Ask Cara

I’ve been writing fiction for a young adult audience since 1993.

But I didn’t always do that. I’ve had a lot of other interesting jobs.

From the time I graduated from college (Cornell U., BS 1983), I worked in the film and television business, I’ve “dressed” sets as diverse as an underwater submarine station and a posh hotel. My most fun project was the children’s TV series Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse. Our team developed the look of the show, from the wallpaper and rugs to the life-sized puppet chairs. It was a challenging job, and I learned how a true artistic collaboration works.

In 1987 I moved to Los Angeles and did a bit of career change, moving into script development for feature films. This had me reading and reviewing lots of screenplays and books for possible film projects. I loved it. Developing plots and characters became a passion of mine, and made me want to write my own stories.

I started my writing career at Columbia University’s graduate writing program in 1993. During the two years I spent in school I encountered my worst fears about writing…one of which was how hard to was to write something good. I overcame lots of doubts through hard work and stubborn determination to let the stories inside me have a life. And I saw my work improve. I received my M.F.A. in 1995.

Eventually my work became good enough to be published. I’ll never forget the first acceptance I got. My young adult novella titled When Things Change, came out in the July/August 2001 issue of Cicada, a literary magazine for teenagers put out by the Cricket Magazine Group. It was hallelujah time. Finally, I was a real writer! With a contract. And a publication check. So cool.

At that time I was working on a novel called Red Palms. It was awarded a Work-in-Progress grant from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in 2000. This was another vote of recognition from people in my field—other children’s writers, editors, and publishers—and there is only one award given each year. I feel especially proud to have been the one to earn it.

When the book was finally done, it found a home with wonderful editor named Wendy Lamb, who has her own imprint at Random House. It was published in 2004. If you’re curious, you can read an excerpt.

And so I began writing my second novel for young adults, Living on Impulse. It took about three years to write, which is a long time, but the good news is that Dutton Children’s Books and a wonderful editor there decided to publish it. And so for me, it was all worth it. Hope you think so too. If you like the book, drop me a line.

I’d love to know what you think, dear reader. You’re the one I hope to impress the most.


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