In the third and final installment of The Dirt Diary series, we meet Ava—Rachel Lee’s alter ego of sorts. When Rachel’s Florida visit starts going sour, she turns to Ava to spice things us a little. For the trip which was supposed to be an occasion for her to catch up with her beloved Dad, has turned into anything but that. Her Dad’s girlfriend, Ellie, is intent on making them seem like the perfect little family, and ropes Rachel into working at the short-staffed café in the resort she manages.
This series seems all the more important that our society seems to be thriving on a culture of gossip. From entertainment “news” shows and blogs to tabloid magazines, it seems like our collective obsession with gossip makes an entertainer worthy only if he or she manages to remain on top of the “shock game”. But as Rachel learns throughout the time the series covers, there isn’t much good to be had in gossip or pranks. Maturity means dealing with problems head on, and not through backhanded methods that usually end up only temporarily covering up the issue at hand.
Rachel’s previously mentioned childishness makes another appearance in The Gossip File but when take into context, it is part of a growing process we get to witness within the pages of this series, making said childishness a rich part of the character development done by Staniszewski. Interestingly enough, the author herself went through a growth process of sorts when it comes to her writing. She was kind enough to send me an email in which she shared the story of how she became published, and it was noticeable how this path reflected the perseverance her character, Rachel, demonstrated in the books of the Dirt Diary series:
I’ve known I wanted to be an author since elementary school, but it took a few twists and turns before I was finally able to make it happen. When I finished graduate school several years ago, my goal was to get published, but that meant I had to write a publishable book first!
Soon after graduation, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library. I was given a stipend and an office space with the goal of helping me to complete a manuscript in the span of a year. I wrote and revised a dark young adult novel until, finally, I had a manuscript that I thought was ready to be published. But when I started trying to find an agent with it, I got dozens of rejections.
As I kept revising the book, trying to make it better, I also started working on new projects. One of those, a middle-grade dystopian, really clicked with me, so I decided to submit it to the PEN New England Children’s Discovery Award. I was stunned when it was chosen as one of the winners. The award came at the perfect time because with all the rejections I was getting on the first book, I was starting to wonder if I was kidding myself about this whole writing thing.
At the PEN New England reception, an agent approached me and told me how much she’d enjoyed the excerpt I’d read and asked if I would send her the book. Since I’d already been trying to find an agent for nearly a year, of course, I said yes! Soon after, she signed me as a client, and we started sending out the book. And…it got rejected. It came SO close to being acquired, but nothing ever quite panned out. That year of submitting the book with my agent was incredibly difficult—filled with a lot of tears and chocolate—and I started losing my confidence.
Luckily, I kept working on new things, including a wacky fairy tale retelling. When I showed it to my agent, she loved the idea, but we both agreed that it needed some serious work. After a few major revisions, it was finally ready to go! This time, the process went much more quickly. Within a few months, we found an editor who clicked with the manuscript, and we officially sold My Very UnFairy Tale Life. Hooray!
So what did I learn through my long journey? Never, ever give up and never, ever stop working on new projects. You never know which project is going to be the one that clicks with an agent or editor, and each book you finish helps you to become a stronger, more confident writer.
Needless to say, this piqued my interest even more, and I sent Anna some questions I hope to hear her thoughts on soon. And yes, those thoughts will be shared in Sahar’s Blog Author Spotlight feature! In the meanwhile, more information about the author and her books is available on her website.