Author Interview – Wendelin Van Draanen

Photo from Wendelin’s Amazon Author Page


I remember reading my first Sammy Keyes mystery as a kid, and experiencing the sheer delight of Sammy’s antics from the very first pages. (If you’ve read the first Sammy Keyes, you’ll know exactly what moment I’m talking about.) Recently, I read the final book in that series, SAMMY KEYES AND THE KISS GOODBYE, Wendelin Van Draanen’s farewell to an iconic character.

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But Sammy Keyes is far from the only delightful character that Wendelin has created. She is the award-winning author of over 30 books for teens and young adults, including FLIPPED, which was named a Top 100 Children’s Novel for the 21st Century by School Library Journal, an IRA/CBC Children’s Choice Book, an IRA/CBC Teacher’s Choice Book, and much more. Her books have been featured in outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Time for Kids. I was so excited to get the chance to ask Wendelin a few questions about her writing career:


1. What’s the best advice you’d give to other writers about the publishing process?

I kept my writing dreams mostly to myself for the 10 years it took me to get published. (I would certainly approach it differently now, but back then? I didn’t want to hear how hard it was to get published, or how I should maybe give it up. I wanted to succeed.) So the best advice I’d have about writing/publishing is #1) revision is your friend–I revise my novels about 20 times now before submitting them. And, #2) always be working on something new. Don’t wait around. The more you write the better you get. And if you’re always working on something new, the rejections that will almost certainly come won’t sting so much.


2. What is some of the worst advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? 

I received a lot of conflicting rejections. Some would like the characters, but not the plot. Some would like the setting, but not the characters. Some loved the dialog, some did not. So that wasn’t helpful! But when a pattern emerged–like several rejects said the same basic thing–I learned to listen. As hard as it is to hear, if several people tell you the same thing, there’s almost certainly truth (as opposed to simply opinion) in what they’re saying.


3. What is one resource (whether it’s a writing tool, book discovery tool, community forum, etc.) that you think is valuable for writers that not everyone may know about?

It still surprises me when I hear that people in Children’s/Teen lit haven’t heard about SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I wish I had joined when I was in the midst of those 10 years of trying to find a publisher. And my favorite writing tool resource–although everyone’s heard of it, it’s still the best resource ever–the thesaurus.


4. What is something that surprised you about your career path?

A) That it took so long to break in. B) that I became an “overnight sensation” 🙂


5. What is one book–fiction or nonfiction–that you would recommend writers pick up?

That question is impossible to answer. I would say that the one book a writer should spend all their mental time on is the one they’re writing. You need to submerge. Focus on your story, spend so much time with your characters that they feel real to you. Get off the computer, turn off the TV, think about your story and the people in it. Imagine what they’re going through, feeling, seeing, smelling….everything. Do this until you’re dreaming about your characters and their plight, and then set them free on the page.


Here are the ways you can connect with Wendelin!

Visit her site.

Find her on Goodreads.

Follow her on Twitter.

Follow her on Instagram.

Follow her on Facebook.


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