Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to host Cindy Rodriguez, one of our panelists during the Worcester Needs Diverse Books panel back in July, as our Spotlight Author this week!
Welcome, Cindy! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
Hi, I’m Cindy Rodriguez. I worked as a journalist for seven years before becoming a public school teacher. I am currently a middle school reading specialist and an adjunct professor at a community college in Connecticut. I am a single mom to an 8-year old daughter and 3-year old mutt. Any spare time I have is spent writing. When Reason Breaks is my debut novel. It’s a YA contemporary about two sophomore girls who struggle with depression in different ways and who find solace in Emily Dickinson’s poetry.
What was the inspiration for When Reason Breaks? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
The book was inspired by three things that have played major roles in my adult life: teaching, depression, and Emily Dickinson. In 2007, I took a graduate course on Dickinson and fell in love with her life and work. Around that time, I saw a part of the opening scene in my head: a teacher running through the woods toward a student who was trying to commit suicide in the woods near the high school. When I really started to plan the novel, I decided the main characters would represent Dickinson in certain ways and struggle with something both she and I have struggled with–depression. My experiences as a teacher are evident in the novel as well in the classroom scenes and the character Ms. Diaz.
The steps to bring the book to publication were: write, revise, edit (repeat numerous times), query agents, revise based on agent’s notes, go on submission, wait a really long time until an editor says yes, revise based on editor’s notes, copy editing, first pass pages, blurbs, cover, ARCs, hardcovers!! From start to finish = 7 years.
What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out When Reason Breaks? How did you overcome that challenge?
My biggest challenge is always time. I started writing When Reason Breaks a few months after my daughter came home from Guatemala. I was a new single mom who also worked a full-time job outside the home. I also have since started teaching a composition course at a community college, and I’m a member of various groups including We Need Diverse Books and Latin@s in Kid Lit. So, I’ve got a lot going on! As a result, the reality is I can’t write every day. I break that cardinal rule because it just doesn’t work for me. Instead, I take advantage of time off, like snow days, vacation days, and weekends when my daughter has sleepovers with her grandparents. Because I love to write and have a need to write, I do it in those times, but because of my schedule, I’m slower than some other writers.
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
I have two work spaces: one for more business-like tasks and another for creative writing. When I sit at my office desk in my office chair, I think “work,” not “create,” so I’m focused on completing tasks, like updating my website and checking and responding to emails. The set-up reminds me of my actual out-of-the-home work spaces, past and present, so when I’m in my office, I’m more business-minded. I never actually write there.
I do almost all of my novel writing on my bed. I have pounded out some scenes in other places, like coffee shops and the waiting areas of my daughter’s activities, but my bed is my go-to writing spot. It’s where I am comfortable physically and mentally. I spread out any papers or notes to the left. I sit on the right side of the bed with my laptop and my dog. A small dresser to my right provides me with light and a place to put food and coffee. The wall on my left is often adorned with plot-related sticky notes and other pictures for inspiration.
I can’t listen to music while I write. No tunes or TV. I need quiet.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
SCBWI is a must. They offer great conferences and I met my critique group members through this organization. I think writers should also join any debut groups for support. I’m part of the Fearless Fifteeners and the Class of 2k15. The debut year is stressful and you’ll have lots of questions. These online groups are great places to get your questions answered and bond over the ups and downs during the process. Writing is usually a solitary activity, so having a place to log into with other people going through the same thing is so valuable.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
When Reason Breaks can be found in libraries, local bookstores, and anywhere books are sold online.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
Thank you, again, for joining us, Cindy! We loved having you at both Worcester Needs Diverse Books and on our Author Spotlight Blog!