Trisha Leaver is a name you are surely going to hear in the near future. This young adult author has written a book of struggle and hope, CEDAR. Ms. Leaver has jumped over one of the biggest hurdles that faces new writers, acquiring an agent, which is one of the first steps on the road to publication. Over the past few weeks CEDAR has been sent out to 14 acquiring agents at publishing houses. We at Lexi’s Author Alcove are wishing her much success. I have had the privilege to ask Trisha about her writing progress, process, and goals.
Thank you Trisha for speaking with us today.
1. When did you first begin writing?
I was always a day dreamer. I can remember getting up getting up before everyone else when I was in first grade just so I could sit in the one rocking chair we had and make up stories in my head. I can still recall some of the characters names and even some of the plots.
I put my first story down on paper when I was in the seventh grade. It was a required creative writing assignment from my English teacher, Sister Yvonne. It got published in the school newspaper and I kept at it from there.
In the eleventh grade my English Lit teacher caught me scribbling in one of my many journals, and she made me read what I was writing in front of the class. She was surprised; I was thoroughly embarrassed. Needless to say that put a damper on my writing for quite some time.
2. Who are you inspirations?
On a personal level, I have to say my Mom. She always had a book in one hand and another waiting to be read. It was her love of all things written that got me into reading and eventually writing.
3. What are your writing habits?
Being the mom of three kids all going in different directions at the same exact time, I write whenever and for as long as I can. That usually occurs later in the evening when the kids are tucked into bed or early in the morning before they wake. I am blessed with late risers so I can usually get a good two hours of caffeinated writing time before they get up.
4. Are you a pantster or a plotter?
Hands down, not doubt about it I am a panster. I let the characters lead the way and rein them in when necessary. That said, at any given point in a WIP I have a loose, and I do mean loose, idea of where the ms is heading.
5. Who are your favorite authors and what are you reading now?
My absolute favorite author is Cormac McCarthy. His skills with imagery and characterization never cease to amaze me. As for what I am reading right now . . . Paper Towns by John Green
6. What are your goals as a writer?
For as long as I can remember I had dozens, literally dozens of characters, ideas, and conversations running through my mind simultaneously. My goal is to get as many of them down on paper as possible. Do I want to get published? Of course; I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t an important accomplishment I strive daily to achieve. But beneath that, is this unending desire to be creative. Writing is an emotional outlet for me, I would continue to do it even if publishing wasn’t in the cards for me.
7. If you had one wish for your writing career what would it be?
To be able to go onto Amazon, find one of my books, and mail it directly to all of the beta readers that made the novel possible.
8. What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
That rejection is a necessary part of the game. Its stings, but in the end it makes you a stronger person, and a better writer. I still keep a folder on my computer of every rejection I received while querying Cedar. I go through it every once in a while; it’s a humbling experience.
9. You recently acquired an agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Agency, congratulations. How did you feel with your novel CEDAR found representation?
Jessica was one of my top choices, the one that I had held off querying in the first place because her rejection would sting more then the most. I never in my wildest dreams would’ve guessed that she’d fall in love with my ms. So when she called I was amazed and completely caught off-guard. So much so that when she called and told me that she‘d woken up that morning thinking about my book Cedar my response was a mumbled “That’s a good thing . . . right?” Her response, after a good chuckle was, “Yes it is!”
10. What experience was worse for you, writing and editing the novel or querying agents for representation?
Editing! It took me a long time to come to grips with the simple fact that sometimes your favorite lines, favorite scenes, and even entire characters have to go. I become so attached to my characters that sometimes taking out a simple scene felt like major surgery.
11. How do you handle the inevitable rejection every author received when they send their work out into the world?
With a thick skin and a large handful of chocolate covered coffee beans. No matter how prepared you are, the first and even the twenty-first rejection stings. That’s where I rely on the community of writers that I have grown close to. They remind me that my writing is great, that everybody has to endure a certain level of rejection to succeed, and that it only takes one yes.
12. Is CEDAR your first novel?
Yes and no. Cedar was the first novel I ever queried, but not the first one I had ever written. I wrote another YA book called Seven Shades of Crazy. It was a birthday gift for a dear friend of mine who was complaining she had nothing good to read. It is still sitting on my hard drive, going through revisions, and beta reads. It is completely different genre from Cedar, so I am a little hesitant to send it out.
13. What is it like working with an agent?
I love it. The revisions she suggested to Cedar have taken my simple story from great to truly amazing. I find myself being more critical of my writing now that I have an agent then I was before. I wasn’t to continue to impress Jessica so I work twice as hard to make sure all the necessary elements are in place.
14. As a freelance editor yourself, is it hard to edit your work based on another person opinions?
I think no matter who you are, taking suggestions from others about your work can be a truly enlightening experience. A fresh set of eyes are an invaluable resource when you are writing a book. I become so enmeshed in my characters lives that sometimes I lose sight of the bigger picture. What I envision in my head, what I can clearly see happening, and what my fingers choose to type out often don’t jive.
It is my beta readers who point out the subtle inconsistencies in my manuscripts. To give you an example, my new WIP is nearly complete and a trusted beta readers is has been reading it chapter by chapter for me. Just last week she sent me a note pointing out that my mc was putting on her socks in the last line of the chapter. It wouldn’t be a problem except in the beginning of the scene she was wearing flip flops. I had read this chapter countless times and hadn’t caught it. They are amazing at catching little flaws like that.
I think it is also important to stay true to your individual voice when taking suggestions for beta readers. Think about the suggestions they give you, and then employ the ones you want and toss the others aside.
15. Many people have an unrealistic view on how long it takes to write a novel. How long did it take you to write your first draft of CEDAR?
Late last August, I woke up from a dream about a girl struggling to get out of a small West Virginian mountain town. That morning Cedar was born. It took me and entire day to write . . . eight hours of constant writing to carve out the first six pages of my manuscript. I tossed it aside for a month, unsure of where I wanted to go with it or why I even had the compulsion to write the first scene.
I came back to it in early October, went chapter for chapter with a writing buddy of mine. It took me six solid weeks of writing every day, six to eight hours a day to get Cedar completed. And even then it was in no way ready for querying. I had weeks of editing and beta reading ahead of me.
16. Your background is in law, and social work, what prompted you to write this novel?
I graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in Social Work and attended Suffolk University School of Law. Having dedicated time in the social service field as child advocate, I had the unfortunate opportunity of seeing some of the blacker shades of life and the honor of witnessing some of the most amazing stories of recovery and triumph. I draw upon these experiences to weave stories that show the depth and courage of the human spirit in today’s youth.
18. Do you belong to any writing associations?
I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. SCBWI
19. Please tell our readers about your book CEDAR.
I always get a good chuckle from these types of question. It never ceases to amaze me that I can write an entire 80,000 word novel; but when asked to condense it down to a neat 250 word explanation, I freeze.
CEDAR is YA crossover novel where, the perpetual problems of substance abuse, perennially pregnant mothers, and the constant fear of physical retribution tear down dreams of love and happiness in a small West Virginian town tucked deep in the Appalachian Mountains.
Seventeen-year-old Cedar McIntyre is hiding in the mountains from Tommy Hartwell . . . and her life. She survives in a world many refuse to believe even exists. Poorer than the projects and as destitute as a third-world country, this tiny West Virginian town is about to change, and so is Cedar when Noah Stockton arrives.
Resilient, proud, and averse to anything charity-tinged, Cedar’s not sure what to make of Noah’s generosity. He’d gladly give his life to see the girl he loves safe and free of a man who has already left Cedar broken and scarred. But Tommy staked his claim on Cedar years ago, secured her father’s blessing for the marriage and intends to make good on his promise . . . by force if necessary.
But Cedar’s not about to succumb to the life this mountain’s carved out for her. Having already survived her belt-wielding father, endured days without food, and thwarted Tommy’s relentless advances, Cedar’s determined to forge her own fate – finish high school, go to college, and be something more than a perennially pregnant wife living in constant fear of abuse.
It’s Noah’s protective kindness that brings Cedar’s world to a shattering halt when Tommy goes after what he feels is rightfully his . . . Cedar. When Noah offers her safety and a piece of the life she’s dreamed of, Cedar can’t refuse, leaving behind the only life she‘s ever known and the only boy she ever dared to love.
20. What are you working on now?
I am currently juggling two WIP’s while fighting with my muse to decide which one to finish first. The first is YA dystopia novel written from a boy’s perspective – challenging but a lot of fun to write. The second one is more of a contemporary YA and more along the lines of Cedar. I am also brushing off Seven Shades of Crazy to see if it is worth submitting to my agent.
You can read more about Trisha’s journey to publication by visiting her blog entitled :