Eleven-year-old Calli Gold is the quiet third child in a family of loud overachievers. In fact, the family motto is Be Gold. Calli's sister is on an ice-skating team, and her brother's a basketball star. Her parents are sure she has a hidden gift for something. They just have to figure out what it is! But Calli has flopped at everything she's tried. She sure doesn't feel like a Gold.
Until a new person enters her life. Second grader Noah Zullo might seem strange to some people, but Calli can't help liking him, and they become partners in their school's Peer Helper Program. When they create a booth for the Friendship Fair, they fill it with secrets and surprises. And as Calli and Noah work and learn together, they even surprise themselves.
Michele Weber Hurwitz's debut is an endearing and gently humorous story about the true meaning of achievement and the important things an "ordinary" kid has to offer.
I thought it was agonizingly long (when I wondered if it would ever happen), but looking back, I suppose my experience was fairly typical of new authors. After I finished the first draft, I sent a query letter to four agents I found on www.agentquery.com. All four asked to see the manuscript. The first two didn't take on the book. One thought it was too similar to another book he was working on, and the other felt it wasn't the right project for her. But the third agent called me before she even finished the manuscript and asked if she could represent me. That was a big day! But little did I know, that was when the economy was going down, and the book took over a year to sell to a publisher. That was very hard -- the waiting! I was lucky that my agent, Jennifer Flannery, did not give up and kept sending it out. She continued to reassure me that it was a matter of connecting with the right editor. I think we had nine or ten rejections before we got an offer. Also, I did a revision of the manuscript during this process, based on some of the comments we were getting from editors, and I think that helped make the book more saleable.
What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Two things -- don't give up, and keep working to be a better writer. I can't stress the second one enough. I wrote two middle grade novels before this one. They never sold, and there's a reason for that! They weren't very good! But those two books were part of the learning process for me; they helped me become a better writer and eventually write a book that did sell. And certainly, through the submission process, I learned to be patient, trust my instincts, and those of my agent.
What has surprised you most about being a published author?
It's been a little surreal, in that one minute, I'm reading a review about the book in Kirkus, and the next minute, I'm driving my daughter to school because she overslept. The support from my family, friends and community has been overwhelming and touching. My editors have been wonderful to work with. Wendy Lamb called me the day after I signed the contract to welcome me to the Random House family. I was so stunned, I don't even remember what I said! One aspect that has surprised me, though, is how quickly you go from wanting to be published to having your work "out there." You start wondering (and worrying!) if people will like it and if the book will do well. The reviews have been nice, but what I have loved is hearing from kids who read the book and told me, "I feel like Calli sometimes," or "my older sister's a lot like Becca." Recently, I met a friend for lunch and when I arrived at the restaurant, she was reading my book. She was at the end and had tears in her eyes. I had this "author moment." I had written those words she was reading, and they were resonating with her. That's why I write. That's why we all write.
Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of the middle grade book, "Calli Be Gold" (Random House/Wendy Lamb Books). She is a former journalist and lives in the Chicago area. This is her first novel. Visit her at http://www.micheleweberhurwitz.com/.
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The Ladies of ACP
The Ladies of ACP