I am so glad I got the chance to interview author Elizabeth Tammi.
Tammi’s novel, OUTRUN THE WIND, is the perfect blend of invigorating adventure and heart wrenching romance. The legend of Atlanta juxtaposes itself beautifully with the conflict of a modern day love story. OUTRUN THE WIND is a story that will leave you spellbound, ensnared between its pages.
Read on for a conversation about her books, her love of mythology, and her thoughts on the writing process!
Q1: What made you decide to become a writer?
Elizabeth Tammi: One of my earliest memories is being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I remember answering, “Author.” I wish I remembered more about what led to that conviction, but I think it honestly boiled down to the fact that I’ve been infatuated with books for as long as I’ve been alive. My parents read to me a lot, and I loved books so much that it just felt natural that I’d want to write them, too.
Q2: Where and when did you get the idea to write OUTRUN THE WIND?
Elizabeth Tammi: I’ve always loved mythology. It has this amazing capacity to be both a consistent “time capsule” of older times, while also having a tremendously fluid quality that’s the perfect foundation for new possibilities and reinterpretations. After all, at the core of all mythology is contradiction.
As a teenager, reading books like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles showed me how relevant and interesting these really old stories still are to modern audiences, and how we can use our current perspectives to imagine what might have happened in the “background” of old stories.
Elizabeth at the Parthenon in Greece
The summer before I started college, I read more about the “full” story of the Greek heroine Atalanta, a name I’d only heard in passing growing up. When I learned more about her story, I was absolutely captivated…but also incredibly confused. I instantly connected with her character, but had so much frustration about how her story ended and certain decisions she made. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and found myself imagining what else could have happened in between the lines of her story. Who else was there? How did she really think and feel and act, outside of the lens of male authors? The story snowballed slowly from that core frustration.
Q3: How did you manage to write a novel and keep up with school at the same time? I’m currently trying to do that now and it’s hard!
Elizabeth Tammi: It’s definitely challenging! But at the same time, I found that it actually helped my time management skills. It’s really bizarre that for some reason, I got a big amount of writing done while classes were in session, and way less during winter and summer breaks. I think I’ve always been better at making time to write when I have less of it, which is a weird personal quirk. Outrun the Wind was the second novel I’ve ever written, though it was the first to be published. When I was in high school, I’d written a book and queried it, but it got rejected literally everywhere I sent it (and for good reason!). That experience taught me a lot about how to approach a long-form story, and what to expect on the other side in terms of preparing it for the querying process.
Tip: Try the “Three Sentence Rule”
I was pretty ruthless when it came to drafting, and I honestly don’t know how sustainable that is for me or for other writers. But for that project specifically, and for that time in my life, it worked for me to block out about an hour or two every night to work on drafting. Obviously, that didn’t happen every single night, but I did have a bare minimum policy that I used (and still use) while drafting called the “three sentence rule”. Basically, no matter how terrible of a day I had or how busy or tired I was, I’d write at least three sentences per day. Starting is always the hardest part for me, so I often find that once I start writing I’m fine to continue. But if I am truly too busy or brain-dead, then at least I’ve moved the story forward a tiny bit and stayed in the story’s headspace and can call it a day. Drafting happened during my first semester of college, and I’d had the previous summer to plot out the book. It helped having that outline, though some writers prefer to “pants” their way through a story, which can work too! I also have zero qualms about writing just a genuinely terrible first draft. You can’t fix what isn’t there.
Having that blocked out time at the end of the day (usually pretty late at night) meant that I had a concrete deadline to finish my homework and other responsibilities, which kept me fairly disciplined academically. I promise I didn’t make myself a recluse! That’s important too. It’s obviously good to keep consistent progress on your draft, but in school (and life in general!) you shouldn’t push off socializing or new experiences for writing. The writing will always be there.
Tip: “Just finish it.”
Anyway, it’s clear that my advice is somewhat flimsy– that’s because it changes with every project, and every writer is different. I think overall it’s helped me to make an effort to write a little bit every single day while I’m in the drafting process, and to have a pretty extensive outline as well. Also, if you’re working on your first ever novel, the best thing you can do to learn is just to finish it. I had so many false starts on novels that I had to throw out because I’d get excited by a premise but fail to think it through, and then lose the motivation as everything piled up and became too complicated or boring after a few chapters.
If you think you’ve found a premise you want to pursue, I’d encourage you to consider if it’s something that really sets your soul on fire. You’re going to be spending months and years with these characters in this world– there are always hard days when writing, but make sure it’s something you still care enough about to want to go through all the difficult parts of the writing and publishing industry with.
Q4: What are your thoughts on deadlines? Love them, hate them, avoid them?
Elizabeth Tammi: Since I was a journalism major in college, deadlines were pretty much my baseline. I wasn’t super scared of them, and it’s always helpful to have a concrete timeline. When I wrote my first book (the one that will never see the light of day), I gave myself a self-imposed deadline of finishing before I turned 18. And I literally scribbled out the last paragraphs on the eve of that birthday, but I made the deadline. However, I’ll admit I’ve had difficulty with self-imposed deadlines ever since I got my first book deal. Maybe that’s because, after that first deal, deadlines are a part of the business. Suddenly, writing becomes a business.
I feel tremendously fortunate that I’ve gotten to see two books to publication, and it’s genuinely been a dream come true. But the most surprising part of becoming an author was realizing that a tiny part of me actually misses the writing I’d done before I had a book deal or literary agent or anything like that. With my first book in high school, and while drafting Outrun the Wind, I had literally no idea if anyone else would read those stories. I wanted desperately for them to be published, and almost made myself miserable with that ambition. But it was also freeing, in a way– no one knew what I was writing. If I failed or changed my mind, no one would ever know. It was just for me, and it was my own world.
What you might not know:
Some new writers don’t realize that even after getting a book deal with a completed manuscript, there are almost always more edits and revisions you make with your editor at your publishing house. There were some fairly substantial revisions that Outrun the Wind went through between signing the contract and its release date. That was my first experience with a true deadline, but it wasn’t that stressful because the story wasn’t changing very much. I had a firm foundation to go off of.
My second published book, The Weight of a Soul, was a whole other can of worms. You might hear authors complain about the “second book syndrome”. I definitely experienced that. I sold The Weight of a Soul on proposal, which is something authors can sometimes do if they’re hoping to work with the same editor or publishing house on a future project. Basically, I wrote out a full synopsis and the first few chapters of that book, sent it in, and it was accepted. I was given a book deal for something that wasn’t even close to being a real book yet. It was exciting, but also scary– I actually had to write the full book, and no matter what, it was going to be a real book. I’d never before written a novel knowing it would be a “real” book before, and that was equal parts reassuring and terrifying. I knew the work wouldn’t be in vain, but I was also anxious about pulling it off. That was a stressful deadline. I’m proud of how it turned out and don’t have any regrets, but that deadline was a lot to deal with, especially since it was during my junior year of college…my most academically demanding year ever.
It all turned out fine, but I’m relieved that I made the choice to step back and work on my current project just by myself for now as I navigate next steps. There are no stakes, so it’s just me and the characters for now. Something I’d taken for granted before entering the publishing industry!
Q5: Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone considering a career in journalism?
Elizabeth Tammi: A journalism degree can set you up for a huge range of careers– traditional journalism, multimedia storytelling, public relations, publishing, you name it. I was really involved in my high school’s news broadcast program, which inspired me to pursue journalism in college. I had a fantastic time and had great courses and internships. I just graduated last month, and recently started a full-time position doing social media and outreach for NASA, with their Hubble Space Telescope mission. It just goes to show what a versatile major and field journalism is!
She’s not kidding, friends!
If you’re considering a career in journalism, just be prepared to work under tight deadlines and listen to your gut. It’s a field that requires a lot from you, but there’s also so much freedom in finding stories you want to tell and how to tell them. Journalists are so important, and even though I didn’t enter the field of true, traditional journalism, I’m glad in my choice of major. It’ll teach you how to talk with people, structure stories, and make sure they get to the audiences that need them.
That was my interview! It was super cool to see Elizabeth’s perspective on the writing process and everything else we talked about. Stay safe everyone!
Victoria Krol is a 15 year-old soon to be sophomore in high school with an absolute passion for reading, writing, and website design. She is currently working on a novel with her co-partner Charley Ramos, which is in the midst of its second revision and currently has a plot that resembles lasagna. She met Erin dressed in full 70’s gear at the 2019 SCBWI LA Summer Conference, where their instant friendship resulted in her as a guest blogger. You can find her at victoriaannekrol.com
It’s true. I actually think Victoria might have taken this pre-COVID hug-shot at SCBWI 2019 with these incredible authors, Meg Medina (L.) and Elana K. Arnold (C.). Good times!
What are teens doing between #DistanceLearning and #shelteringinplace?
Some are struggling with online school and others are having a hard time finding motivation.
I’ve been there, back, and there again. Amidst the crazy of #shelteringinplace, I’ve been working on my novel (finally!), building a website for teens stuck in quarantine, and reading.
Here’s my review of Elana K. Arnold’s RED HOOD. You will notice it’s written in 2nd person. You’ll know why once you read the book…
From the moment you first open RED HOOD, Arnold’s world feels warm and comfortable. You feel warm and comfortable. And above all, safe.
warm and safe
If you’ve ever gone to a school dance, you know this scene like the back of your hand. The loud friend, the blaring music, the romance of a partner there with you. Almost instantly, the plot takes off. You read and see and feel the main character’s feelings. Bisou’s fear is evident on the page.
fear is evident
And when you keep turning the pages, earnestly, the scene gets darker and darker, until Bisou is running through the cold, dark, night. The plot winds and spins and spirals, some parts dark and twisted, others bright and clear. But more shadows start to appear, overwhelming the sun, creeping slowly, like thick, black, mud. There are long kept secrets that are kept coiled up tightly, each one harder to read than the last. Still, you find it harder and harder to look away, to slam the cover shut.
dark and twisted
shadows like thick, black mud
Wolves and men begin to flit through the artfully written pages, and the stuff of your nightmares starts to cackle and grin. You see Bisou find friends in the unlikeliest of places, and you see her struggle to trust them, not knowing what is happening to her. Her monthly need to go and fight and defend and kill. Men die. Hushed whisperings spread through the town. Tensions rise. A nosy reporter worsens things considerably.
long kept secrets
wolves and men
Bisou’s terror starts to increase, and you discover the horrors of involuntary celibates. Incels. Men who feel they deserve sexual relationships; that women are pieces of property. A team is formed. Bisou, Keisha, the reporter, and one other victim of the crimes of an incel, Maggie. Banded together by fear and desperation, a desperation for answers.
Eventually, Bisou’s grandmother answers your burning questions. The story you see, the one that Mémé tells, is not one you will forget for a long, long time. A cryptic note left by Mémé alarms the young team.
girls who’ve grown up too fast
unlikely to succeed
They are girls who’ve had to grow up too fast and are unlikely to succeed, unlikely to be a team at all. They fix what they can, ending the beginning of Bisou’s story. They close the door on Bisou’s dead father. They save Mémé, the girls united and strong, but human. Fighters, warriors, but just girls. Broken, bruised, beautiful.
broken, bruised, beautiful
Arnold depicts the power of women, or the lack of it, at the hand of men, through a twisted version of Little Red Riding Hood.
If you like fantastical books that can make your skin crawl, with imperfect female heroines, or you’ve enjoyed the titles MY DARK VANESSA by Kate Elizabeth Russel and FROZEN BEAUTY by Lexa Hillyer, this book is for you. Put RED HOOD on your TBR list. Better yet–buy it at your favorite Indie. (Support Independent bookstores!)
Victoria Krol is 15 year-old Freshman in high school with an absolute passion for reading, writing, the arts, and horseback riding. She is currently working on a novel with her co-partner Charley Ramos, which is in the midst of its second revision and currently has a plot that resembles lasagna. She met Erin dressed in full 70’s gear at the 2019 SCBWI LA Summer Conference, where their instant friendship resulted in her as a guest blogger.
Hi friends. I’ve put my Teacher hat on and compiled some awesome resources and ideas that #kidlit friends have been sharing, for student lessons and activities during this challenging #shelterinplace time:
It’s Classroom Blog Takeover Day and this post comes all the way from Cambodia!
I first met the 3rd Graders at the International School of Phnom Penh when I skyped with them for #WRAD.
Sharing the cover of my next book: DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 ( Illus. Luisa Uribe / Harper Collins/ Dec. 2020)
(Fun fact: I skyped with ISPP from California at 7pm Feb. 4th, and it was already 10am Feb. 5th –World Read Aloud Day–in Cambodia.)
As a follow up, I thought it would be cool to learn more about what they’re reading.
Huge thanks to their teacher, Erika Victor, for sending these answers along, and to Zunran, Hyeonseo, and Mia for sharing their thoughts:
What are you reading?
Zunran:I just finished reading ZIG AND WIKKI IN THE COW (Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler / Toon Books). I liked this book because the story was funny, the characters were planning, and also because it had some informational text in it too.
Full Disclosure: Because I had never heard of this book, I wanted to learn more. (Thanks Zunran!) Here’s the summary from Toon Books:
When alien pals Zig and Wikki lose their spaceship on Earth, their friendship is definitely in trouble. In order to get home, they must travel through a farm and into a cow, picking up fun facts about ecology (and picking fights) along the way.
Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler‘s funny, science-based early-reader is packed with fast-paced adventure and facts about poop: what more could a young reader want?
Reminds me of Ms. Frizzle’s Magic School Bus (Scholastic) only with Aliens!
Hyeonseo: I just finished reading HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE (J.K.Rowling / Scholastic Press). I liked the book because the story was interesting and had lots of details in it. The characters were very interesting also because they all like to do different things like play chess or learn and more. The book was also very attractive and now I want to read the second book in the series.
Wow. Hard to believe HARRY POTTER was first released in the US in 1998 and readers are still discovering the magic.
Mia: I just finished reading GUTS (Raina Telgemeier / Graphix / Scholastic). I liked the book because the story was about that everyone gets scared and people are vomiting and that it’s okay if people get therapy. The characters were nice, mean, and generous. The book was good for me to practice inferring and had very good pictures.
Thank you again to the third graders at the International School of Phnom Penh. Did you notice that 2 out of 3 books are graphic novels? When I asked Ms. Victor about it she said they had just finished a graphic novel unit (Hooray!)
Ms. Victor: Third graders LOVE graphic novels, but so do most grades. This unit helped them read them more purposefully, which has really helped. Now we are reading infographics, so into all kinds of NF too.
It’s interesting to note all three of these amazing Classroom Blog Takeover students speak English as a second or third language. WOW! Congrats, my friends–and keep #READING!