Meet my 2019 #WriteMentor Mentee: Laura McFadden

Happy end of summer everyone! Ack! How is it the middle of August ALREADY? I had big plans for this summer, and the good news is, I’m MOVING HOME! Ahhh!! For the past 5 years, I’ve been away from my family and friends. I’m so ready to go back!

At least I have an excuse for being distant.

Regardless, I’ve been working with the wonderful #WriteMentor program, and my fabulous mentee, Laura McFadden, has been writing her heart out this summer. I fell in love with her manuscript, and I can’t wait for her to set it free in the world!

Laura and I sat down to talk about her manuscript, the program, and her writing career.

Please tell us how you started writing:

I started writing at a young age. I’d force my family to sit through overly long puppet show performances of the plays I wrote. In elementary school, I wrote stories that often ended tragically and would cry and cry over them. (Mom, I did have a happy childhood. Really!) As a 4th grader, I wrote an essay that won a contest. That was the first time I realized that writing was something I could do. Life intervened after college, and it wasn’t until years later that I found my way back to my first love—writing fiction—but perhaps without the tragic endings. 

What does your writing process look like? Location? Laptop/pen paper? Preferred drink? Music?

I usually write in my office but occasionally escape to my favorite coffee shop to get out of the house. My preferred drink is tea. I love chilly mornings with a steaming cup of chai at my elbow, fingers at my keyboard. I keep a notebook to jot down ideas, questions, sketches of scenes, etc. as they occur to me, but I mostly prefer to create at my computer. I rarely listen to music while I’m writing but I sometimes play certain songs to spark a particular mood. When working on this current manuscript, I listened to Pink and other bad-ass female singers to channel Tess (especially later on in her story).

What inspired your #WriteMentor manuscript?

I was reading a novel where the main character belonged to an Alzheimer’s support group. In the support group, there was a woman who had children still in the home. I wondered what it would be like to have a parent with Alzheimer’s while you were a teenager. The duality of a teen examining her own sense of self while her mother navigates her own changing identity lit a spark for me.

Why did you enter #WriteMentor?

I entered WriteMentor because I wanted to grow as a writer and end up with a query-ready manuscript. I’d completed a draft of Tesla’s story and had my writing group take a first pass at it. They were deeply divided on whether they hated my MC or loved her. I was at a loss on what to do about that. I saw this opportunity (stumbled on it, really) and decided it was too good to pass up. I also saw it as a great way to connect with other writers.

How did you feel when you saw your name on the mentee list?

I couldn’t believe it; I checked the list at least four times. My name was not listed with the three mentors I submitted to, so I figured that was it. But one of those mentors thought KC would be a great match for my manuscript and forwarded it to her. I’m so grateful she did and am thrilled to be working with KC!

Now that we’re deep into revisions, what advice would you give writers who are interested in entering writing contests such as #WriteMentor, #PitchWars, or #AMM?

DO IT. With a previous manuscript, I entered both PitchWars and AMM and didn’t get in. Rejection is hard but as the old saying goes, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I’m so glad I took a chance with #WriteMentor, despite fears of rejection. And paradoxically, I was afraid if I DID get in, how would I make it work (summer scheduling can be tricky when you have a kid). Don’t let any of your fears hold you back. You’ll figure it out. It is SO worth it. I’ve grown so much as a writer through this process. KC is an amazing mentor. 

What would wild success look like to you? What are your hopes and dreams for your book?

I’d love to come across my book in random bookstores (face out!) and libraries. It’s my greatest hope that this book will reach young adults who need it most, whether they have a loved one facing a debilitating illness or are in an abusive relationship. My dream would be to find an agent who loves Tess as much as I do (and finds a publisher who feels the same way!) and who becomes an invaluable partner in my writing career.

Tell us about your manuscript:

Sixteen-year-old Tess wants to help her cross-country team qualify for State, for the first time in their school’s 40-year history. She pursues this desire in the hope of finally making her mom, who is also her coach, proud. But this dream comes with a ticking clock when Tess’ mom is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. As life at home deteriorates, Tess finds solace in Kelvin, her edgy and totally hot boyfriend. Kelvin also happens to be dangerous. Her increasing entanglement in an emotionally abusive relationship pulls Tess farther from her goal to connect with her mother. She must discover her own strength in order to set herself free before her mom no longer recognizes who Tess is and who she is capable of becoming.

Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your project?

Although very different from Tess’ experiences, I, too, had a parent (my dad) who was my high school cross-country coach. Thankfully, he was proud of me no matter what place I finished.

This story features an Alzheimer’s storyline. Why is this important to you?

I have both family members and friends who struggle with debilitating disorders such as Alzheimer’s, MS and Parkinson’s. These disorders seem particularly cruel in that they are characterized by the deterioration of certain neurological functions—often affecting the core of who they are—their identity. Their courage, and those of their caregivers, speaks deeply to me. I wanted to honor some of that courage in this story.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauraCMcFadden

Laura lives outside Denver, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and one very spoiled dog. She ran and coached cross country during many hot Kansas summers. She does not miss the humidity. When not writing, Laura enjoys hiking in the mountains, camping with her family, and curling up with a good book (especially if there is a cup of tea and dark chocolate nearby).

Laura lives outside Denver, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and one very spoiled dog. She ran and coached cross country during many hot Kansas summers. She does not miss the humidity. When not writing, Laura enjoys hiking in the mountains, camping with her family, and curling up with a good book (especially if there is a cup of tea and dark chocolate nearby).