I am getting very excited for YA/MG day, which will be held on November 3 in Lancaster, PA. I was able to speak with YA author Abbey Lee Nash, one of the faculty members for this event, at the Eastern Penn Points Cafe this week. In addition to leading one of the breakout sessions, Abbey will be doing manuscript critiques, so be sure to register for the event and a critique here.
Laura: Welcome back to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe, Abbey. We’ve got some peanut butter cookies here just for you. Can we get you something to drink as well?
Abbey: Yum! I’ll take a decaf coffee, please, with lots of cream.
Laura: Absolutely! The last time you came by, your novel, Lifeline, had just released. Now that it’s been out for several months, what has surprised you the most about having your book out in the world?
Abbey: Even though I wrote Lifeline with teenagers in mind, it’s been interesting to see how many adult readers have resonated with the book. Even people who haven’t had experience with family addiction seem to relate to the book’s themes of forgiveness and hope.
Laura: That’s wonderful! I’m sure your readers are eager for more. What’s next on your writing horizon? Can you divulge anything about any new projects that you are currently working on?
Abbey: I love writing about realistic characters overcoming real-life challenges. While my next project is a departure from Lifeline (hint: it’s a romance), readers will still find that common thread of real teens with relatable struggles, searching for, and ultimately finding, light and hope and love in a situation that at first glance seems hopeless.
Laura: You’re also a writing instructor. What have you been able to learn from your students that has helped you in your own writing?
Abbey: Great question! As a working writer, I think it’s easy to focus too much on the end result of a project rather than enjoying the process. Before an idea has even been tested on the page, working writers begin to think about where it will fit in the current marketplace or which agents might have it on their wish lists.
Student writers, on the other hand, particularly beginners, write because they love it. They have no idea if the words they’re jotting on the page are going to turn into a short story or the first chapter of a novel; they know only that words are bubbling out of them in response to a prompt, and they need a place to write them down. A classroom of new creative writers is buzzing with pure, unjaded creativity.
As the lucky teacher of these students, I’ve tried to put just a fraction of that energy into practice where I can, focusing on the process rather than the outcome, remembering that I write because I love it, and hopefully, if I approach my writing that way, my readers will ultimately love it, too.
Laura: That’s great advice for all writers. Now, let’s go back in time. Growing up, what was your favorite …
Picture book? The Tawny Scrawny Lion
Chapter book or middle grade book? Bridge to Terabithia and Tuck Everlasting
Young adult novel? The Giver
Laura: We’re looking forward to seeing you at our YA/MG Day in Lancaster in November. Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’ll be talking about that day?
Abbey: My presentation is called “Write What You Know (Or What You Wish You Didn’t): Addressing Tough Topics in YA Literature.” Readers who follow me on social media know that the premise of Lifeline was inspired by personal experience. Similarly, my current project deals with issues relevant to my personal life. On YA/MG Day, I’m looking forward to talking about how to mine your personal experiences and create authentic stories for teenagers without agenda or didacticism.
Laura: I can’t wait! Thanks so much for stopping by.
Abbey: Thanks for having me!
Born to parents with a serious case of “wanderlust,” Abbey Lee Nash has lived in some pretty interesting places, including on a Christian farming commune in rural Georgia, above a third-world craft store in Kentucky, and on a Salvation Army retreat center in the Pennsylvania mountains. She currently lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, two daughters, and one very rambunctious Australian Shepherd. She received her MA in English from Arcadia University in 2011 and currently works at Bryn Athyn College where she teaches writing and literature. She is also an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Lifeline is her first novel.