Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

YA Author, Stephanie Oakes

Stephanie has a new book coming out this month, and she's presenting at our September conference. We've asked Stephanie to answer a few questions about her books and her breakout sessions. At the end, Stephanie has a party invitation for you!

81Y9LYgPhpLYour first book, The Secret Lies of Minnow Bly was an SCBWI Golden Kite Honor book. This year, you were one of the judges for that award.  Could you tell us a bit about the award and the judging process?

Judging was a lot of fun! I was paired with two other amazing judges, Gary Schmidt and Ellen Hopkins. Needless to say, I was fairly starstruck to be working alongside such legends! We got boxes and boxes of books to read over the course of about six months. That was the best part–coming home to find a new box of books on my doorstep. In the end, we discussed which books we responded to the most. From the start, we were all totally in love with our winner, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, which made our job really easy!

Arsonist Front High ResYour latest book, The Arsonist, comes out in August.  The eye-catching cover will have readers pulling it off the shelves, but can you entice us even more with the pitch?

Molly's dad is on death row and her mother has disappeared. When Molly gets a clue that leads her to Pepper, a Kuwaiti immigrant boy who has to spend his summer writing  essays or else flunk out of school, she believes solving the mystery will lead to her mother. Molly and Pepper embark on a journey to solve a decades-long mystery: Who killed Ava Dreyman, a teenage girl who was killed at the hands of the East German secret police just before the fall of the Berlin Wall? The answer will take them across the globe, into the past, and will change their lives forever.

Thanks!  That sounds like a page-turner!  At our September 16th conference, you’ll be leading two small group sessions. One is titled, Submission Basics.  I heard you talk about your agent search, and I was impressed with your sticktoitiveness.  Could you tell us how you found your agent?

I was in the query trenches for a couple of years before I landed my agent. I started out with a frankly terrible draft of The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly (although at the time I thought it was pretty good!) and a few agents were generous enough to give me some feedback alongside their rejections. I revised it a few times, and eventually landed on the version that nabbed me my agent (This version was still very different to the version that ended up in the final, published book). I tell aspiring authors that the best quality to have when pursuing publishing is perseverance. Rejection happens to everyone, but eventually, you'll find the project and the agent who are meant to be.

Wonderful advice, I'm sure our attendees will come away with some great tips about submitting their manuscript if they choose your breakout session.  You’ll also be doing some manuscript consultations at the conference. It sounds like you'd be a great match for someone writing high-concept YA.  What other genres do you enjoy reading?

I hop around pretty much every genre in my reading. That's one of my favorite things about YA, how authors have the freedom to explore multiple genres in their careers–and even in the same book.

And last but not least, your book launch party for The Arsonist is coming up in August.  Can you share the details?

It's on Saturday August 26 at 7:00 at Auntie's Bookstore. Some member of our local SCBWI came to my last book launch, and that was so much fun! This one should also be a fun time with food and drink, and hopefully some interesting stories about the behind-the-scenes of how The Arsonist was made. Everyone is invited!

Thanks so much, Stephanie!  We're looking forward to hearing more from you at the conference and picking up our signed copies of The Arsonist later this month.  I'll be listening to the audiobook, myself.  If anyone else loves audiobooks, Minnow Bly and The Arsonist are both available (or soon to be) in audio. 

Stephanie PhotoStephanie Oakes lives in Spokane, Washington, and works as a library media teacher at a combined elementary and middle school. She has an MFA in poetry from Eastern Washington University. Her first book, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, was a Morris Award finalist and a Golden Kite Honor book.


Twitter: @StephanieEOakes