Tell me about yourself.
My name is Kath Rothschild, and I teach writing at Stanford University and research in linguistics, and write books for teens. My debut novel, out in hardback, paperback, and audio, is called Wider than the Sky and it’s about twin sisters dealing with secrets about their parent’s sexual identities, and finding a way to reimagine what an inclusive family looks like. It’s set in the fall in the Bay Area, and features cold winds, leaf crunching, and a lot of lesser-known Bay Area locations, like Berkeley’s Cornices, rose garden and the San Francisco AIDS Memorial Grove. It’s set in the fictional town of Thornewood, but the locations are based on real places nearby to where I grew up and where I live now. It’s a book for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nina LaCour, and the poet Emily Dickinson, whose work the main character, Sabine, spouts at inopportune times.
Why did you choose to write for YA?
I felt very confused as a teen, by my sexuality, but what people were saying and not saying about the world—by secrets family members and members of the community kept. It was the time of HIV/AIDS and just becoming a sexual being at that time felt really dangerous and loaded, so I like thinking of ways that complexity can be addressed in fiction.
What was your YA publishing journey?
The most important thing I can say about the writing life is that although I earned an MFA in Creative Writing in my twenties, I didn’t start to think of myself as “a writer” until I realized the kind of writer that I am—and that’s a children’s book author. From there, things got easier and harder. I spent a long time finishing the first draft, longer revising it, and just about the same amount of time waiting for publication (I sold my book almost a full three years before it will debut).
A writing life often goes something like this:
1. Write a bunch of stuff but never finish a book.
2.Finally finish a book!
3.Realize it’s a huge mess.
4.Spend years revising.
5.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 not to worry sometimes, of course, but letting go of the worry to enjoy writing is really the whole point of writing.
What’s your editing process?
Keep going until it’s perfect.
Are there any upcoming YA books you’re excited about?
I’m very excited for Stacy Stokes Remember Me Gone, which is magical realism set in a small Texas border town where the main character wants to go into the family business: removing people’s memories—until she finds out that’s not all her family has been up to. Another book that’s coming out soon I’m excited about is Learning to Fall, by Sally Engelfried, which features a skater girl, and as a former skater girl, I can’t wait to read that. I also look forward to Jennifer Bertman’s new book—Sisterhood of Sleauths.
What’s your name, books, and best ways to reach you?
Wider than the Sky, Soho Teen/PRH; @kath_rothschild katherinerothschild.com
Katherine Rothschild is a Lecturer in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University, a former ballet and Arabic dance instructor, and an obsessive Twitter food truck-follower. Her first-person essays have been published on KQED/NPR, in The San Francisco Chronicle, and in several other Bay Area and California publications, and her academic work is published by Purdue University Press. She holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, a PhD in Applied Linguistics, has received artist’s grants from Vermont Studio Center and Kindlings, and is a longtime member of the SCBWI. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. You can find her on Twitter @kath_rothschild