“All right, everyone…this is the NEXT BIG THING. Please look as generic as possible!”

“All right, everyone…this is the NEXT BIG THING. Please look as generic as possible!”

Hi, Literate Folk!

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop is a series of blog posts in which an author answers ten questions about his or her upcoming book while simultaneously tagging other authors who then take to the Internet to answer the same ten questions about their own books.


I was tagged last week by James Mattson and Barbara Brauner, authors of the delightful-looking-and-I-can't-wait-to-check-it-out novel, Oh My Godmother: The Glitter Trap. You can read their Next Big Thing Blog post here.

And's mine!

It's okay to stare.

It's okay to stare.

What is your working title of your book?

Trash Can Days: A Middle School Saga. 

I like "Trash Can Days" because it works on both a literal level (the main character of my book gets dumped in a trash can!) as well as a figurative one (junior high = garbage!).

"Middle School" is in the subtitle just so potential book-buyers know that this is actually a story about thirteen year-olds and not, say, banana peels and vomit.

And "Saga" belongs in the title because it's a cool, medieval-sounding word, and seventh grade, more than any other time in life, is a time when you have to put on your battle armor and slay some metaphorical dragons (and those dragons = girls who are three feet taller than you! Amiright?!).

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Following my sophomore year at Stanford, I knew that I wanted to try writing a book, and I knew that the only thing that I had remotely enough life perspective on to write about was junior high school.

Oh, SBJHS. You beautiful, traumatic place.

Oh, SBJHS. You beautiful, traumatic place.

Then, when I thought about all of the different kinds of kids at my old junior high, Santa Barbara Junior High -- some of them fabulously wealthy, others with parents who worked for the fabulously wealthy families, some of them white, some Latino, some Asian, some getting initiated into gangs, others having over-the-top Bar Mitzvahs with celebrity attendees, some who were already tall and beautiful and dating, others who remained tiny and hairless and petrified of the opposite sex, some who were sweet angels, others who were huge buttheads, and well, actually, come to think of it, most kids in middle school are huge buttheads -- when I thought about all of those kids crammed into one little, judgmental, cruel, gossip-filled space, I knew I had an incredibly exciting world in which to set a story.

What genre does your book fall under?

Middle grade comedy with some serious, coming-of-age elements.

(A bit of publishing industry lingo for you all. "Middle grade" = "ages 8 through 12," though my book is aiming to snag some 13 and 14 year-olds, too. "Serious, coming-of-age elements" = "I promise my book isn't really just about trash cans and banana peels and vomit.")

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

For Jake Schwartz, the awkward Bar Mitzvah boy, I'd probably go with John Francis Daley, the little boy from Freaks and Geeks -- although I'd obviously have to freeze him with a "stay 13 years old forever" ray gun, and also probably an "always keep your mouth open the funny weird way that you do" ray gun. Apologies in advance, JFD.

You play ball…LIKE A GIRL.

You play ball…LIKE A GIRL.

For Danny Uribe, Jake's best friend? I gotta go Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez from The Sandlot. "Anyone who wants to be a can't-hack-it pantywaist who wears their mama's bra, raise your hand." An obvious choice, even if we'll have to switch out his P.F. Flyers for whatever shoes cool kids wear these days. L.A. Gear?

For Hannah Schwartz, Jake's bratty older sister? This is a tough one. Maybe Lauren Collins, a.k.a. Paige from Degrassi: The Next Generation? I'd go with the eighth grade version of her. She's both consistently venomous and she looks like a real person, which I appreciate. Plus, she's Canadian, and we all know that the Trash Can Days movie is going to be shot in Canada for cost-cutting reasons.

Alberta's finest.

Alberta's finest.

And finally there's Dorothy Wu, the oblivious oddball. I think we're still in money-saving mode, so let's go back to Canada/Degrassi and cast the girl who played Spinner's half-sister for two episodes and then left and was never heard from again. Also, I really want everyone in my cast to pronounce "sorry" like "soary."

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Over the course of a school year in Southern California, four 12 and 13-year olds experience the hilarity and humiliation of junior high.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My book will be released by Disney-Hyperion Publishing on August 20th, 2013! Six months and eight days from now! Catch that six months and eight days fever!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About four months. I started during the summer of 2009 and spent all day, every day writing in my room during July, August, and September. Then I went back to college for my junior year  just on the brink of finishing but I wasn't quite done yet, and so I made the decision that I had to finish writing the book by the time I turned 20. A few weeks later, on October 10th, 2009, at 11:55 pm, just five minutes away from my 20th birthday, I finished writing my book. True story!

Does anyone else think this cover makes it look like Holes is about a boy who lives on the moon?

Does anyone else think this cover makes it look like Holes is about a boy who lives on the moon?

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Within my genre? I'd say I tried to go for the same mix of humor, drama, and boy-friendly subject matter as a Louis Sachar book such as Holes or Wayside School. My use of multiple narrators in a realistic school setting is also sort of like R.J. Palacio's recent, phenomenal, WonderIn addition, and this book is way more mature in its subject matter than mine, but I read Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower in one sitting the night before I myself started seventh grade, and the intimate, very authentic-seeming and very adolescent narration style of that book always stayed with me and hopefully shares some genetic code with Trash Can Days. 

"I said puck."

"I said puck."

Outside of my genre? I consider the shifting perspectives and dog-eat-dog school culture of Tom Perrotta's Election to be a pretty big influence. For Jewy coming-of-age-iness and friends-having-a-tough-time-iness, I'd also say my book evokes Chaim Potok's The Chosen just a little bit. Oh, and also -- this isn't a book -- but back when I was writing the rough draft of TCD, I was watching a lot of Summer Heights High on HBO. I hope I captured class/race/gender/idiot eighth grade bullies in sort of the same way that that show did.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

More than anyone, my mom inspired me to write the book, both in that she remains my number one writing role model in all of her creativity and nonstop dedication, and in that she said that if I went ahead and wrote the book during the summer that I was planning to, that I could stay in my room all day and I wouldn't have to get a real job. Thanks, Mom!

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

A bunch of things:

-I filled the book with lots of stories staright from the mind of Dorothy Wu, which gave me full license to basically just write Greek mythology fanfic in which Poseidon is a vindictive daddy figure with anger management issues.



-My book is "multimedia," by which I mean...on one page, there is a clip art image of a Thanksgiving cornucopia. You're welcome, Pilgrims (my number one target demographic).

-While I was writing the book, I spent several entire days of writing being super-frustrated that it was taking me all day to come up with made-up Facebook statuses/AIM conversations.

-Since I had so many random school characters to name, I gave a bunch of them the names of either obscure NBA players or people from my life (but when I used real-life people, I, um, had fun with it. So "Andrew Molina" became... "Andrea Molina." Sorry, Andrew!)

-In a baldfaced attempt to create a character who could be on her own lunchbox, I gave Dorothy Wu at least thirty catchphrases (most notably, "Holy Table!").

And on that note -- Holy Table! This post is running long! Time to wrap it up!

Typically in a Next Big Thing blog post, what you're supposed to do at the end is tag another author who will then write a post of his or her own. But a tough time finding another author.

Mmm…good times.

Mmm…good times.

So what I'm going to do now, is I'm going to tag YOU, the reader of this blog post! Super fun and not stupid at all, right? Isn't it fun being tagged and called the Next Big Thing? Doesn't it remind you of when YOU were Time Magazine's Person of the Year in 2006?  (Congrats again, on that, btw.)

So yeah! Have fun writing! Write a way-too-long blog post that devolves into you just talking about your favorite Canadian child actors! Follow your dreeeeeeeeeeeams!