Sarah Barkoff Palma – #WriteMentor Success Stories
Congratulations on signing with Evernight Teen for you novel, THE WANDERERS! 🎉
Sarah, what about Brandy’s bio convinced you to sub to them?
Well, I was looking for someone who was offering a full manuscript package, because I’d been through several rewrites on my own at the time of applying. I knew I needed someone to take me step by step through several problems I was having with the plot. After Brandy hosted a Q & A session on Twitter, prior to the time of application, we went back and forth with tweets–I liked her vibe and felt like we were old friends right off the bat. She answered any questions I had, and I knew I’d be in good hands with her. Plus, in her bio, she mentioned liking gritty and emotional books, so my story fell into that category.
Brandy, what made you fall in love with The Wanderers?
I knew it was something special right away. The emotions it drew forth were both gritty and raw, and once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I think I read the entire manuscript in the space of one afternoon. It had that vibe of a Girl, Interrupted with some deep family mystery thrown in, and of course, a sweet Southern boy, which was the cherry on top of the sundae for me.
Sarah, looking back, what was your favorite part of the #WriteMentor experience?
Easy. The people. Prior to #WriteMentor, I hung in the background on Twitter, kept my profile private, and basically just followed a few agents and publishers I was interested in working with. I had no idea there was this whole community of people. Still, it was hard to put myself out there and make my profile public. I still remember switching that button over–Ha! I was nervous to be exposed. But from the time I applied for #WriteMentor and to when the mentees were finally selected, I’d met so many awesome writer friends. When selection day for mentees came, I remember thinking–Even if I don’t get picked, the people I’ve met along the way have made it all worth it. After being selected, it was just the icing on the cake.
Brandy, tell us what it was like working with Sarah.
Sarah was a dream! I felt like we had instant rapport, and I immediately recognized her working style was very similar to my own. She was diligent and a super hard worker, even revising while packing up the family and making a major move! I feel like through the process we became friends and remain so today.
Sarah, what was the most surprising part of the #WriteMentor experience?
The most surprising part was how emotional draining it was from beginning to end. Almost as soon as the real work for #WriteMentor started, I was moving from New York to Ohio with two toddlers while my husband had to work up until the day before our big move. Even though I knew the timeline while applying, when I was chosen and it all became real, I felt a mounting pressure like no other. All I wanted to do was get to work on my book, but I had to unpack an entire house once we arrived in Cleveland and get my kids settled in while my husband started his new job. My parents came to help me several times while I worked on my rewrites, but I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to finish the edits in time for the agent round. The whole summer was a blur, but somehow I finished in time, and when it was all over, I was so glad I fought for it.
Sarah, the revision process is only three months and can be intense. Tell us about your revisions and how you dealt with constructive criticism from Brandy.What advice do you have for future mentees?
The revision process was beyond intense, but I knew going into it that it wasn’t going to be an easy rewrite. I knew major parts of my book would be rewritten from scratch, and I think I ended up rewriting everything but that last 50 pages. Brandy’s editorial feedback was spot on, and as soon as I read the edit letter and spent a few days mulling over ideas, I knew what had to be done. But that doesn’t mean I sat down and rewrote this thing while the words flowed like an ocean! Nope, nope, nope. Some of her ideas posed major issues later on in my book, but with several phone conversations, Brandy and I brainstormed until we came up with the right solutions. Still, throughout the process, there were days when I thought I’d never find the missing puzzle pieces and that I should just quit. But I’m no quitter, and quitting was never an option. On the hard days, I took it one page at a time, sometimes one paragraph at a time, and on really challenging days, one sentence at a time. My advice to future mentees is to go into it knowing it’s bound to be emotional for a whole host of reasons, but never stop fighting for it. It’ll be worth it if you keep at it.
Sarah, after #WriteMentor, you signed with Evernight Teen. Give us all the details of “The Call.”
Well, there wasn’t a call. It was an email and I got it while watching The Bachelor at 10pm!! I almost died, honestly. My husband said I went into shock. I was shaking and couldn’t believe what I was reading! I’d waited for that moment for so long, and when that breakthrough came, it didn’t seem real. The email said they wanted to publish my book. I’d been talking to Haleigh Wenger (Brandy’s other mentee) earlier in the day and kind of lamenting about nothing happening. So when I got the offer, she and Brandy were the first people I told. I emailed each of them and said, “You’re never going to believe this! I got an offer!!” Then, over the course of the next few days, I received several other offers. I was floored, humbled and honestly so thankful. I’ve been at this a long time.
You’re on deadline! What are your go-to writing snacks?
S: My writing snack is exactly the same every single time. Because I exclusively write while my kids are napping, which is typically around lunchtime, it’s a cup of coffee with Italian Sweet Cream coffee cream and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything different.
B: Are we talking about regular writing or stress writing/editing, because those are two very different answers! LOL For the most part, I try to eat fairly healthy, so on a good, easy writing day I’d say some carrots and hummus or a cheese stick. There’s also the morning and late afternoon writing sessions with a nice, hot cup of coffee with Oreo creamer. If it’s a stressful day? I’ll be the first to admit I’m an emotional eater so if there are Cheetos, Cheez-Its, or Pringles in the house, they better watch out because Brandy’s coming for them!
What fictional character would you like to spend a day with?
S: Jo March! I’ve loved her ever since I read LITTLE WOMEN in the 4thgrade. She’s my spirit animal with her big opinions, passionate writing aspirations, and stubborn demeanor. I feel like we’d be besties.
B: Truvy, Clairee, and Ouiser from Steel Magnolias. I mean, come on, how much fun would that be? Can’t you just imagine all that juicy Southern gossip and laughing all day? 😊
What author has most inspired you, and why?
S: This is hard, but probably Jeffrey Eugenides. After I read MIDDLESEX, I knew I wanted to write a book and I knew I wanted some of it to take place in Michigan where I’m from, much like Eugenides did in MIDDLESEX. I love his writing style and voice.
Tell us about your favorite writing spot.
B: Oh my gosh, I have so many! If I say my favorite, I’d have to claim that as my front porch swing. It really gets those Southern vibes going. If I say the place I get the most quality rhythm going, I’d say my designated home office space. And if I say where I actually do the most of my writing, then that’d be the school car line!
What fictional world would you most like to live in?
B: I’m not a fantasy reader, so can I go with another time period? 😊 Because I’d definitely love to live in the 1950’s and 60’s at the birth of rock-n-roll and drive-ins and American muscle cars.
What is your favorite book (or series). Why?
S: With fear of being super basic, GONE GIRL. Whoa. That book floored me. Gillian Flynn’s voice stunned me from page one. Amy Dunne was a wicked bitch, but I swear I couldn’t help but love her all the same. The book just freaked my freak in a way I can’t even explain. I. Couldn’t. Put. It. Down.
Where does your inspiration come from?
S: It comes from all sorts of random things, but mostly television, films, and music. Honestly, with two little kids, I watch a lot of Disney movies and have seen Toy Story and Finding Nemo dozens of times. Though I studied Creative Writing in college, I’ve learned so much about storytelling, plot structure, and character development from watching those two films. Both movies are so tight, and in my opinion, flawless in terms of story and character.
Also, the songs America by Simon and Garfunkel, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths, and Into The Ocean by Blue October greatly inspired this book. I spent a lot of time on walks with my kids and dog, listening to those songs and plotting out THE WANDERERS.
In general, though, here’s a random list of people and things I draw inspiration from: Ani DiFranco, Cameron Crowe, M. Night Shyamalan, Fiona Apple, HBO Girls, Breaking Bad, Paul Simon, Joan Didion, New York City, Fleetwood Mac…and the list could go on and on!!
B: I think life begets art, and, in turn, great art begets other forms of art. That’s all a really romanticized way of saying that my inspiration comes from real life and other forms of art. My stories don’t start out so much with a concept as they do with an emotion, and from there, the story blossoms. Music is a definite inspiration for me, and more than once, a favorite song has spurred an entire idea that built and built until it became a story. November Rain was a huge inspiration while plotting MEANT TO BE BROKEN and Incubus’s Drive was a pivotal song I played on repeat while plotting my newest novel AS MUCH AS I EVER COULD.
Sarah Barkoff grew up in Detroit, Michigan, but spent most of her childhood traveling the United States as a child actress in various Broadway tours. A former New Yorker for nearly seventeen years, she earned her BFA in Creative Writing from the New School and studied musical theater at the American Musical Dramatic Academy, both in NYC. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids.
My name is Brandy Woods Snow, and I write YA contemporary and contemporary romance. I’m one of those people who always knew she wanted to write, even from the time I was six years old, though when I went to college, everyone told me that I was crazy to major in creative writing. You can’t make a living writing books! (That’s what they all said.) So, I diverted paths a bit, majoring in English and minoring in Writing/Journalism. For 19 years since, I’ve worked a slew of writing jobs, from international corporations to my own clients in a small LLC, with my work falling into the marketing, PR, and business development categories. During those same 19 years, I’ve freelanced for many magazines, including Greenville Business, Columbia Business, Home Design & Décor (Charlotte, Raleigh), and Delta Sky. Despite the extensive career in journalism, creative writing has always been my first love. I wrote my first book in 2015, a YA contemporary romance MEANT TO BE BROKEN, and it was published in 2018 with Filles Vertes Publishing. My second book, a YA contemporary romance AS MUCH AS I EVER COULD has an offer on the table, and I’m 50,000 words into my newest WIP, a YA contemporary.