by Theresa Miller
Toni Gallagher is a Writing Pad student and about to be published author. She recently landed an agent and a book deal after taking some Writing Pad classes! We asked Toni a few questions about her novel, her career in reality TV, and what makes our classes so great.
1. You got signed to a literary agent after taking a How To Hook An Agent class at Writing Pad! Congratulations. What’s the status of your novel and what’s it about?
I have huge news about the status of my novel! It is going to be published by Random House, and they not only bought it, but a sequel as well! It’s a middle grade novel (around 60,000 words, targeted to ages 8 to 12) about a girl who receives a voodoo doll from a wacky uncle, and starts using it to create mischief at her school. It’s light and humorous, but don’t worry, she learns a valuable lesson in the end. However, the end of the book has a tease that will lead to the next one, where more hijinks will ensue.
2. What led you to sign up for a Writing Pad class and how did taking classes improve your novel?
I started taking Writing Pad classes years ago, just for fun and inspiration, even when I wasn’t working on particular projects. I was inspired to write the first words for this book, however, at a Writing Pad Retreat in Ojai, CA. Although I met my agent a handful of times before I submitted my book to her, one of those times was at a Writing Pad How To Hook Your Agent class where I spent the day getting advice from her on how to get representation. At the class, she read 10 pages of my book and met with me privately.
In terms of how Writing Pad classes have improved my writing, instructors and other writers at Writing Pad have always given input and advice that have improved my stories and my writing. I always turn to Writing Pad when I’m stuck. The instructors will either give me something new and interesting to consider, or help me come up with a whole new idea to pursue.
3. You work in reality TV. How does writing help or influence what you do?
My “day job” for over 20 years has been in reality TV, starting with MTV’s “The Real World” and currently as Co-Executive Producer on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Structuring reality TV shows taught me how to quickly identify plot holes, which are frankly easier to fill when you’re writing creatively. And though in reality TV you have to create story based on the footage you obtain, I hope I bring my creativity to the episodes and that my writing ability helps me spot the moments where great characters, dialogue and situations meet.
4. Being a Co-Executive Producer in Reality TV is a demanding job. How do you find time to write?
There’s no doubt it is difficult to write seriously when holding down a day job. But when I got truly serious about submitting to an agent, I gave myself deadlines. I ate TV dinners at the office and went straight to a coffeehouse three or four nights a week. I turned down social invitations (a very difficult task for me!). It’s tough to buckle down like this, but of course the payoff was worth it.
5. Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?
All I can say to aspiring novelists is to take it seriously, make the time, listen to the advice of others you trust, and be open to changes (especially if you want to sell your book).
Thank you so much, Toni! The first book in Toni’s middle grade series will be released in Fall 2015 by Random House. We can’t wait to read it!