Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tim Federle on "Better NATE Than Ever!" - The 2014 Golden Kite Award for Fiction Interview ...And your chance to WIN a copy!

This year's Golden Kite Award for fiction goes to Tim Federle, for his middle grade novel "Better NATE Than Ever!"

Winner of the 2014 Golden Kite Award and #LA14SCBWI Faculty Tim Federle

I contacted Tim to find out more...

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Lee: Hi Tim - congratulations! Can you tell us about finding out you'd won the 2014 Golden Kite Award for fiction for "Better Nate Than Ever?"

Tim: I was at a Texas high school for the performing arts, about to give a presentation on books and Broadway for several hundred kids. Lin Oliver and Steven Mooser phoned me up and I believe I screamed and then hung up and walked out onstage with shaky legs. But it's a blur. 

Lee: Your bio describes you as "raised in character-building Pittsburgh" and says you "fled to New York City as a teenager." That's sounding a lot like Nate's journey, escaping a small-minded town and fleeing to Broadway... It's classified as fiction, but how much of Nate is you?

Tim: Aren't all first novels semi-to-majorly autobiographical? There is a lot of Nate and Tim overlap, though Nate's family isn't as supportive of his wacky ambitions as mine was in real life.

Lee: In addition to attending #LA14SCBWI - The 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference - to accept your Golden Kite Award, you'll also be on faculty, giving the breakout session "The 10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being A Debut Novelist." Can you tell us more about that workshop?

Tim: Yes! It's going to be a (hopefully) fun and funny and frank discussion about all the surprises and occasional setbacks that I hit as a very naive new writer. My goal is to inspire and inform other SCBWI members with some practical tips and tools. 

Lee: How are you dealing with the challenge of constantly switching gears between winning awards for and talking about "Better Nate Than Ever" and promoting the book's sequel, "Five, Six, Seven, Nate!" which came out this January?

Tim: It's a good problem to have. I'm also adapting the first "Nate" book into a screenplay and working on a followup to my cocktail recipe book, "Tequila Mockingbird." I either sleep 2 hours a night or 10. But no complaints. 

Lee: Your background as a broadway dancer (and auditioner) is palpable in the book's audition scenes where there's such a crazy power-disparity between the people in charge and the people there to audition. Was there a bit of 'revenge of the writer' now that in telling the story, you got to be in charge of it all?

Tim: The greatest thing about writing -- especially novels -- is that you get to be the casting director, set designer, and all the actors, too. So it was fun to borrow and heighten from scenes in my own life, going back to my early days as a dancing polar bear in the Radio City Christmas Show. I always tell kids at my visits: wait long enough and every setback you have in life can be used as a plot point in your book, someday! 

Lee: I like that - it reminds me of that T-shirt that reads, "Careful or you'll end up in my novel." There are so many funny moments, but also a lot of heart in this book - like the relationship between Nate and his best friend, Libby, and between Nate's Mom and her sister, Nate's aunt. Tell us about finding that balance.

Tim: I have an incredibly limited attention span, so I'm trying to keep my own self awake and entertained when writing. With that said: it can be a challenge for kids to access books without a parent/librarian/educator's endorsement, so I always try to write with an ear for keeping those gatekeeper adults entertained too.

Lee: At one point, Nate experiences all these emotions on seeing two men dancing together in the big city. It's one of a number of not-quite-coming-out moments for him, and yet, it all adds up to a kid who's figuring out that there just may be a place for him, and for boys who dance with other boys, in our world. Can you share about how you handled Nate's being gay?

Tim: I have a post-it note above my desk that says "Tell the truth." My whole life, I've relied on jokes and sarcasm and punch lines to get out of everything from gym class to parking tickets. And so as much as I hope people laugh during the "Nate" books, I also pushed myself to tell the truth about what it was like for me to be a 13-year-old boy who was starting to notice other boys. Which isn't always funny, believe me. I tried to write about that in a way that was age-appropriate for my middle school audience but that wouldn't overwhelm the story with "message." 

Lee: And in the sequel, there's a boy-boy kiss, right?

Tim: Spoiler alert! 

Lee: When did you first join SCBWI, and can you share how that's helped you on your journey as an author?

Tim: I joined SCBWI right after "Nate" sold, a couple of summers ago. There is a gigantic sense of relief knowing there are thousands and thousands of other writers and illustrators out there who are psychically linked by this incredible organization. Also, the magazine is really pretty. SCBWI helped me with everything from practical articles on taxes to a deep sense of belonging. 

Lee: What advice do you have for other writers working on their novels for young readers?

Tim: Enjoy every step, and celebrate each of them too. You may end up cutting entire chapters and characters, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't say a little prayer of thanks when you first encounter them in your first drafts. Also, read "Tiny Beautiful Things" by Cheryl Strayed and "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. We're all in this together.

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Thanks, Tim!

If you'd like to learn from, listen to and cheer Tim on as he receives his 2014 Golden Kite Award for Fiction, join us at the upcoming SCBWI Summer Conference, August 1-4 in Los Angeles, CA.

Information and registration here.

And to find out more about Tim and all his books, visit his website here.

Would you like to win a free copy of "Better Nate Than Ever?"

Leave a comment here on this post in the next seven days, and we'll randomly choose one winner!

(Make sure to include your contact email in the comment - if we can't reach you to let you know you've won, we'll have to choose another winner.)

Good luck!

Illustrate and Write On,


Kelly Polark said...

Loved the interview, Lee and Tim!

Enter me to win! :)

Keila V. Dawson said...

Thanks for sharing a little about your journey Tim. Email is if I'm the lucky winner. :-)

Book Mama said...

Congratulations to Tim! Can't wait to read the book. schwarzkathryn at

Laurisa White Reyes said...

Great interview. Fun books.