Past Faculty Interview:
Liz Gallagher, YA Author
“I ride a Vespa, recently put pink streaks in my hair, and watch too much reality TV,” Liz Gallagher confesses.
An avid story-writer since kindergarten, Liz was accepted into Vermont College of Fine Arts—the first USA college to offer a degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She landed a Master’s degree, then penned The Opposite of Invisible, a teen novel published by Wendy Lamb Books (a division of Random House). An equally lively companion novel is forthcoming. Catch a sneak peek at our workshop!
Liz sparkles in her writing and teaching. In the following interview, imagine how she can help you discover more ways to enjoy the wonderful world of STORY.
Why do you want to write for teenagers?
I write the kind of books I like to read. I’m drawn to the themes of growing up. My inner voice is perpetually 15 years old—meaning, I think like a 15-year-old who’s lived for 29 years!
Teenage-hood is a very rich time. I love the enthusiasm and imagination of young writers. I love their energy. I also love YA novels, and I really enjoy discussing books and writing with teens.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. I didn’t always think it was possible as a career, but I’ve always loved writing. My kindergarten/first grade teacher predicted that one day she’d see my book at the library, and now it’s there!
Where’d you learn to “write so good?”
Mostly by reading a lot! When I got serious about writing, I enrolled at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I studied there with M.T. Anderson, among other acclaimed authors of teen novels. I also graduated from the University of Denver Publishing Institute, where I learned some amazing “behind the scenes” stuff about the publishing world.
I was also an editorial intern one year at Highlights magazine. I helped judge the annual fiction contest, answered reader mail, and did authors’ press releases for every author Highlights published that year. After seeing the publishing process from an editor’s side of the desk, I gained more courage to pursue writing professionally. Highlights also published my short story.
Where have you taught fiction writing to teens; what was the content?
I’ve taught teen writing workshops in public libraries, and in a classroom through Writers in the Schools (a program of Seattle Arts and Lectures). There, we worked on fiction elements: character, outlining and plotting, simile and metaphor, details, and more. Each session started with a writing prompt, then sharing, then a lesson, then we’d write. We often did peer critiques, and I also did one-on-one critiques with students.
Where else have you shared your skills and ideas?
I’ve been a speaker at national and regional writers conferences, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and area libraries and book fests. I lead book discussion groups, too—I like helping students discover how to “read like a writer.”
Also, I’m the Seattle Host and Diva in Readergirlz, the foremost online book community for teen girls. Plus I’m a blogger at Through the Tollbooth, where Vermont College grads write about the craft of writing.
What are your favorite kinds of novels?
I’m most drawn to character-driven contemporary fiction. I also especially like urban fantasy and paranormal, but I don’t especially dislike any genre.
What tips do you have for aspiring teen writers?
Read a lot, and read like a writer. Pay attention to the way the books you love—or hate—are written.
Published writers are grown-up teens who loved stories and writing, and never stopped trying.
You can pursue writing as a career. You don’t need magic to publish a novel!