Interview With YA Isaac Blum - Uncharted

Interview With YA Isaac Blum

By Riv Begun

Tell me about yourself.

I’m Isaac Blum. I’m from Philadelphia, PA. I was born here. I’ve always lived here. I plan to die here, but hopefully not too soon.

I like to write goofy contemporary stories for teens, though my debut YA novel gets pretty serious. I’ve always been a fan of realistic fiction, and that’s the writing that’s come most naturally to me. I’m Jewish and I often find myself writing about Jews.

Are there other things I’m interested in writing about? Sure. But I haven’t run out of things to say about the Jewish experience just yet.

What was your YA publishing journey?

I think it’s a classic story. I started my first YA novel in 2011. It landed me an agent, but the book didn’t sell. I wrote four more YA novels, none of which sold, and I parted ways with my first agent. I wrote yet another manuscript, a sixth. The sixth YA novel brought me to my current agent, Rena Rossner, and it was that sixth YA novel that sold. All of the rejection is miserable and it never stops. But I did improve as I kept writing. My attempts got marginally better. It’s hard to think of an entire novel as practice, but sometimes that’s what it is.

What’s your editing process?

When I sit down to write, I usually read through what I wrote the previous session, and make a few edits. It’s a way to ease myself into the scary part: writing something new.

When I’ve finished a complete draft, I try to take some time away from the manuscript, and come back to it with eyes as fresh as possible.

I do a second draft, and then I send it to a couple of critique partners, who tear it to shreds. And then I redraft the whole thing again. I repeat those last two steps: critique partners and redrafting until I feel like I’m in a good place (even if my critique partners never want to hear from me ever again).

How did you come up with the idea for your YA novel?

I was teaching at an Orthodox Jewish school during a nationwide spate of antisemitic violence. There was one attack in particular, a shooting at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, that resonated with me. A couple weeks after that shooting, my students were attending a celebration of Jewish learning at a big stadium, and they said to me as they left on the field trip, “We’ll see you tomorrow, if our bus doesn’t get blown up, or we don’t get shot.” And that’s when I started writing.

The story came together for me pretty quickly: a story of an Orthodox boy dealing with a lot of the usual teenage issues, but with the specter of antisemitic bias and violence interacting with the narrative.

Are there any upcoming YA books you’re excited about?

I’m excited to read Haley Neil’s Once More with Chutzpah. It’s about a Jewish girl figuring out who she is, and I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories, especially Jewish ones.

What’s your name, books, and best ways to reach you?

I’m Isaac Blum, and my debut YA novel The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen will be out 9.13.22 from Philomel Books. Preorder it. Add it on Goodreads. And connect with me at or @isaacblum_ on Twitter and Instagram.

s5.Get a critique group and feedback.6.Think it’s done!7.Send it to agents.8.Rejections! Turns out it needs more revision.9.Do more revision. Then more.10.Get an agent finally, hallelujah!11.Revise (Still not published.)12.Sub-club, for what seems like a hundred years.13.Write another book.14.Maybe book one gets published, maybe it doesn’t!15.Maybe it does!16.Write another book.At least, that’s approximately how it went for me. But what I will say about the process is that it’s long and only for those who intend to spend their lives writing. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not about one book, or even two books, or three getting rejected or getting published. It’s about the writing. It’s about persistence in writing, about loving the reward of writing stories, and about not worrying about the publication process so much. It’s very hard notto worry sometimes, of course, but letting go of the worry to enjoy writing is really the whole point of writing.

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