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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Guest Post: Ann Redisch Stampler (Author of Where It Began)



Ann Redisch Stampler makes her YA debut with Where It Began. She is the author of several picture books, including The Rooster Prince of Breslov, which have been an Aesop Accolade winner, Sydney Taylor notable books, a National Jewish Book Awards finalist and winner, and Bank Street Best Books of the Year. Ann lives in Los Angeles, California.

For more info on Ann, visit her sites:


Where It Began, the path to publication....

Let’s just say I was clueless as to what novel-writing entailed when I got serious about “Where It Began.”

I knew how to write picture books, and I thought that writing a novel would be pretty much the same. Only longer.

The in-joke with picture book writers is: You think that writing a 1,000 word book is so easy, try writing Anna Karenina on a grain of rice.
And I thought, swell! I’m a proud picture book writer. I can write Anna Karenina on a grain of rice. Only imagine what I could do if I had an entire bag of rice, if I had the luxury of more space to develop my characters. Not to mention, English majors can leap tall stacks of literary masterpieces in a single bound. Oh yeah, I can write a novel.

I’d had Gabby, the narrator of “Where It Began,” in my head for several years, fragments of her story scattered through half a dozen spiral notebooks. I heard her voice. I knew how her book began and how it ended. I knew the entire life story of every one of her friends and acquaintances, and where the Slutmuffins shopped.

So I took the plunge. I bought a red three-ring binder. I tore Gabby’s fragments out of the spiral notebooks and put them into that binder.

Then I sat in my den and wrote, and when I had something that looked like a scene, I tore it out of the spiral notebook and put it into the red binder. I sat there in my special spot on the couch, next to my dog, and I wrote “Where It Began” by hand with a black, fine-point Pilot pen. Sometimes my husband would leave for work and when he got home, the dog and I would still be there.

I am not sure of the exact time-line since writing in this crazed, woozy, endless, chapters-out-of-sequence, disorganized way makes days and weeks and months kind of blend together. But maybe a year later, when I typed what I had into a hundred tiny Word files, I realized that I had 300 pages. I strung my tiny word files together. I numbered them. I thought, a-hah! These are not fragments, these are chapters. Each of these chapters has been thoroughly rewritten many times and is all polished and wonderful. I have written a novel.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t.

I had written 300 pages of fragments that didn’t fit together.

My next step was to let someone besides my husband read it; this input pushed me to see the novel with fresh eyes. I rewrote the whole thing. Twice. For another year. I knew Gabby so well that there were changes I couldn’t make as they weren’t consistent with who she was, but I cut and I added and when I sent out the massively redone book to agents, unlike when I had 300 pages of disjointed fragments, they liked it.

But I had heard Brenda Bowen speak at a conference and I had thought, whoa, if I ever need an agent, man, I want her. So I emailed her; she read the novel very quickly, and she made an offer of representation. Ta Da.

Okay, not quite Ta Da. The novel still wasn’t there yet. Brenda had a wonderful perspective and I re-wrote “Where It Began” through spring and summer with the goal of having the manuscript ready to submit to editors by autumn. And when I was done, I loved what I had. “Where It Began” was true to Gabby and true to my original vision. It was ready.

Brenda and I talked about which publishers would be best .(Pretty much she talked and I listened as I was not exactly knowledgeable.) She sent it out. Editors liked it. And within a couple of days, it went to a phenomenally good editor at Simon Pulse, Jen Klonsky. I am sublimely happy with Simon Pulse, and my next book is due on Jen’s desk in February.

I vowed that writing the second book would involve an outline so the chapters, which I would write sequentially, would magically fit together.

So much for that.

The only things that have changed are the couch and the house. I am writing this from a white couch in my bedroom, looking down to the Pacific. My dog is stretched out on my feet. Perfect.


Summary: A teen’s world comes crashing down in this compulsively readable YA debut that’s as literary as it is commercial. Gabby Gardiner wakes up in a hospital bed looking like a cautionary ad for drunk driving—and without a single memory of the accident that landed her there. But what she can recall, in frank and sardonic detail, is the year leading up to the crash. As Gabby describes her transformation from Invisible Girl to Trendy Girl Who Dates Billy Nash (aka Most Desirable Boy Ever), she is left wondering: Why is Billy suddenly distancing himself from her? What do her classmates know that Gabby does not? Who exactly was in the car that night? And why has Gabby been left to take the fall? As she peels back the layers of her life, Gabby begins to realize that her climb up the status ladder has been as intoxicating as it has been morally complex...and that nothing about her life is what she has imagined it to be.

Purchase it here:

Thank you Ann for taking the time out to guest post on my blog! I'm also sincerely sorry it took me a while to post it.


Ann Stampler said...

Dear Eleni,
Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest at La Femme Readers! I'm thrilled to be here, no matter when!

grace crawford said...

The book was a page-turner; a reader will likely finish this sordid story in less than a few days. The plot is memorable, the characters are hard to forget, and the ending is unexpected. This book is recommended to young adult/teen readers, especially those who enjoy Gossip Girl and/or Pretty Little Liars.
Limo in Seattle

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