My Next Big Thing

Last week (two weeks ago?!), Carol Baldwin tagged me in a meme about current WIPs. It’s Saturday, with no work looming, so I thought I’d finally get around to playing! Thanks, Carol!

What is the working title of your book? I have absolutely no working title. I would love to have a working title. OFFER me your working titles! At this point, I refer to the book in my head as Caro’s Story, but believe me, that will never show up on a cover or title page. Titles either come to me in a flash, or I struggle and struggle and…yeah, struggle.

Where did the idea for the book come from? I was reading a book–wish I could remember which one–that talked about the 1913 suffrage march on Washington, D.C. It described about the moment when the predominately white Chicago delegation asked Ida B. Wells and one other black woman to walk separately from them, at the back of the march. Wells went away, then later stepped into the march with the Chicago group and walked right in the middle of them. I had a flash that I wanted to write about a young girl who was at that march and who took two steps to the side as she walked to make a space for Wells. I worked on that story for a while, but during the research process I felt in love with Chicago and a different hero who started showing herself to me, one who I couldn’t fit into the first story. The girl who was developing on my computer was someone who didn’t live in a world that would take her to that spot, that moment, in D.C. She had a different journey to tell, one of discovering Jane Addams and Hull House and of living under the cloud of her immigrant mother’s depression and having to carve out a life of strength for herself, in Chicago. I wrote a first draft that had an obvious, huge crevice in the late middle–between the character of Caro and the very different hero who, I still hope, has a place with Wells somewhere in my writing future. These days, though, Caro and I, while complete suffragists, are focusing our energies on the Chicago immigrant world of the 1910s.

One to two sentence synopsis of the book:  I’m even worse at these than titles. Time enough to torture myself when I get to submission!

What else about the book might peak the readers’ interest? My goal is for this story to have the  high-energy, fast-paced feel I get when I read about the Chicago of these years. Caro is a strong character, a girl looking hard for her purpose, her thing. She lives in a narrow, too-quiet world, and when she steps out of that space into the city, her heart beats faster and she feels she like can do anything. I’m hoping the contrast between the pressure to damp herself down and the drive she has to burst out of that pressure and do something will jump off the page and suck readers in. The other connection I hope to make is this: I think many teens know what it’s life to be controlled by an adult, even an adult who–frankly–can barely control their own life, who is the worst possible judge for what their child should be doing. I want to give Caro credit for knowing what is best for her and the strength to realize what she has to do to get that. I’m hoping that readers will respond to and identify with her path and the steps she takes to stride freely along it. Dreaming this is, for me, the easy part. Now I just have to translate the dream onto the actual page!

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I would very much like to find an agent who falls in love with my writing and feels strongly enough about it to represent it to publishers. I realize that the publishing industry is changing every second of every minute of every day, but this still feels like the right choice for me.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the story? Which first draft? Too long. It took me a whole draft to realize I’d been trying to fit two mismatched stories into one. Then I tried to write another first draft (and got pretty far along) without knowing my plot well enough. I don’t know what I was thinking–I know I need plot, but I got impatient and landed in the place where the Are-You-EVER-Going-to-Get-Published signs were flashing at me in neon, and I tried to rush past the process that works for me. I’ve been plotting for a while now, and it’s finally starting to come together. I will be starting the THIRD first draft by the end of this year or at the start of the next. I know what you’re thinking: “She must REALLY love this story.” And, yes, except for random moments of panicky frustration, I do.

What other books would you compare it to in this genre? I don’t really do comparisons–I think they’re a good way to get into a loop of worrying and feeling bad about yourself. BUT…I’ll share a few of the historical books for teens that I’m currently in love with, I would name Sherri L. Smith’s Flygirl, Diane Lee Wilson’s Black Storm Comin’, Joyce Moyer Hostetter’s Healing Water, Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s A Diamond in the Desert, and Kristin O’Donnell Tubb’s Selling Hope. I can’t and shouldn’t want to write like them, but if you told me that my name and book title (whatever that might be!) would someday show up in someone else’s list with these authors, you would make my day. My year.

What actors would you chose to play a movie rendition? Oh, I love doing this for other people’s books, but my own…I have a very clear image of Caro in my mind, but she doesn’t actually match any actresses that I know. If you took Natalie Portman, crossed her with Gina Torres and maybe a bit of Scarlett Johansson, then took, oh, 20-25 years off, you might start to get close.

I’m not going to tag any specific bloggers, but if you read this and want to carry the meme over to your blog, about your WIP, feel free to drop the link into the comments so we can all check it out!


  1. Glad you enjoyed writing this Becky, it certainly fills in a lot more details about “Caro’s Story!” I love the Washington story though– and hope it finds it’s way into a story at some point. Plotting is HARD!! It took me several years and lots of starting and re-starting before I came up with an outline that I’m really happy with. Keep us all posted!


  2. I love it! Just made my first trip to Chicago and fell in love. Also loved the Chicago I saw in Frank Norris’s The Pit and Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (am still in the middle of the latter). Hope you have a blast with this.


    • beckylevine says:

      Chicago is amazing. I am so NOT a big-city person; I don’t think I could ever live there. But as a place to visit to do research? Yeah!


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