Guest Post by Kate Dopirak
I love Justin Bieber. There. I said it. So when I heard he was going to be on Fox’s hit show, Glee, I tuned in. To my disappointment, Justin did not make a guest appearance. Instead, Sam formed a band called ‘The Justin Bieber Experience’ and dedicated ‘Somebody to Love’ to Quinn. But watching Glee actually gave me an idea that helped lead to my first book sale.
Glee is a musical comedy-drama that focuses on the high school glee club. In each episode, they usually sing a bunch of songs. Fun and catchy, but what does it have to do with my writing? Not much except a good excuse for an M&M break until. . .the Gwyneth Paltrow episode. Then – bam!
I snuggled on the couch with my M&Ms, expecting nothing but a little escape when it happened - The ‘Umbrella’/’Singin’ In the Rain’ mash-up. Gwyneth and the gang sang and danced like nobody’s business, complete with sexy-splashy water. How great to combine Rihanna’s current hit with the old-time, Gene Kelly ‘Singin’ In the Rain’. The themes matched and the lyrics complemented each other like crazy. It created something totally fresh, original and memorable. Wait. I dropped my M&Ms and ran to the computer. If they can create such wowza with a song mash-up, why can’t I give it a try with a manuscript mash-up?
I opened one of my picture book documents. I reread it, even though I had it memorized. All of the sudden, I saw openings, spaces just begging for a little something-something, where I thought I could mash in sections from a different manuscript I had written. I opened that document quicker than quick. A little copy and paste action and viola! The two manuscripts that had collected nothing but good rejections were now one. I read the new piece. It had a better energy. So much, in fact, that it actually made me clap.
An editor I have a writer’s crush on, whom I met at a New York SCBWI Winter Conference, had rejected the manuscript pre-mash-up: “Darn. This one is cute but I’m afraid there’s not enough to it.” I made a wish on a railroad track and sent the new version to her.
In a dream-sequenced-type week, my agent of all agents, whom I met at the WPA SCBWI Conference, called: “We’d like to offer you representation. . .” Five days later she called again, “Great news. . .” My writer’s crush editor was thrilled with my mash-up revision. Even though I’d imagined how confident and cool I’d be during these phone calls for years, I lost it. Totally lost it. I screamed. I snorted. I think I even yeehawed.
So now I’m becoming a bit of a mash-up junkie. I scroll through old manuscripts and search for ways to inject parts of them into other pieces with the hope of creating something better – something more worthy of a contract. What fun to realize nothing I’ve written is waste. Maybe it just needs a new home. So I copy a poem I had originally written with a magazine in mind and paste it into my middle-grade character’s dialogue. Sure it needs tweaking but a spark flies. Yes! Something new and better flickers. Fun!
So - yay for Glee. Yay for mash-ups! And, let’s be honest – yay for Justin Bieber (Never Say Never in 3D is all I have to say).
See – it’s fun to be a Belieber! Oh, yeah – and it’s really fun to mash-up manuscripts.
Kate Dopirak lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two sons. Visit her website here. Her first book (insert a scream, a snort and a yeehaw here) – YOU’RE MY BOO – is forthcoming from Beach Lane Books.