Jody Casella is an author and a former high school English teacher. Her YA novel Thin Space received a starred review from Kirkus. She blogs, reviews books, teaches writing classes for writers of all ages, and is the Regional Director of the Ohio Central/South region of SCBWI.
Sooooo, that is the official bio as you will find it in official places, but it leaves a bunch of stuff out.
Here are some (possibly interesting?) things in no particular order:
I live in a small town outside of Columbus, Ohio. It is the 4th place I have lived in my life. The other places were New Britain, Connecticut, Memphis, Tennessee, and Lexington, Kentucky.
I’d been writing and pursuing publication for fifteen + years, dreaming of being a writer forever but had been making my peace with the fact that it might never happen. When it happened.
Let me give a shout out here to perseverance and self-discipline.
Oh. And LUCK.
Speaking of ugly polyester uniforms, I went to Catholic school and had to wear a pastel blouse and a green skirt every day. I don’t think it is an accident that my job today (writing) allows me to wear whatever I like (pajamas).
There’s a floundery, confused, angry-at the world, cynical-yet-jokey 16 year-old still trapped inside me.
and the first
to be published.
I wrote four more books since then. And many many stories. Some can be found in Cicada magazine.
When I am not writing, I am reading—books for young adults, but also books for adults, non-fiction, memoirs, “serious” literary fiction, as well as “not-so-serious,” um, trash. I was an English major so I can’t help analyzing what I read. And as a writer I often stop to puzzle out how a book is put together. My favorite kind of book is the kind where I forget I’m an English major and a writer and I get totally lost in the story.
Some of my favorites in no particular order:
1. Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
2. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
3. Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
4. Abundance of Katherines by John Green
5. Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
6. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
7. Straight Man by Richard Russo
8. The Truth about Loren Jones by Alison Lurie
9. Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
10. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
11. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
12. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. And while we are speaking of classics, I should include Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (even though I probably read it 25 times when I was teaching it), and everything by Jane Austen
13. I also really like poetry (I came perilously close to getting an MFA in poetry…) Love the Romantics, TS Eliot, Dickinson, and every so often I have the urge to wallow in Sylvia Plath.
I realized just now how much I LOVE making lists of books. So here’s more.
My favorite books when I was 10:
1. Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer. Tragically, this book is out of print now. Loved this book so much I named a character in one of my novels Penelope after the author.
2. A Wrinkle in Time by the glorious Madeleine L’Engle
3. Jane Emily by Patricia Clapp (also out of print?) I named my daughter Jane. But honestly, she is really named after Jane Austen.
4. The Truth about Mary Rose by Marilyn Sachs. The model in my mind for all books with shocking twists. Including my own...
5. The Trixie Belden Series by Julie Campbell then, Kathryn Kenney (which really meant the books began to be written in-house by multiple authors) LOVED these books so much and read them over and over. If I could’ve crawled through the pages and lived in the world of Trixie, I would have.
6. Also read books by Paula Danziger, Judy Blume, Constance C. Greene, Ellen Conford, Eleanor Cameron, Betsy Byars, E.L. Konigsberg, and Louise Fitzhugh (Harriet the Spy! I was awestruck when I found out that Fitzhugh had grown up in Memphis and was once a student at the all-girls school where I taught.)
Favorite books when I was sixteen, when the YA pickings were slim
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. I can still hear my 11th grade English teacher reading passages aloud and saying curse words in his low nasally voice. Let me tell you, the kids in my sweet little Catholic high school all got a shivery thrill out of that. (or, uh, maybe that was just me)
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Oh. Sigh. Swoon. My first introduction to the brooding, tortured, complicated male character that all romance writers steal.
4. Lest you all think I had only highbrow literary tastes as a teen: Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews. Because really, who didn’t read that book back then?
5. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. A problematic choice, I know now. But I remember getting halfway through and realizing the Civil War was over and there was still a big chunk of book left and thinking: what can happen now, after the war is over?
What I believe about writing:
Anyone who can read can be a writer. (And if you want to be a writer, you must read. A lot!)
Everyone has at least one story to tell.
There is something magical and inexplicable about creating a story.
It also takes an amazing amount of hard work and discipline and logical thought.
The secret to writing a book—wait for it…
is to sit down each day and write.
Some good books on writing to get you started (or to keep you going):
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Stephen King
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Everything by Natalie Goldberg, esp. Thunder and Lightning and Writing Down the Bones