Meet Elly Swartz.
Elly Swartz loves writing for kids, Twizzlers, and anything with her family. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG 2016) is about twelve-year-old Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. In her second book, SMART COOKIE (Scholastic, 2018), you meet the spunky and big-hearted Frankie. Frankie’s all about family with a dash of mischief and mystery! And then in 2019, say hello to Maggie in GIVE AND TAKE (FSG). Elly lives in Massachusetts with her family and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly, you can find her at ellyswartz.com on Twitter @ellyswartz or on Instagram @ellyswartzbooks.
http://ellyswartz.com/ While on my site, be sure to check out the downloadable activities and curriculum guides for Finding Perfect and Smart Cookie.
#BooksintheKitchen web series with author Victoria Coe https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkOp2zBQIr4_1mrpbR3EwyQ
A fellow Pennsylvanian! Greetings! To cure that boredom, *sigh* which I still face, did you come up with stories as a child?
I loved writing stories and poems as a kid. Not as a cure for boredom, I did a lot of bad baking for that, but simply because I loved story. The way the words wove and the characters sprang to life. In my stories, I could do or be or feel anything. And everything. I truly believe the seeds were planted during those years for Molly Nathans, the 12-year-old vulnerable and loving slam poet in Finding Perfect, and Frankie Greene, the feisty and big-hearted strong girl in my newest mg, Smart Cookie.
How did your diverse studies from psychology and law, shape you as a writer and a children’s books author?
Great question! Funny how each path we take informs the next. Often incidentally. Psychology gave me a foundation for understanding mental illness and how it manifests and impacts people’s lives. It showed me the importance of empathy and compassion and feeling connected. Books and story are a gateway. A mirror and a door. A wonderful platform for readers to learn and understand about themselves and others. Story is a way for me to, hopefully, allow kids to see themselves on the page and educate others about challenges many face. As for the study of law, it taught me the value of research and analysis, the malleability of words, and the importance of viewing life through many different lenses.
Why kid lit as your genre of focus?
I am pretty sure I have a twelve-year-old girl broadcasting from inside of me! Honestly, middle grade chose me. When I started writing, that was the voice that found its way onto the page.
A gum wrapper that was a fortune too – “You have the ability to become outstanding in literature.” What advice do you have for aspiring children’s writers?
Honestly, I still can’t believe I got that fortune in my Bazooka bubblegum! As for the advice I’d give – Read as much as you can. Write because you love it. Dream big. Work hard. And embrace the journey!
What topic challenges you the most when writing your novels for a younger audience?
For me, the most challenging part of writing was creating the scenes in Finding Perfect and Smart Cookie where my main characters felt emotionally raw. They either went to that dark place or felt a deep sense of loneliness. To truly capture those moments authentically, I also had to go to that emotionally raw place. And that was hard. But, it was the only way I could truly connect with the heartbeat of those experiences.
Tell us about your experience writing and publishing Finding Perfect. How did that journey differ from your other works?
Finding Perfect was the 5th book I wrote and the first one to be published. I worked on it for 8 years. I felt a very strong connection to Molly, the main character in that story, and to her struggle with OCD. I was never willing to let this story go and was determined and committed to becoming the best writer I could be so that Molly’s journey could find it’s way into the hands of the readers who really needed it.
When I got the call from my agent that Finding Perfect had found a home at FSG, I cried. Big happy tears. It was truly a dream come true. And, most gratefully, that dream continued when Smart Cookie found its way to Scholastic and then into the world this past January. I fell in love with Frankie, the main character in Smart Cookie, the moment she came to me with her big heart, love of family, and all that spunkiness.
Truly, I love my job. Writing stories and connecting with readers! The best!
Is there anything you’d like to share with the readers today?
Thank you for reading! Stay tuned, because in 2019 you get to meet twelve-year-old Maggie in GIVE AND TAKE. Maggie has a big heart and a hard time letting go. Of stuff. Of people. Of the past. With the help of her turtle Bert, a baby named Izzie and the almost all-girls trap shooting team, she begins to understand that people are more than the things that hold their memories.
And, be sure to check out and subscribe my new web series #BooksintheKitchen with author Victoria Coe, where we talk books and whip-up treats. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkOp2zBQIr4_1mrpbR3EwyQ.