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Author Chat with Patricia McCormick
Transcript of Live Chat
July 24, 2008
Summer Reading Good afternoon everyone! Welcome to our chat with the award-winning author, Patricia McCormick. Patty is the author of 3 books for teens; SOLD, MY BROTHER'S KEEPER and CUT. She is also a journalist and frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review, Ladies Home Journal, Town & Country, and Reader's Digest among other publications. A New York City resident, she lives on a quiet street with her husband, her son, and two cats. Patty is a terrific friend to teens and libraries everywhere! Let's give a warm welcome to one of our favorite authors!
scoobydoo what inspired you to write my brother's keeper?
pattymac That was a book for which I didn't have to do any research. I LIVED that story - being the person in the family who covers up for the person with a substance abuse problem. For every one person with a substance abuse issue, there are usually three or four people close by who are affected by it. I wanted to tell that story.
jazmyne I love SOLD! You seem to always write about kids in deep trouble, why is that?
pattymac I wish I knew the answer. I WISH I could write a funny book. But I'm drawn to issues of social justice and personal growth and turmoil - maybe because I used to be a journalist. I also feel like if I'm going to spend 2-3 years on a book, I want it to really mean something. What's so satisfying is hear from kids that the book reflected their lives.
Jan Hello Ms. McCormick, I admire you for writing about such a dark side of human behavior in Sold. How were you able to carry out your research? Have you ever heard from any politicians or other leaders who want to put a dent in human trafficking?
pattymac Doing the research turned out to be surprisingly easy. The Internet! I found aid groups that rescue girls and groups who visit the brothels and provide health care and they were happy to give me access. The hard part was dealing with all the emotions it stirred up in me: anger, profound sadness, a feeling of hopeless. I couldn't write for nearly 3 months after I got home. It was only when I got pictures back from the photo mat that I started writing; then I couldn’t write fast enough! I HAVE heard from polticians - the state department office on trafficking invited me to speak to them. And laws have begun to be changed.
jazmyne Have you received letter from girls who have been sold into prostitution because you wrote SOLD?
pattymac I haven't. But I did speak to girls in a juvenile detention facility in Texas. I thought they would have little in common with the characters in my book. Turns out many of them had been sexually exploited, or pimped by someone they trusted. Just this week, in Queens, right near an elementary school where I used to teach a middle-aged Chinese woman was arrested for luring and kidnapping girls from China to work in a brothel here as sex slaves.
WriterChick91 I read cut it is a very deep book where do you get your inspiration?
pattymac I'm not a cutter; I'm too much of a chicken to hurt myself physically. But I saw an news story about girls who self injure and wondered what it was like to be so lonely, so angry, so misunderstood that you'd take those feelings out on your body. As I started to write, I realized I WAS that lonely, that angry, etc when I was a teenager.
zanguta_kenny wow... what will u write next? or ur up coming book name?
pattymac I'm working on a book now about two 19-year-old soldiers in Iraq and the killing of a 10-year-old Iraqi boy. It's the classic dilemma of this war - who is the enemy?
Jeremy_McBooks Hi Patty, I'm a YA librarian here in NYC. I was wondering if you find it easier to work on your books at certain times of the year, especially since you address such tough, serious issues in Sold. Is it possible to work on a project like that in the summer, when most people are thinking about the beach, vacations, or other summer fun stuff? Thanks!
pattymac I can't say that the seasons affect me much. If they do, I’m not aware. But I will say that no matter what time of year it is, it's very hard to rejoin the real world after a day of work - to flip a switch and go to my son's soccer games, for instance, because I think about my characters all the time. I also watch a lot of comedy - South Park, John Stewart, Jim Carrey - for balance
sarah_c What music do you listen to when you write? (Do you listen to music when you write?)
pattymac I can't listen to music. It's too distracting!
cat y did u want to be a writer
pattymac I always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was little. I wrote a lot of bad poetry back then and got a lot of rejection letters as an adult before Cut. The first person who read Cut, by the way, said "I"m glad you got that out of your system. Now put it away. No one will ever read a book that dark."
SEXYMANSEXYGUY to be able to write about the majority of things u write do u have to see decapitations and mutilations first hand?
pattymac That's the biggest dilemma I faced with the current book - whether to go to Iraq to do research. I almost went, but my family discouraged me. So I read everything I can, watch videos - and use my imagination for the rest
jazmyne So, Miss McCormick where is the place that most inspires you in New York City or even the whole wide world?
pattymac hmmm. I find inspiration - and a quiet place to write - at the Writers Room, a place where there are no phones, not talking, no munching allowed. Being around other people who are all working so hard, makes me shut off my email and get to work!
blc5 there are a plethora of opinions on who truly is the enemy who do u think
pattymac In any situation like this people are under enormous pressures. It is incredibly confusing. And we are sending kids over there to make life and death decisions in a split second. They can't alwasy know who the enemy is. My view: it is the political leadership that is to blame. Meanwhile, there are ordinary, good people trying to do the best they can.
WriterChick91 books that you will be writing in the further. Will they be As Deep as The First two or are you going to lighten up you story plots a bit?
pattymac Sounds like I should lighten up a little! I do try to have a bit of humor in each book - sometimes, black humor. Because I believe that even in the worst situation there's humor, there's kindness, there's boredom, etc. Also, I don't think a reader will follow you into such dark terrain unless there's some humor - or some hope!
blc5 have all your ideas come to fruition?
pattymac NO! I worked on a book after Sold came out, about a girl whose brother was killed in Iraq and I finally had to put it aside. I simply could not 'inhabit' that story. I think I was trying too hard. I cried all day; then I started this new book.
scoobydoo what's your favorite thing to do when you're not writing?
pattymac reading! or dancing. I take a dance class called Nia. Has anyone here heard of it?
jazmyne If you had to name songs to go along with your books which songs would they be?
pattymac Gosh. That's almost impossible to answer. The only thing they all have in common is that they express an experience that is otherwise hidden. There's a Tibetan chant that I listened to when I was writing Sold. There's a Sarah MacLachlan lyric 'we're screaming inside, ah.. we can't be heard.' That seems to match Cut.
blcreader2 what is this cut people are talking about
pattymac my first book. About a girl who self-injures.
blcreader2 do you write only about something related to reality or more than that
pattymac I'm not a fantasy writer, if that's what you mean, although I've read some really good fantasy lately.
ever what is your favorite song
pattymac What is my all time number one favorite song? If I had to choose: It's Rainin' Men. I LOVE to dance to that song.
jazmyne Have you ever thought about collaborating with another writer or artist?
pattymac Rachel Cohn is my good friend. We've talked about collaborating, but so far haven't hit on an idea
SEXYMANSEXYGUY what do yu think yur readers will feel after reading yur books ?
pattymac Well, I hope they feel satisfied - and curious. I like to leave the ending farily open, a little ambiguous. I think that encourages the reader to join the collaboration, by thinking about what happens after the book is closed. With Sold, I hope they feel outrage, some relief and a desire to know more and possibly get involved.
Lena_ I havent read any of your books but I would like to recommend the Twilight by Stephanie Meyer and there are 3 other books that follow the series.
pattymac thanks. I see her books everywhere and I've heard great things about Twilight.
lio how do you think of what you want to write
pattymac I often draw inspiration and ideas from newspaper stories. I always think there's a longer, more interesting story behind the headline.
bl_creader4 what is your favorite thing to write about
pattymac I don't have one favorite thing: I just like writing about teenagers. Mainly kids in over their heads in some way.
wakefield_Teens How many hours do you write a day?
pattymac I usually write every day 9-2 or so. After that my brain gets mushy and my body gets restless.
WriterChick91 I am in the middle of writing a book do you have any advice for this writer in the making?
pattymac My suggestion is to unplug - from your iPod, your computer, your cell phone, etc. To allow yourself to sit with quiet - and see what comes into your mind. Everyone in the electronic universe is trying to put something in your head: a song, an ad, an opinion. It's so interesting to be still and see what your OWN mind comes up with. Also, I suggest joining a writers group - to get constructive feedback from other writers. Leave the group if the feedback is unkind. Who needs that? It's hard enough to write a book!
fire_wire who inspired you
pattymac Elizabeth Berg. She's a well known adult writer. She was a journalist, as I was, and she started writing fiction late in life. I thought if she could do it, I could too!
giggglius How do you feel about SOLD being on Summer Reading lists? Did you like reading required books in school?
pattymac Personally I'm happy to see it on reading lists because that will help it overcome the objections of more conservative readers. But as the mother of kids who struggled with Summer Reading, I have mixed feelings. I think compulsory reading changes the nature of the experience. It means you're reading what someone else has dictated and you're reading 'for school.' I think ideally Summer Reading should be lazy and fun, an self-guided kind of entertainment. But I know some kids wouldn't read in the summer otherwise. What do you all think?
wakefield_Teens i think it's cool being a writer what do you think about it
pattymac i think it's the best job in the world! Of course, I'm my own boss and if the boss says let's take the day off and go to the movies, I go!
Summer Reading Thank you Patricia McCormick for chatting us this summer afternoon at www.summerreading.org in New York City. On behalf of all of us at the Brooklyn Public Library, The New York Public Library, the Queens Library and places beyond we wish you all good reading all summer. To learn more about Patty McCormick, visit her website: www.pattymccormick.com.
pattymac thanks to all of you! I'm sorry I couldn't answer every single question, but I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. Patty