Thursday, July 15, 2010

7 Questions For: Author Kurtis Scaletta

Kurtis Scaletta is the author of Mudville, Mamba Point (click here to read my review), and the upcoming Wake Me, all published by Knopf Books. Mr. Scaletta has lived in Louisiana, New Mexico, England, North Dakota, Liberia, Virginia, Brazil, North Dakota (again), Kansas, Maine, and Minnesota. From the bio section of his website: "When I came back to writing, I decided to focus on stories for children and young adults. I especially wanted to write “middle grade” books, the novels that for me (and for many people) represent a golden age of reading: middle grade is where you’ll find Charlotte and Wilber, Beezus and Ramona, and the earlier adventures of Harry, Hermione and Ron."

Mr. Scaletta has launched a new book this week and is expecting a new baby, but somehow he has still found time to come visit us and face the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Sticking to kids books, I'll say Charlotte's Web; The Midnight Fox; and Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars. I might give a different three books if you ask again tomorrow.

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

I spend probably an average of forty hours a week writing and revising, less time some weeks and more other weeks. I have a day job so that's a second full time job for me. I don't get to read as much as I'd like to, but I read about 20 books a year, often in spurts when I'm on a hiaitus from writing.

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

My story is pretty typical -- I wrote a manuscript, got critiques, revised it a lot, wrote a bang-up query letter with the help of a very kindhearted friend who was already published, sent it to eight or nine agents, and got an offer of representation from Tina Wexler after two or three rounds of revisions and a couple of long telephone conversations. She sold the book pretty quickly after she thought it was ready. From conception to publication was a five-year process.

BTW, publication is a departure point, not a destination.

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

It's mostly learned but only partly taught. I mean that writers set out to learn and they can learn from everything, not just teachers --reading other books, listening to the way people talk, asking questions, writing and revising, meeting other writers. Almost everything is instructive.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

I think my favorite part and my least favorite part are the same thing -- all of the revisions and hard work that goes into turning a manuscript in a book. Ideas are fun and finished books are fun; everything in between is drudgery, but the drudgery is the part that makes all the difference and gives me the most satisfaction and pride.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Stop aspiring and start perspiring.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I usually say P.G. Wodehouse, James Thurber, Kurt Vonnegut, or Daniel Pinkwater. I'm not just looking for brilliant writers, but ones I know will be fun to talk to. Now I might say bright, funny writers I know online and through their books but have never met in person --Michael Northrop, Josh Berk, James Preller, and Laurel Snyder are the first names that come to mind. There are dozens more.


  1. "Stop aspiring and start perspiring."

    Love love love that!!! Thanks for the kick in the pants, Kurtis!

    Great interview!

  2. I agree Kurt and Marcella but keeping the 'butt in chair' (not in front of TV) is hard to do during the summer!


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