Tamara Girardi is an Assistant Professor of English at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, and writes young adult fantasy and contemporary fiction.
If you had a time machine, where and when would you be right now?
I’ve always had the urge to go back in time to Tudor England and explain to Henry VIII the whole x and y chromosome thing. But I’m not sure I could get back to my time machine before he took my head.
These questions are so hard! I’m fascinated by space—how it changes and also holds so many secrets and memories—over time. So I’d love to see the places I’ve been to and how they’ve changed. Maybe my neighborhood 100 years ago. Pittsburgh 100 years ago. Or even further back. And other places I’ve visited too: New York City, Boston, London, Edinburgh, Paris. Wow, my time machine better be good for lots of miles!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Write more. And save everything you write. Read more. Enjoy the journey because there’s no telling when you’ll get to the destination, or really what the destination might actually be.
What is your favorite resource for writers?
Other writers, which is kind of a trick question in that other writers link you to so many resources. But more than that, they keep you going. They inspire you. They challenge you. They celebrate when you take a step forward, and they commiserate when those inevitable steps backward occur. Finally, they get this thing we’re doing with our lives. They know what it means when you say, “I got a full request from an agent,” or “I have an R&R.” While your family and friends might smile encouragingly, your writing community knows what all the “stuff” means, and they celebrate that stuff with you!
What has been the most satisfying aspect of your literary career?
My first and my last reader—to date. When I started writing YA, I shared a very rough manuscript with my friend’s teenage daughter. Then we met at Primanti’s (which is a Pittsburgh institution, by the way, so eat there!). She gushed over how much she loved the book and what, specifically, she loved. Her encouragement made me believe in myself, and I LOVED that someone read something I wrote and felt so passionate about it.
Right before I went on submission in March, I asked a high school friend for a sensitivity read for one of my characters. She told me it would probably take a couple weeks to get back to me. The next day she had read all of the highlighted scenes with the character in question. Three days later, she messaged me that she couldn’t stop reading and how much she loved my story. Hearing from people who read the words, get the words, and love the words—that’s what matters most!
What is your favorite tip for writers?
Don’t compare yourself to other writers. I tell myself this often, too. It’s so difficult with social media and Publisher’s Marketplace splashing the day’s deals into your inbox. But the only person you should compete against is yourself. If you’re a better writer today than you were yesterday, you’re doing amazingly. Think of how much better you’ll be next year. Competing against others is crippling. Competing against yourself is motivating.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
Lately, for me, it’s been knowing when to shut off the thoughts of the market and instead embrace my creativity. Knowing the market and writing the story you were meant to write is such a delicate balance. I’m still working on that.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
This is such a hard question because I’m not much of a desert island kind of person. I don’t do the outdoorsy thing very well, as much as I’d like to think I do. So, I’ll say my house (complete with everything inside—including the SUV in my garage). Cheating, I know. And imagine that! I still have two more items to choose.
Moana! I’d take Moana because my kids would be terribly grateful, and she would absolutely help us survive. (I realize she’s not an item, but does a house really count either?). Just imagine the fireside sing-a-longs we’ll have!
How else can I cheat at this…? A boat. There. That’s somewhat reasonable. I would use it to fish, and possibly get myself back to civilization.
So, in summation – what have you learned about me? I don’t follow rules. My kids are probably listening to How Far I’ll Go this very moment.
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