MSFV Blog Hop – Interviewing Elissa Cruz!

Welcome to what will hopefully be the first of the Annual Authoress’ Success Story blog tours! Those of us who have owed our publishing successes, at least in part, to the Miss Snark’s First Victim contests and blog have decided to come together and help cross promote each other’s work.  Every day in the first two weeks of August, a different author will be posting an interview of one of our fellow Success Stories, so make sure to tune in to everyone’s blogs (there’s a list below the questions).


And now, I’ve got the great pleasure of introducing you to Elissa Cruz. By day, Elissa is a Super Cool Mommy to her five young children (and Super Cool Wife to her husband of 16 years). By night, she’s a Super Cool Secret Writer of middle-grade books. And when she gets an extra minute or two, she is one of many Super Cool Wizards behind the curtain at From the Mixed-Up Files, a blog celebrating middle-grade books. And because she isn’t busy enough, she is also Super Cool Co-Host of the weekly #MGlitchat on Twitter. More recently, she is the Super Cool Assistant Regional Advisor (ARA) for the Utah/S. Idaho chapter of SCBWI, too.


Elissa is represented by Josh Getzler of Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency and her first novel is currently on submission. (cue nail biting!)

Q:How did participating with MSFV blog get you where you are now?

A: I came into the MSFV family a little later on my path to publication than many of my fellow Success Stories did.  I was actively searching for an agent when a critique partner told me about the blog and the upcoming Secret Agent contest, and she thought I had a good chance of placing.  I wasn’t sure if my writing was good enough yet, but I took her suggestion to enter and was pleasantly surprised when all the feedback was very positive.  It was reassuring to know that my writing was on par with agented and/or published authors.

So it was icing on the cake that I won that SA contest, and that the Secret Agent, Josh Getzler of (then) Writers House offered representation a few months later.  Okay, truth be told, I never in a million years expected to be picked up by a Writers House agent, so I was thrilled with the turnout.  I have MSFV to thank for directly influencing my agent search, since I was the first direct success story to come out of the MSFV contests.

I should also mention that Josh has since moved from Writers House and has opened his own agency, HSG Agency.  We parted ways for about a year as he settled into his new place and I dealt with some health issues, but we are giving our working relationship another go.  Oh, and this also means that Authoress and I are agent-sisters (she queried him a year or so after getting to know him during the SA contest I won).  So, yes, like a good big sis, I am keeping all of Authoress’s secrets now.  🙂


Q: You say that you love the revision stage of writing more than the writing stage of writing. Why is that? What’s appealing about it?

 A: I’ve always liked the idea of making something better than it was before. Revision gives me the opportunity to take something that is merely okay or passable and mold it into something spectacular. I also think my love of revision has a lot to do with my background. I started out in journalism, first as the Editor-in-Chief of my junior high school newspaper, then as the Advertising Manager in high school, and finally the Copy Editor in college. I had to learn how to take my creative (read: flowery) language and mold it into that informative, inverted pyramid newspaper style of writing.

I found that I actually enjoyed manipulating the language to suit my needs. Yes. Even in Junior High. In fact, my favorite recollection of that time was diagramming sentences in my 8th grade English class. (I am not making this up.) 😉 I loved breaking them down and studying how each part could be used to create a new and different whole. I do the same thing every time I revise one of my manuscripts. And not just sentences anymore, but themes and character arcs and plot, for example, won’t escape my critical eye during the revision stage of a project.”


Q:  Do you find that the analytical critical side of your brain gets in the way when you’re trying to do the creative writing part? How do you deal with both when you’re initially creating the prose? Do you rigorously plot or are you more of a pantser, and how does that affect your revising?

A: When I first started writing, I had trouble finishing anything because my inner critic had to be in control. I have dozens of unfinished manuscripts to prove it, too! I finally learned that, in order to get to THE END of a manuscript, I had to reign in the critic and let the muse take the lead. My inner critic allows this in short bursts, so I tend to write my first drafts very very very quickly–in most cases, it takes me no more than a week to get the first rough draft/glorified outline written. No plotting allowed during this stage!

But once the first draft is on paper, then my inner critic gets back in the driver’s seat and I plot the entire book (yes, the one I just wrote), and I flesh out the holes (of which there are many) and figure out what the real story is. Then I start on revisions to get what I call a “working first draft” written to send off to my agent and/or critique partners.

I should also mention that I tend to think for months, sometimes years, before I ever write a word of a manuscript. So, though it might sound like my inner critic is the one making the bulk of the decisions, my muse is more in charge than she lets on. 😉

Q: They say that a story is created when you write, and a novel is created when you edit. What advice do you have for those who are revising their novels for the first time?

A: My best advice is to find someone who can point out what’s working and what’s not, and really listen to his/her suggestions before you make any changes. Sometimes critiquers may not know why a part isn’t working, but just knowing that it isn’t working tells me I need to revise that section somehow. FYI, I have several critique partners who are also writers that I utilize during the bulk of my early revisions. That way we can talk about writerly things like pacing, character development, plot, etc, and I know I won’t bore them. This way we end up teaching each other about the craft of writing while we revise, which is an added bonus in my opinion. Once I have a book that I think is almost ready to go out on submission, that’s when I share it with my beta readers (non-writers who love to read or edit), just so I know it works for them as well.


Q: Lastly, how’s your experience on submission been? Can you explain to the readers what being on submission means, and what you do personally when you’re on submission?

A: Oh, the dreaded submission process! 🙂 To me, being on submission is the first time in the publishing process where I give up all control over a particular manuscript. That can be scary, especially when I’ve spent months (years) pouring my heart and soul into it, and I want to know exactly what my baby is doing at any given moment.

But I have to remind myself that it’s not a baby anymore–it’s all grown up now and I have to let it make its way out into the world. Whether it succeeds or fails, it’s out of my hands at that point, but I am comforted by the fact that I did all I could. So once a manuscript is on submission, I usually don’t worry (or think) about it too much. I’m getting better about being zen about the whole thing, anyway. Usually the first few days are the worst–the excitement just about kills me! Then I settle into a comfortable “come what may” attitude. And I get to work on a new project, too.

Thanks, Elissa!

Tomorrow’s post is at Elissa’s blog, where she will be interviewing Amanda Sun. See you there!

Visit the whole crew:

Blog Twitter Posting   Date
David   Kazzie @davidkazzie 1-Aug
Leigh   Talbert Moore @leightmoore 2-Aug
J.Anderson   Coats @jandersoncoats 3-Aug
J.M.   Frey @scifrey 4-Aug
Elissa   Cruz @elissacruz 5-Aug
Amanda   Sun @Amanda_Sun 6-Aug
Kristi Helvig @KristiHelvig 7-Aug
Leah   Petersen @Leahpetersen 8-Aug
Monica   Bustamante Wagner @Monica_BW 9-Aug
Emily   Kokie @emkokie 10-Aug
Monica   Goulet @MonicaGoulet 11-Aug
Peter   Salomon @petersalomon 12-Aug
Sarah   Brand @sarahbbrand 13-Aug
Angela Ackerman @angelaackerman   & @writerthesaurus 14-Aug
Tara   Dairman @TaraDairman 15-Aug



JM FreyMSFV Blog Hop – Interviewing Elissa Cruz!


Join the conversation
  • Leigh Moore - August 4, 2012

    Great interview, guys! Elissa, you are one busy lady! It sounds like we I come from similar backgrounds w/the journalism and marketing careers first. It does help immensely in revisions, but not so much in first-drafting-!

    Best of luck to you on subs! And look at you and Authoress being sisters. ;o)

  • Mónica B.W. - August 4, 2012

    Lovely interview! And I particularly loved those wise words about being on submission, and the MS analogy about the MS not being a baby anymore! 🙂

  • angelaackerman - August 5, 2012

    Holy bananas–a first draft in a week? Even if the WC is on the slim side and it is a glorified outline, that is massively impressive!

    Angela Ackerman

  • Tara Dairman - August 5, 2012

    I am also pretty hugely impressed with this first-draft-in-a-week business. Closely followed by the fact that you have five kids and still have time to write! (I have zero and still struggle to stay on schedule.) Good luck on submission and hooray for all things middle grade!

  • Jen Veldhuyzen - August 7, 2012

    Elissa, I find that sometimes situations at home–with little kids–make for very good story material, maybe not directly, but through quirks and funny ideas that they have. I’d love to know a bit more about whether or not your kids have inspired some of your writing, and if so, do they inspire character quirks, or is it more little things that happen or little themes that creep into a story? Do you write things your kids would want to read, or do you write more for a distant ‘public’? I find sometimes that with kids, real-world stuff is crazier than fiction, so I have to scale back and make it look more ‘normal’ (since my family is anything BUT normal). Does this ever happen to you?
    Also, what’s some good advice for a newly-wed on getting married as a writer–especially to someone who doesn’t always want to read your stuff? Does your hubby read what you write? And, if not, what’s a good way to let him into your whole writing life?

    Also, loved the interview, but would have liked to know what your story’s about. I guess I can check out your blog for that, though! Thanks for sharing.

  • Elissa Cruz - August 7, 2012

    Leigh–YES! I hate first drafts, but give me something to revise and I’m good to go! Thanks for the good luck, too.


    Angela–Yep, a week. Crazy, I know. But it works for me. I should also like to mention that that first draft=the biggest pile of poo ever written in the history of the world. So it’s not as impressive as it may seem. 😉

    Tara–Thanks. The kids do keep me on my toes (and my oldest in particular, since he has high-functioning autism), but I learned long ago that the busier I am, the more I get done. It’s one of those cosmic anomalies I don’t really understand. lol

    Jen Veldhuyzen–My kids have inspired my writing, though mostly through abstract ways. For example, until recently I homeschooled my kids, so I have a humorous manuscript about a homeschooling family. Nothing about the book came from my kids other than the idea of how a family together all day would act with each other. I’ve also watched my young daughter chase butterflies across the yard, and that was the catalyst I needed for a contemporary coming-of-age tale I’m currently working on.

    And, to be honest, I tend to draw more from my own experiences as a child, and then I watch the way my kids and their friends act to make sure my experiences would be relevant (and interesting) to kids today. So this also means I write for me first, or for the kid I used to be (and still am deep inside). I figure if the kid in me doesn’t like the story, I can’t expect anyone else to like it, either.

    As for your questions about newlyweds and writers, I actually can’t get anyone in my family to read my work! My husband is a great supporter, but he’s just not interested in reading the type of things I write. And even though I have three MG-aged kids, none of them are excited about curling up with a Word document. 🙂 I suspect once I have a published book that might change. So honestly, I think it’s more important that your spouse or other family members support you in ways other than reading your work. Do they give you the time and space you need to write? Do they encourage you to finish that last chapter or attend that writing conference? Do they proudly tell everyone they know that you write books and are going to be a famous author some day? If you can get that kind of support and encouragement from family, then you’ll be okay. Besides, in most cases family members aren’t the best judges of your work. They are great as cheerleader. But critiquers? Not so much. 🙂

  • Jen Veldhuyzen - August 8, 2012

    Elissa, thanks so much for your advice. I’m going to keep it filed away in my computer. = ) And, if it’s okay, I’m going to copy and paste your response to my blog so I know where to find it. I really like what you said!!!

    Jen V.

  • Elissa Cruz - August 8, 2012

    You’re so welcome, Jen. And feel free to copy and paste my advice. I’m glad it will be helpful to you! Good luck on your own writing, too!

  • EMKokie - August 9, 2012

    Elissa, I also prefer revisions – and that process of taking something okay and making it sing! Good luck with the submission process! And wonderful interview, JM and Elissa!

  • Mary Holm - August 10, 2012

    Ellissa,how do you do it? They say if you want something done, give it to a busy person, and it sounds like you’re the embodiment of that. Thanks for sharing your method of dealing with the eternal battle between the muse and the inner critic. Congrats and good luck!

  • J.M. Frey - August 21, 2012

    Jen – the random bot (i.e. the friend I said, “Pick a number!” to) has chosen you to win the critique! Can you please contact me so I can get you and Elissa together? Thanks!

  • Jen Veldhuyzen - August 21, 2012

    Yay!!! I’ll drop you a line. Love your cover art, by the way. ^_^

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