Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Casey McCormick

Very early in my agent researching days, I came across Literary Rambles, Casey McCormick's fantastically informative blog about all areas of writing, including agent info for the field of children's literature. I was collecting agent information on little index cards, and realized that she was doing the same thing, in a much more comprehensive and organized manner. And, when I posted some comments, I found that she is a gracious host, and a supportive, kind person. Plus, she has style--she owns just about the coolest book-related purse I've ever seen. I am really pleased to introduce the woman behind Agent Spotlights, Writing/Research Tip Tuesday, and Wednesday Word Count!

In her own words:

Casey McCormick is an aspiring author as well as a reader for a literary agent. She lives in California where she neglects her day job as a medical transcriptionist to write young adult fiction and chase her kids around. To find out more, visit her blog, Literary Rambles, where she yaps about writing, literary agents, and a myriad of other desultory thoughts.

Casey--tell us--what are you currently working on?

For the last year I’ve been writing and rewriting (and writing and rewriting) a young adult novel about a psychologically broken teen and the unique way she deals with the events that broke her. That’s all I’m gonna say. ; )

What made you start to write seriously?

I come from The Harry Potter Wave, as I call it. You know, the masses that were compelled to write after experiencing the magic of HP (the sort of masses now coming from Twilight). I’d been writing off and on for years prior (mostly adult fantasy), but J.K. Rowling led me to discover children’s literature and a passion for writing it. It was like finding my forever home.

If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

I can’t say that I have just one. Every blog I read religiously offers a little something different, something worthy of favoritism. That said, I really try to keep up with
The Guide to Literary Agents blog, and highly recommend it, as it helps me stay current on agent news, interviews, and more.

What is your favorite blog post that you have written?

Gosh, I don’t know! I love one I wrote called “
Channeling My Mad Scientist," but I favor all of my Agent Spotlight posts as well. Those posts are filled with care and purpose, and I love that writers appreciate them so much.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

Can I name more than one?
Verla Kay’s Children's Writers and Illustrators Message Board, the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler, and Cynthea Liu’s site Writing for Children and Teens. I’ve learned a ton from all three, and made many new friends from the message boards, including my original, fabulous critique partner. I'm not sure where I'd be now without these resources.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Sticking with my novels, probably. I have a tendency to cut my (perceived) losses and run when I get to the dreaded middle and fall out of love with a project. I’ve been focusing on overcoming this little habit of mine this past year, but it’s not going particularly well. I think I bring a new level of harsh to being self-critical and can’t seem to love anything I write enough to get truly behind it. Sometimes I wonder what’s wrong with me when everyone else seems to love their manuscripts so much! Beyond that, I think it's really hard to know where I'm actually at as a writer and how to improve what needs improving.

What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

I set goals with my fabulous critique partners, withhold things I love until I write, set timers, etc. Whatever I have to do, really. One of the greatest motivators, I think, is to set my writing aside for a while and read instead. When I’m really in a slump, I’ll read a stack of books (or revisit those that have inspired me in the past) and find a strong motivation to write again.

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

As I mentioned above, Harry Potter led me to discovering kidlit (I didn’t read much of it as an actual kid or teen), so it will always hold a special place in my heart. More recently, I feel that Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson influenced my writing a bit. The poetic nature of the writing made me almost sick with desire to write as beautiful, as good, and as powerful as she does in that book. Let me tell you, it made the self-critic in me a lot meaner, but I learned so much about the potential of the written word in YA fiction by reading Wintergirls that I almost feel indebted to Anderson.

What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

Aside from wanting to touch the lives of others, my practical goal is to achieve a level of writing I can be proud to publish, and then to make a career out of it. As far as reaching for the stars, I’d love to be a prolific bestseller with a dedicated following. I don’t want to be hugely famous like Rowling or Meyers, not at all; just big enough to know I’m touching the lives of many, and doing what I've wanted to do for awhile now—write full time, successfully.

So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

The best part is seeing how much I’ve grown as a writer. It’s hard to live (and be patient) with the gut feeling that my writing isn’t good enough. But, seeing the progress I’ve made from draft to draft, especially from my first novel to my most recent, is all the encouragement I need to keep going. If I’ve been able to improve as much as I have in the last few years, I know I’m capable of becoming a phenomenal writer someday.

If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

Well, since I’ve done it a couple times already, I’m going to name more than one… Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, Hermione Granger from HP, or, if you don’t mind a gender swap, Harry Potter himself.

Casey--I have to say that I already think that you have accomplished your first goal, of touching the lives of others. Your blog is a very special and helpful place to be! Everyone, let's help make Casey feel at home by posting a question or comment for her in the comments. She'll stop by when she can to answer questions.


  1. Casey--Thanks for doing this interview! I was wondering--how many projects do you work on at once?

  2. Thank you so much for the interview and kind words, Heather!

    I try to dedicate my energy to one project at a time, but I end up switching around a lot. Having so many unfinished projects makes it awfully easy to change gears when I hit a roadblock. In this regard, I think I have a lot of growing left to do as a writer. But, realizing where my weaknesses lie is the first step in overcoming them, I think!

  3. Great interview -- I love learning more about the people behind the blogs I read regularly. And, as a bonus, I found out about Heather's blog today, too!

  4. Thanks Alexis. I think you'll enjoy Heather's blog a lot!

  5. Yay Casey!!! What a great interview, both the questions and the answers. Thanks for sharing!! :)

  6. Just checked out Casey's blog the other day. The agent information on there is outstanding.

  7. Casey -- love the interview. I get so much more insight to you and your history with writing.

    How did you jump into the writing community? Did you first start your blog, or was it a visit to the message boards that got you first connected with other writers? And what would be the first website you'd tell a new writer to visit?

  8. Thanks, Paul. I discovered you via Heather's blog the other day, which is probably how you found me! Love your blog so far!

  9. Casey, I've seen your striking picture all over lately and have been impressed by your blog. I really like what you said about having patience with that feeling that writing is never good enough and recognizing how much better drafts get. Well put. It is always validating to hear other writers say that. And I share your admiration of Laurie Halse Anderson. I wouldn't mind having a career like hers! I'm very curious about your various projects. To me that seems like a very helpful way to write to have more than one project going so you can take breaks when you need to. With your blog and your job and kids when do you find time to do the writing(do you have a regular schedule)? Am always curious how others work that one out.

    Thanks for another great interview, Heather!

  10. Hi Stephanie!

    Now that I'm thinking about it, I started out over at the forum at I was big into reading and writing fantasy then, but I wasn't a very active member.

    After reading HP and deciding I wanted to try my hand at MG fantasy, I found the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler, which led me to discovering YA lit.

    After making some friends at AW, I started my blog, and then discovered Verla's through some fellow kidlit bloggers.

    If the new writer was writing kidlit, I'd probably send them right over to Verla's. The community there seems much more close knit in some ways, than the one at AW. But, if the writer was writing in a genre outside of kidlit, I'd send them over to AW. Both are fabulous resources and home to a great amount of knowledge and many a helpful writer.

    I think these message boards have a lot more to offer than any one informational website!

  11. Hi Tina!

    Having various projects going has its pros and cons. I love the variety and the ability to switch gears when I feel it's needed, but it's also keeping me from getting something ready to submit! And my journey to publication will never find its destination if I can't pull it together and revise something until it's ready.

    As far as finding time to write, I actually promised Stephanie (quite awhile ago) that I'd do a post on it. Ha! Apparently I haven't found the time. : p

    Because the transcribing I do requires me to listen to dictations, it's a lot harder to do with my kids running around than popping on an off my laptop to write or blog. So in between taking care of the kids and the house, I'm jumping on my laptop to do what I can there, and then when naptime comes around, I'm trying to get some paying work done. It can get a little crazy and exhausting, but there's really nothing else for me to be doing during the day, except maybe reading!, so it all works out.

    And I haven't even told you guys that I'm going back to school in January. Ha! Guess I'm trying to find my breaking point, huh?

    Honestly, I think it comes down to motivation, personality, situation, and each person's willingness to carve out time. Some people have very little time compared to me but manage to write a lot more than I do, so it's all in what you make of what you've got, I think.

  12. Wow. Good luck with school. Thanks for such a thourough response!!

  13. Casey--I know what you mean about multiple projects keeping you from having one polished and ready to submit. Maybe we should lock ourselves into a room with one ms. until it is agent ready. On the other hand, I see my writing improving, so I think that the drafting and new projects benefit my revision process as well.

  14. Thanks Tina! I'm nervous about adding school to everything else.

    I agree, Heather! I drive myself crazy sometimes, because I do want to submit someday, but I just don't feel ready, so I keep switching things up, trying to learn and grow as a writer.

  15. Great interview!! :)

    I love your goal, Casey - to make a career out of writing. :) Sigh..

    And I agree - you're definitely touching lives. :)

  16. Great interview!

    I found Casey when I was researching agents. She's got so much great information on her blog. It's definitely a great resource for writers.

    Good luck with the writing, Casey. Some day you'll find the story that has you by the throat and keeps you writing past the muddle to the end!

  17. Wonderful interview. She is indeed kind and generous and I appreciate the wealth of information she brings to the writing community. Go, Casey!

  18. Thank you Keri, Sherrie, and Kathryn! You're all too sweet. : )

  19. Casey - I love your blog! It's one of the most interesting and useful ones I follow... and I follow way too many. Thanks for the interview!

  20. Great interview, Casey and Heather. And it's great to be introduced to your blog, Heather. These interviews with aspiring authors are lots of fun.

  21. Samantha--Thanks for stopping by. Some previous interviews are listed on the right if you want to check them out!

  22. Great interview! It's always interesting to see a little peek at what goes on in fellow writers' heads.

  23. Welcome Rebecca--cool avatar! I love learning more about other writers.

  24. Thanks Samantha and Rebecca! Glad to see you over here. : )

  25. Casey, I enjoy your blog. It's a great resource! It was fun learning a little more about you today. Happy writing to you!!

  26. Thanks Paul! Happy writing to you as well.

  27. Welcome, Suzette. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview!