Eileen Rosenbloom achieved first-publication success when she won a contest for penning her own obituary. After publication of numerous articles and short stories, her first Young Adult novel, Stuck Down, was accepted by Llewellyn Publications and released in 2005. She currently writes a blog called Woman In The Hat for those affected by cancer and is working on a book for the cancer community. For more info, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Have you ever questioned that decision?
The publishing industry seems glamorous to the uninitiated. In truth, it can be daunting on so many levels. Yes, I’ve had my periods of discouragement but I’ve never questioned me as a writer. I loved writing from the time I knew how.
As a little girl, I was a voracious reader and loved playing with words, writing poetry in my room. My mother worried that I preferred books to people. She’d say, “Stop reading! Go outside and play!” I’d say, “Can I just finish this chapter?”
As a child, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh had a great impact on me. I wanted to be a writer, just like Harriet. This was reaffirmed in college in my English classes.
How did you pick your writing genre?
Early on in my first writing classes, it seemed that each assignment came out as a children’s story even though I hadn’t set out to write for kids. I felt the genre had chosen me, particularly writing for young adults.
I also have a well-developed sense of humor, which often comes out in my writing. I had a regular gig for a while writing for a humor website. But nothing is set in stone and life experiences can affect our writing choices.
In recent years, I suffered through cancer and as it seems to go with difficulties, they run in packs. If it’s one thing, it’s five things. They all snowball and crash into you at once, but it’s all fuel for writing. Things happen to writers because we’re the storytellers.
I’ve had a shift from writing for children and teens to writing for adults who’ve had cancer, illness or other difficult situations. There’s a depth you plunge when you experience anything in life that qualifies you to write about it from your perspective.
It allows you to write authentically from a deep place with emotion and insight. So while I felt derailed from writing for a time, it served to fill my tank with new material.
I will always love Young Adult books. I treasure the time I’ve had networking with other YA writers. I think I’m not so in touch with writing for teens like I had been. There are many other writers who I admire who write YA far better than me. At this time in my life, I feel I can make a greater impact with this new shift.
What life experiences have inspired your work?
My very first writing recognition was to win second place in a contest for writing my own obituary. Obviously I pulled that out of my imagination, but my work is often based on my humor.
My writing also reflects my fascination with the spiritual and that which is unseen or unknown, as with my YA novel Stuck Down in which a dead protagonist comes back to earth. Maybe I have a fascination with death. But I digress.
In 2010-2011, while I went through cancer treatment, I kept a journal of the entire experience which I refer back to in my writing now. Certainly the impact on my life has greatly inspired my work and even brought about a change in direction.
What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career?
Going through cancer treatment and a lengthy recovery certainly derailed my career. When I finished treating, I contacted the editor of the humor site for which I’d written a number of humor articles. I pitched a new article based on my cancer experience and got the go-ahead from the editor.
I wrote the piece and thought it was a funny, irreverent take on illness. I’m certain other patients would have chuckled, but the editor emailed me to apologize for not being able to use it. He said, “I’m so sorry, Eileen, but this is a humor site and I can’t use your article. It’s so depressing!”
But the good news is that I’ve found an outlet for such funny and depressing writing. I have a blog for cancer patients and survivors. I also have works-in-progress for upcoming books for the audience I’ve built. Sometimes an obstacle is really a detour down a different path.
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?
Don’t do it! Run as fast as you can in the other direction! But if you must, if you feel that magnetic pull despite the obstacles, go for it. Take time to learn the craft. Practice and find your voice. Enjoy the journey, the writing itself. Success can be elusive. Or you obtain some modicum of success and it’s fleeting.
Enjoy the successes when they happen, but be at peace with the ebbs and flows. The great highs of publication and lows of rejection can send your emotions on a wild rollercoaster ride. If you can let go of the outcome, take a Zen approach if you will, you’ll have succeeded on a whole other level.
At the end of your Chinese meal, what would you like your fortune to read?
Confucius say: Moo Shu Pork now. Food poisoning later. Heh-heh!