Thursday, July 17, 2014

Writers on Writing: Anna Staniszewski and THE PRANK LIST blog tour


I'm so excited to have Anna Staniszewski joining us today on my blog! I first met her on the Blueboards, but I've come to enjoy reading her thoughtful and informative blog, and I'm a big fan of her books. It's not many who can combine tween fantasy or contemporary fiction with humor, and Anna does it so well.

Anna's Bio:

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest book, The Prank List, released on July 1st from Sourcebooks. You can visit Anna at

Her latest book, THE PRANK LIST, which released on July 1st, is a fun, fast read. I think it would appeal to middle school girls especially--the age when I remember pulling a few pranks of my own.

The synopsis (from Goodreads):
Rachel never thought she'd fight for the right to clean toilets, but she has to save her mom's business. Nothing can distract her from her mission - except maybe Whit, the cute new guy in cooking class. Then she discovers something about Whit that could change everything. After destroying her Dirt Diary, Rachel thought she was done with secrets, but to save her family's business, Rachel's going to have to get her hands dirty. Again

Hi Anna! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer.
Hi Jenni! I live and teach in the Boston area and am the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series, both published by Sourcebooks. Honestly, I’m not sure I ever became a writer. I feel like I’ve always been one. I’ve been writing stories since elementary school and always dreamed of being published one day. It wasn’t until I finished grad school, though, that I buckled down and started actually FINISHING projects and sending them out into the world.

That's great that you've always felt like you were a writer. How did you get the idea for THE PRANK LIST?
At the end of the first book in the series, The Dirt Diary, there’s talk of Rachel taking a pastry class. Since she loves to bake, I started to think what it might be like for her to get to the class and realize that it’s not at all what she thought it would be. What if she starts doubting her baking skills? On top of that, I started to wonder what would happen if Rachel’s mom’s cleaning business was threatened by a rival company. What might Rachel do to save her family?

THE PRANK LIST is your fifth book since 2011. You have a final novel in that series coming out next January and a new series, I’M WITH CUPID, debuting next summer, along with two picture books coming out in 2015 and 2016. How do you juggle so many different projects at once?
Some days, not very well! Luckily, only some of those projects have overlapped, but there were a few times when I had to drop drafting one manuscript to do revisions on another, etc. I actually like having more than one project going at a time because if I get stuck on one, I can work on the other one for a little while. In that way, jumping between projects works for me. But having so many deadlines also means that I’ve had to become much more organized.

Your books are filled with laugh out loud humor, which is so refreshing in fiction for tweens. Do you have any tips for writing humor?
My biggest tip is to think about what makes you, specifically, laugh. You’re never going to write humor that appeals to everyone, but if you focus on the type of humor that makes you giggle, it will feel genuine in the story. Also, don’t be afraid to exaggerate! A lot of humor comes from taking amusing situations and dialing them up a notch—or ten.

Great advice about focusing on what makes you laugh. Your first book came out in 2011. What have you learned since then or wished you would have known back then?
I mentioned above that I needed to get a lot more organized with my writing. That’s the big thing I’ve learned about writing/publishing in general. I used to be a total pantser, never outlining or planning my stories beforehand. Now that I write on deadline, that approach just doesn’t work anymore. I thought planning a story in advance would stifle creativity, but I’ve realized that it actually allows me to be more creative. Once I figure out a strong framework for the narrative, I have more time to think about making each individual scene as interesting as I can.

What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on drafting I’m With Cupid, which has been a fun departure from my other projects. While it’s still in the funny tween genre, it’s a bit darker than my other books (it’s about a girl reaper and a boy cupid who accidentally swap powers) and it’s also written in a different voice than my other novels. I’m also getting excited about the release of my first picture book, Power Down, Little Robot, forthcoming from Henry Holt in March 2015.

What your favorite books or authors influenced you? Do you have any favorite books on the writing craft?
Two authors who’ve greatly influenced my own writing have been Lois Lowry—because of her amazingly economical use of language—and Wendy Mass—because of her ability to create real worlds with a hint of magic. As for craft books, I absolutely love The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. That book completely changed the way I approach plot.

I love The Anatomy of a Story. It's not often that I hear it mentioned.What piece of advice would you give to other writers?
I would share a piece of advice that Jo Knowles once shared with me: Make writing a priority. It’s so easy to allow everything else to get in the way, but if you’re serious about writing then you have to make time for it.

That's great advice and so true! I need to remember not to let all the other things in my life crowd writing out. Thanks so much for joining us, Anna!

To find more PRANK LIST blog tour posts or to learn more about Anna, visit her on her blog . You can also find her on Twitter

Do you have any questions for Anna? Ask away in the comments!


  1. Replies
    1. It was great having you, Anna! Congrats on the release of THE PRANK LIST!

  2. Five books in the last three years? I am impressed!

    1. Isn't that incredible? Thanks for stopping by, Alex!

  3. Yes! Lois Lowry and Wendy Mass are two of my favorite authors, and definitely influence my writing. Now I need to read The Anatomy of a Story. And of course, The Prank List!

    Great interview, Jenni and Anna.

    1. Thanks, Joanne, for stopping by! I really think you'll enjoy The Anatomy of a Story, it's one of the best books I've read on craft. And I hope you enjoy The Prank List too!

  4. Great interview. So excited to see how Anna's career has grown. And Jenni, you won All Four Stars at Literary Rambles. Yay! Pleases e-mail me your address by Wednesday at so your book can be sent out to you. If I don't hear from you by Wednesday, I'll have to pick another winner.

    1. Natalie, thanks for stopping by! And thank you! I can't wait to read All Four Stars!