About Barbara J. Rebbeck:
I’ve been a writing teacher for many years, helping students of all ages write and publish and win awards. When I retired, I decided to give myself those same opportunities so I wrote my first YA novel, NOLA Gals. Now I’m back in classes working with kids as a visiting writer. It is very rewarding and often moving to see how much kids love my book and all its characters, especially old George, the skinny poodle. Besides writing, I love to read, of course, I also love to travel to London, England where my dad was born. I love to visit historic old castles and stately homes and see as many plays as possible while there. I was lucky enough to see Highclere Castle where the series DOWNTON ABBEY is filmed on my last trip. I have a huge collection of British royalty mugs, plates and dolls. I just bought a mug for little Princess Charlotte’s birth. I live by myself with my cat, Gracie. And yes, she is named after Grace from my book, NOLA GALS..
What inspires you to write?
I was first inspired to write by a great English teacher I had in 7th, 8th and 9th grade, Mrs. Hartwig. We had to write a composition every week and she would read the best ones to the class. I was always proud when she read mine aloud. As an adult, I was inspired to write my book, NOLA GALS after watching all the coverage of the destruction by Hurricane Katrina ten years ago. I wanted to write a book I could take into classes so young kids would learn about this disastrous storm and also read about the racial prejudice that still exists in our country while they also learned some new writing techniques.
Tell us about your writing process.
I listen to my characters. The first one from NOLA GALS who began talking to me, usually when I was trying to fall asleep, was Mimmi. I could see and hear her jabbering away as stubborn as a mule. I’m not an outliner. I may jot down notes as I go. My first steps are research. I did weeks of reading and watching documentaries before and during the writing of my book. And sometimes I would think I was done with a chapter and something new would pop up. For instance, I was watching a PBS series on old houses, and they featured an old house in New Orleans so back I went to the very first chapter to add details about the old house the girls lived in. It’s a circular process of on-going researching, writing and revising with the characters always leading the way.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
As I said before, I listen to my characters. I’ve given up on outlines because invariably, the characters take off in a different direction. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is a very important book for my two main characters, Grace and Essence. But it wasn’t at first, not until Grace met the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina at the Astrodome in Houston. Then she let me know the novel would guide them through their struggles.
What advice would you give other writers?
Writers must be readers. Research the genre you hope to write and read, read, read. I keep up with all the hot new YA novels. I’m all over the internet now on a lot of social sites. I stay in touch with teens in classrooms and online. You should be able to name your favorite writers in your genres. Then write, write, write. Keeping a journal is a big help, too. Jot down ideas, weird people you meet, odd places, etc. You never know what you can use in your writing. Join a writers’ group if you’re ready to share your work and get some constructive criticism. It’s always good to have objective eyes on your work, not just your mom who will love everything you write. There are also great workshops you can go to. Check them out online and join some of the online writing support groups.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
It was a very tough battle to get NOLA GALS in print. I sent out query letters (I hate them!) and got lots of rejections. Many agents or publishers told me my book concept was “not on their list” whatever that means. After a few years of rejection, a friend of mine had luck publishing with a small press. She urged me to continue my search for an agent, but I was so frustrated by that time I decided to investigate small presses. I assumed that would be an easy route, Not so fast. More rejections followed until I finally landed a spot for my book with a small press. I was pleased that they saw in my book what I loved, and the experience has been a good one. With a small press, their resources are limited so you have to do a lot of promotion on your own. I’m becoming an expert at all the resources available online for authors to help get the word out about a new book. You do not receive an advance to help with expenses from a small press, but you do get royalties. Two big thrills are opening the first box of your own book you get in the and then later looking at that first royalty check. Beware of the scams out there. The website Preditors and Editors does a good job of warning authors about possible scams.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I sometimes fear for the future for writers. True there are many roads available for writers from self-publishing to the big New York publishers, but the frustrations are many and you have to be tough. When you get that first one-star review, you have to pick yourself up and read the good ones again. When the big book stores refuse to carry your small press novel, you have to seek out the independent bookstores who will. When the big city newspapers, turn you down, go to the small local papers. Be tough and you can survive. I am buoyed by working in classrooms with young students who love to read and write. When a 6th grader asks for your autograph with tears in her eyes and whispers that she’s never met a real author before, you have to have hope for a future for readers and writers.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?: YA fiction, essay, poetry, memoir
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
Barbara J. Rebbeck Home Page Link
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit, to allow you, the reader, to hear the author in their own voice.