing her math homework in return for Jennifer's silence. Jennifer takes on Carolyn as a pity project since she can't be seen with someone who dresses in jeans and sweatshirts. When Jennifer invites Carolyn to spend the night to make her over and teach her to tumble, Carolyn learns Jennifer's secret and lies to her own friends to cover it up. Will Carolyn become a cheerleader and popular? Does she continue to keep Jennifer's secret? Or will she be a target of this mean girl again?
My Inspiration for Writing If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor
The summer of 2002 I enrolled in Writer’s Week at Manhattanville College where I was currently working on my Masters in Reading and Writing. If you have never been to Writer’s Week and live relatively close to the college you should think about it. For an entire week you have workshops both in the morning and the afternoon. You choose your genre and each workshop is headed by a well known author or teacher of writing. Celebrity authors and workshop participants rub shoulders at many activities, including the daily readings of outstanding work from each group.
So the workshop I chose was Children’s Writing led by the delightful, quirky and multi- book author, Paula Danziger. She wrote books for young girls that cut to the very heart of the emotional life of a tween ager. For the pass to get into the class we all needed to write three chapters of a story for children. At the time my daughter, who was going into college in the fall, had some issues with both her body and with eating. Her eating disorder had not gotten out of hand, but it was a problem to both her and me. This was something on my mind and so I created two characters. One had issues with her body image and the other was perfect, but she had an eating disorder. I wrote my three chapters and handed them in to Paula Danziger.
The first day of the workshop she arrived with her signature purple sneakers and her bright red hair and she looked like she had stepped out of a children’s book. But the thing about Paula was how open and friendly she was and how accessible she was to us. We all sat around and she talked with us about writing, for a whole week. During this time she held private conferences and the first time she saw my three chapters her first words to me and the words she wrote on the paper were “Cut, Cut, Cut!!!” I still have the original papers on which she wrote. Paula believed that children’s books didn’t need long sentences and especially in the beginning of the book, sentences should be short and move the reader to want to learn more. After all of the revisions and editing of my book, I still have a few sentences left that came directly from Paula. She told me that first day that she liked my writing and that I might have a good book in there if I could wade through all the extra words. She even reminded me during workshop discussions that I should cut my words while speaking.
About six months later I met Paula at the Winter Conference for SCBWI and we talked about my book. Then a year later, her last conference, I showed her a passage that had given me a lot of trouble. She read it and suggested a few things to do that helped me very much. Her encouragement helped me to continue to write and eventually finish the story. However, I got bogged down in the middle and that was when I turned to Children’s Authors’ Bootcamp for help. This was two days of constant lecturing and writing where we took apart our stories and examined each part. We learned about character development and plot development and on the second day after having been stumped for both an ending and a clear plot line for my secondary character, Jennifer, I was able to finish the plot and write an ending for my story. Laura Backes and Linda Arms White gave me the tools I needed!!
Paula Danziger, unfortunately, is not here to share in the triumph of the publication of my first novel, but I know if she were she would be doing a happy dance with her red hair wildly flying and her face smiling. She was one of a kind and her support made me feel that someday I too would be able to publish my book. That is why I dedicated my first ever YA novel to Paula Danziger. If you are not familiar with her work you should go to Amazon and look up Paula Danziger.
My YA novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, MuseItUp Publishing is available here in ebook and print:
Barnes and Noble:
Also, come over to visit my blog, Barbara’s Meanderings, where I am part of the month long Summer Teen Reading Party. In addition to my blog I sometimes do a monthly show on Blog Talk Radio called RRWL Tales from the Pages where I get a chance to interview authors, editors and publishers.
Barbara, a retired teacher with a Masters degree in Reading and Writing K-12 and seventeen years of teaching experience lives with her family in Stamford, Connecticut. When she received her Masters degree she began writing seriously. If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, Barbara’s first YA novel, published by MuseItUp Publishing was inspired by Paula Danziger. It has won #2 in Preditors & Editors Poll for Best Young Adult Book of 2011. In addition, Barbara has a story in Lavender Dreams, a memorial anthology for which all the proceeds go to cancer research. She has three poems in Prompted: An International Collection of Poems by the Anthologists for which all the proceeds go to Literacy research. Her blog, Barbara’s Meanderings, http://barbaraehrentreu.blogspot.com/, is networked on both Facebook and Blog Catalog. She hosts Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages on Blog Talk Radio every 4th Thursday. In addition, her children's story, “The Trouble with Follow the Leader” and an adult story, “Out on a Ledge” are published online She has written book reviews for Authorlink.com. and several of her reviews have been on Acewriters and Celebrity Café. She is a member of SCBWI. Writing is her life!