Friday, May 23, 2014

Fangirl Friday: An Interview with Brooks Benjamin

So, if you follow me on twitter, a  couple weeks ago you may have seen some major all out fangirling happening over a certain author I lovingly refer to as...

It's a long story. And it doesn't matter. What does matter?


Brooks Benjamin got a flipping book deal, people! 

And I swear, it was like two seconds after he landed a really fabulous agent. All of this happened one day while I was taking a nap. And--on the real--I'm only mildly exaggerating about the timeline here.

But just for the record? And I'm only going to say this once because it borders on taking credit for ish that isn't mine to take credit for in any way shape or form...

I saw him first, people. Him and his tights.

Okay, enough introduction-y stuff. Here's a little bit about Brooks and his not-soon-enough to-be-born book baby. It'll have to hold us all over until 2016 when we can...get our hands on his...Tights?'s the interview.

Tell us a little about your writer's journey so far:

I completed the first draft of my first manuscript (The Stonetalker, MG fantasy) in late 2012. I found Pitch Wars by accident and submitted my manuscript. Unfortunately, I didn’t get in so I began querying in early 2013. I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never heard of a CP or query letter. I just dove right into Google and came out the other end looking like a complete noob. I queried one agent at a time because I thought that’s how it worked.

Like I said. Noob.

After a few small requests and some eventual rejections, I rediscovered Twitter and began networking with anyone who had an idea and time to read. I finally met up with two amazing CPs, Amber Mauldin and Jayme Woods. They read my first draft and came back with another thing I’d never heard of. Manuscript notes!

I loved their suggestions and tore apart The Stonetalker one chapter at a time. And at the end of April, I had my finished version. I went right back into querying, jumping in on the Twitter pitch parties whenever possible, getting requests here and there, but never a full agent-loving bite. At that same time, I began working on my next project (My 7th Grade Life in Tights or M7GLIT for short). I stopped querying The Stonetalker around October while I was working on finishing up M7GLIT. And at the end of the 2013, I submitted to Pitch Wars and got in.

Marieke became my mentor. She and my amazing CPs (which now also included Jean Giardina, Ronni Arno Blaisdell, Karen Lee Hallam, Melanie Conklin, and Jeff Chen) helped me whip my manuscript into shape for my next round of querying in January. 

When I started that, I immediately got some requests and the first agent call came about 3 weeks later. After that, it’s all a blur because I’m stuck in this am-I-awake-or-dreaming-who-cares-just-don’t-let-this-end state.

Okay, let's hear your Twitter Pitch! (140 characters or less.)

Oh dang. The dreaded Twitter pitch. I’ll have to make one up since I never actually got to Twitter pitch this one. Okay, here it goes.

12yo Dillon must choose: stick with his dance crew or go for solo stardom at an elite dance studio in a Step Up meets Mean Girls MG story.

Yeah, I know. But Twitter pitches are hard.

What inspired you to write this book? How is it a book only you could write?

Interestingly enough, I had a lot to draw from with M7GLIT. In 6th grade, I started a New Kids on the Block tribute dance crew called The New Kidz (with a z… because z’s are cool). We were terrible, but we danced. A lot. And we didn’t care how we looked. Until we learned how un-dancified we actually were. Which is one of the big struggles Dillon has throughout M7GLIT.

So, why did it have to be me? I guess because M7GLIT is sort of a shout out to my 6th grade self. Except that Dillon’s crew, the Dizzee Freekz (with a z… because z’s are cool) is WAY better than we ever were.

What's your favorite thing about writing?

Getting that HOLY CRAP I HAVE TO WRITE THIS RIGHT NOW! spark of an idea at the weirdest times.

What's your least favorite thing?

Not having a pencil nearby when that happens.

Now it's time to brag a little--What do you love most about your book?

I really love the individuality of my characters. They’re each so unique (and that uniqueness sparks some pretty serious fights now and then) but they’re still friends. I feel that dialogue is my biggest strength and writing all of those characters into all of those situations was a blast.

Of course, I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t mention the dancing. Oh, lawsy-mercy, the dancing. There’s so much! And it was so fun to write! Just about any style you can think of (and one particular one that Dillon made up) makes an appearance in M7GLIT.

Who was your favorite character to write? Why?

Yikes! This is tough. I love them all! But if I had to pick, I’d say probably Carson. Carson’s got his sass level turned to 11 at all times. He’s 100% himself and he doesn’t care what others think of him. In a way, that was really freeing for me.

What has surprised you most about publishing post-agent (in other words, something unpublished writers may not know about how the process goes after you get an agent)?

I think what surprised me the most was how similar subbing to editors was to querying agents. It’s practically the same thing. Except the agent does all the work and knows the editors a heckuva lot better than I knew any agents.

It sort of goes like this:

Before agent

1.     Query agents.
2.     Wait.
3.     Habitually check email.
4.     Pray that good news is in there.
5.     Some bad news is in there.
6.     Cry.
7.     Drink wine and eat.
8.     Keep querying.
9.     Wait some more.
10.  Finally some good news.
11.  Drink wine and eat. And flail.

After agent

1.     Sub to editors.
2.     Wait.
3.     Habitually check email.
4.     Pray that good news is in there.
5.     Some bad news is in there.
6.     Cry.
7.     Drink wine and eat.
8.     Keep subbing.
9.     Wait some more.
10.  Finally some good news.
11.  Drink wine and eat. And flail.

Okay, now a little about you. (And yes, I stole these questions from In the Actor's Studio with James Lipton.)

What is your favorite word?

Any word spoken by the actress Shohreh Aghdashloo. Her voice is amazing. But if I had to pick just one, I’d go with fiddlesticks.

What is your least favorite word?

I’m going in-context with this one.


But only when guys say that in conversation. As in, “Nice Crocs, bro.”

What turns you on?

Humor, smiling, eyes. We’ll keep this list short. Because of reasons.

What turns you off?

When people say, “Nice Crocs, bro.” And Crocs. I don’t mind the people who wear them, just the shoes themselves. Because I’m scared if I ever got close to one it’d smell like baby poop wrapped in a sweaty jockstrap.

Other turn offs?

Intolerance, closed-mindedness, and fake orange tans.

What sound or noise do you love?

Puppies eating. When they make that little snorty breath sound it’s the cutest thing in the world. Oh, and songs by Queen.

What sound or noise do you hate?

The high-pitched electronic hum of ear death that my DVR box is making right now. It’s almost bad enough to make me want to jab a fork into my skull and pry out my brain to make it stop.

What profession, other than your own, would you most like to attempt?

Spy. Or ninja. If I could combine the two that might be cool, but I think separately they’re great as is. Of course, I’m not sure how I’d make a living as a ninja. I wouldn’t want to assassinate anyone. Maybe I could just throw ninja stars and do spinny kicks and junk.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear G-d say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

 “Nice Crocs, bro.” And then follow that up with, “Naw, I’m just kidding. Glad you could make it.” Because I really want God to get my sense of humor.

Finally, what's the one question you've always wanted to answer in an interview? (And of course, you have to answer it!)

Question: What’s your favorite video game?

Answer: Oh, man, I really wasn’t prepared for this. I mean, deep down, I knew someone eventually would ask this, but… dang. I didn’t figure it’d be today. Okay, well, lemme think. I don’t think I could answer that one fairly unless I went by console.

For Commodore 64 it’s Ghostbusters.
For Nintendo it’s Contra.
For Sega Genesis it’s Altered Beast.
For Super NES it’s Secret of Mana.
For N64 it’s Pilot Wings.
For Playstation it’s Skyrim.
For Xbox it’s Oddworld.

I know I skipped a few consoles in there, but you keep tapping your watch like we’re running out of time. So I kept it short. For you.

About Brooks Benjamin


MG writer of MY 7TH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS (Delacorte/Random House, Spring 2016), filmmaker, teacher, husband, SCBWI member, and father to a 75-pound demented German Shepherd mix named LeeLoo. Represented by the fantabulous Uwe Stender of TriadaUS Literary.


  1. Good to hear a success story. And about someone with a sense of humor.

    Thanks for stopping by Tossing It Out on Blitz Day.

    I'm now following your blog.

    Wrote By Rote

  2. That made me laugh. I like to laugh. Well done both of you.