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Monday, November 4, 2013

Author Alan Sitomer Discusses National Novel Writing Month & His Writer's Success Academy

Alan Sitomer.
While reading Alan Sitomer’s posts, you may feel like he gets you. Granted he may have never met you, but he knows how you think. He knows that as a writer that you are constantly writing in your head and looking at your everyday encounters whether they are ordinary or absurd as potential fodder to tighten up a story or to heighten the tension in a plot.

I was introduced to Sitomer when he was a guest author at YA Reads for Teachers (and Other Adults!), which is a goodreads group for teachers, librarians, media specialist and other adults where they discuss books and also network for professional development.

Sitomer has written books for young children, middle school age youth, young adults, and adults. His style can be pretty funny and I am told downright gritty at times. I don’t think you have to be a genuine nerdish type to identify with and cheer on the nerds in his books. Of course, it helps to connect with your inner nerd persona when you read and compare notes as you travel down your personal memory lane. Some of his books are set in the hip hop culture or high crime neighborhoods. They are popular reads for youth with similar backgrounds while appealing to a wider audience.

This resident population-we™ (pop-we) poet very much likes that Sitomer makes hip hop poetry accessible to youth and has co-authored a book comparing poetry to the classics. Closer to home in the
Midwest, the Nebraska Writer's Collective (NWC), is involved in the cause of promoting poetry to youth. To learn more about NWC's effort, read the pop-we article on Nebraska Writers Collective Brings Poetry to Midwestern Youth.

I started following Sitomer on facebook because he actively promotes literacy. He had a status hinting about something big that was about to happen that piqued my interest. I was delighted to see him roll out

Since I write nonfiction, I appreciate that there will be a section under that heading. I also love to read about the process of writing whether it is fiction or nonfiction. launched just in time to provide support for those participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where a 50,000 word draft of a novel is completed between November 1 and November 30th. It doesn't cost to participate and entries are accepted from around the world at the official NaNoWriMo web site.  

It's National Novel Writing Month!
This event encourages people to start writing without stressing during the draft about sentence structure with online community and support.

Sitomer has been published by Disney, Scholastic, Penguin & Mattel. He was California Teacher of the Year, 2007. He has also written educational materials for Triumph Learning to help increase comprehension among students.

Sitomer answered questions that I sent him following one of his speaking events. The Q-and-A (Q&A) is below. Anyone with additional questions related to writing may submit them at the Q&A section at

Q: You launched the web site for Writer's Success Academy just in time for NaNoWriMo. As I compose my questions, it is still late October and I see that you are already providing writing preparation advice for the month long challenge and it looks like you will be there for them for the duration of November giving tips and moral support. Do you have any advice you would like to share with the pop-we readers to help them as they participate in NaNoWriMo now or in future years?

A: Writing a novel is a physical, emotional and spiritual journey. The fact is, when I was first "breaking in", the support was limited in that there were not resources like the Internet available. And so, I had to cobble my education together as I went over the course of years and years. I launched as a free resources to help others cause I have been there. From advice on craft to getting an agent to managing publicity and so on, this is meant to be a living, breathing resource where writers can turn for thoughtful, valuable materials... at no charge.

Q: I read your book "A Catastrophe of Nerdish Proportions (Nerd Girls 2)."  There was a lot of humor in the book and some exaggerated characters. Yet, there were also very tender moments that were believable. Do you have advice for balancing humor and the serious in the same book? Do you have advice for tackling serious topics in a sensitive way?

A: I think all my books feature underdogs who tackle their own inner struggles in a way that often mixes comedy with deep drama, fear with confidence, terror with courage and so on. Emotionally, I write like this because I feel as readers - as people - we live like this. A doesn't always lead to B, sometimes good things land in our laps and we feel bad when we get them and other times we discover we are stronger than we originally might have suspected. In NERD GIRLS, well... those kids have tons of heart and as a writer, I am very proud of the book because the characters really display a deep sense of character.

Q: Do you have any advice for those who want to promote literacy among youth?

A: Please, please, please make this effort. Whether it's something as simple as reading to your own kids (or cousins or nieces and nephews) or perhaps buying a book as a holiday gift for a youngster - they really do make AWESOME gifts... it's not too hard to help fight the good fight on this front if you set an intention to do so. Literacy is everywhere and it is so, so important for young people to have keen skills in this area of their life.

Q: What are some of the services that you and other professional writers will be providing for authors and teachers at the Writer's Success Academy?

A: At, we're not looking to sell anything right now. We're looking to give back. So in that way, we're not constrained by having to "go after targets" or anything like that. We are simply going to grow, grow, grow and add, add, add material for a long, long time. That's why we created an email list. People should sign up to have good quality stuff arrive in their box without feeling like the wool is going to be pulled over their eyes in terms of us trying to conflate commerce with contribution. At some point the model might change and we might offer services for sale but for the foreseeable future, we're all about inspiring, encouraging and helping others.

It is good to see that Sitomer has not forgotten what it is like to be a beginning writer. He knows how many revisions may be made and rejection letters may be received before a writer receives even a modicum of validation. Although the act of writing is solitary, he and the other professional writers at are there to offer their expertise and much needed moral support along the way.

Other sources:
- Wikipedia: National Novel Writing Month
- USA Today: It's NaNoWriMo time! Pledge to write a novel in a month

-population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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  1. As a writer, whether or not you're participating in NaNoWriMo, it's a good idea to write every day. I loved what James Patterson had to say in his pep talk... "Most professional writers keep this kind of pace all year round. novel workshops and writers

  2. Jorg: We appreciate the comment! I wholeheartedly agree like any profession (athlete, musician, painter, etc.,) you have to practice your craft every day to get better—especially if you’re a writer. Keep writing!

  3. Thanks for the advice, Jorg! My hats off to people who keep such a pace even for a week let alone a month or year!