April 13, 2016

Happy Book Birthday to Brooks Benjamin. MY SEVENTH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS came out yesterday!

Congratulations to Brooks Benjamin on the release of his book: a hilarious middle-grade novel that takes an alternatively irreverent and heartfelt look at a middle-schooler's dream of breaking out of his freestyle dance crew and winning a scholarship to join a "real" dance studio.

The Story

All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are. 
At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?

The Reviews

"A rollicking, big-hearted breakdance of a book. It's a story about friendship that's got all the moves: humor both sly and slapstick, a diverse cast of characters, and a winning narrator who's trying to learn how to follow his heart, find the beat, and dance his pants right off."
--Kate Hattemer, author of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy

"Equal parts jazz hands and karate chop, with a dash of football and a pirouette of pure heart. Dillon and the Dizzee Freekz are en pointe. This book will rock you! "
--Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, author of The 13th Sign

"An earnest first novel with a solid message about finding out who you are on your own terms."

"A fresh and winning debut about the power of self-expression."

The Interview

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your book?
I was actually on a dance crew back in middle school. We called ourselves the New Kidz because we only danced to NKOTB songs. When I told that to a writer friend of mine, she responded by saying I should turn that into a book. So I did!

Q: Describe your writing process, from idea to final draft.
I don't do much plotting. I make a very bare outline just to make sure the story has the bones to stand up. If it does, I dive right in, re-outlining as I need to when things take a crazy turn. I write in the morning before work and sometimes at night before I go to bed. I'm fueled by coffee and music and the terrible decisions my characters always make.

Q: Tell us about your journey, from finding an agent to publication.

I was really lucky with my journey. I finished M7GLIT in October of 2013 and got into Pitch Wars that winter. While the contest was going on in January of 2014, my incredible mentor (fellow 2016 debut author, Marieke Nijkamp) told me I need to query it. So I did and a month later I signed with Uwe Stender of TriadaUS. And since he's 50% awesome accent and 50% superhero (which he'll proudly tell you is really the same thing), he had my book sold a couple of weeks later to Wendy Loggia at Delacorte Press.

Q: Why would someone want to buy your book? 

Because they enjoy dancing. Or laughing. Or friends who get themselves into trouble and have to find ways of getting themselves back out of it. Or maybe because just like us, these characters struggle with real issues that so many middle schoolers struggle with. This isn't an issue book. But with M7GLIT, I really wanted to take the opportunity to layer in themes of trust, friendship, loyalty, and crushes, while really exploring gender norm and LGBTQ issues.

Q: What are your favorite books? What are you reading now? 

It's an eclectic list, but my favorite books of all time are HOLES, DRACULA, the BETTER NATE THAN EVER series, THE VIGILANTE POETS OF SELWYN ACADEMY, WINGER, the DARK TOWER series, A SNICKER OF MAGIC, and way too many more for me to list. Right now I'm reading Julie Murphy's DUMPLIN' and finding myself totally wanting to become Willowdean's BFF.