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RPLA Showcase: Amy Susan Brown

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2016 Unpublished Middle-Grade Fiction

Mormor’s Piano by Amy Susan Brown

In Mormor’s Piano, Ellen clings to secrets binding her to her late mother amidst a move to Sweden and a new stepmother. Near tragedy forces father and daughter to confront their buried grief.

At the 2016 Royal Palm Literary Award Banquet, author Amy Susan Brown won First Place in the Unpublished Middle-Grade Fiction category. Each year at the RPLA Banquet, authors experience the joy of earning accolades for all the hard work that is often done in the privacy of the home with little to no recognition. We’re showcasing the best of the best with our First Place winners spotlight. Not only does RPLA recognize extraordinary talent, but we’re giving readers an opportunity to sample excerpts from the winning stories.

Click the link to read a sample:

Excerpt from Mormor’s Piano

Q & A with Amy Susan Brown

Q: Where do you get your story ideas?

A: The genesis of my middle-grade novel, Mormor’s Piano, is the intertwining of the threads of my own life experience: first, the sudden death of my best friend at age 46, leaving two bereaved young daughters, prompted me to think a lot about the different ways in which people deal with grief; secondly, the ability of music to express our deepest emotions, and thirdly, the pervasive power of secrets to overtake our lives and prevent true connection. And as the novel is about an American girl who is uprooted to Sweden, where I lived for eighteen years, it also represents my own cross-cultural experience—which is both dislocating and wonderful. The ideas for my current projects, two YA novels, come from my experience of living on the island of Malta for four years with my two daughters, and my growing concern about the plight of young Mexican immigrants in the US, and their parents, who are facing an increasingly hostile environment that has forced many of them underground.

Q: Anything in particular about your award-winning RPLA entry that you’d like to share?

A: This novel, which I began during my years in Sweden and finished in Malta, is close to my heart—not only because it explores the wrenching loss a child experiences when she loses a mother, especially when she is forbidden by the surviving parent to truly grieve that loss, but also because it is an homage to my second home of Sweden. I made many revisions to the novel to get it as right as I could, with the support of writers’ groups in Stockholm and Malta, and now my goal is to find a publisher who will believe in it as much as I do.

Q: Whom do you credit with inspiring your writing?

A: My parents planted the seeds: my late father Norman Brown, a graduate of Columbia University in English literature, was a writer of freelance articles and nonfiction books on genealogy and finance, and my mother is the most prolific novel reader I know. Books were always in our home and I tended to become so engrossed that I had to be told to put down my book at the dinner table. My cousin Elinor Lipman, a successful novelist, is a long-time mentor. I had teachers along the way who encouraged my desire to make up stories. A continuing inspiration are the writers’ groups I have started or joined in all the countries in which I’ve lived; an online community of writers called The Author Lab, and The Florida Writers’ Association, for the excellent competitions that encourage new writing. The support of fellow writers is the single most important inspiration for me to persevere on the difficult path of producing my best work and trying to get it published.

Q: Any tips for new writers?

A: Never give up. Practice your craft daily—easier said than done (I know!) but it is in the work itself that we become better, truer, and more likely to drill down to the stories we all carry inside us. Read voraciously. Take writing courses; join writing groups and attend writers’ conferences. Remember that the real writing is in the rewriting. Don’t be afraid to write“the shitty first draft,” in the words of Anne Lamott in her terrific book on writing, Bird by Bird. When you are ready to show your work to the world, and seek publication, be ready for a marathon not a sprint—unless you’re lucky or brilliant or blessed, or all three. It took over sixty queries for me to find an agent for my first novel—but he was unable to place it. This is where the endurance comes in. No one will be a better champion of your work than you; so when one book doesn’t sell, write the next one. If you are a writer, you simply won’t have a choice in the matter. You have to write. So you might as well enjoy the journey.

Thank you for sharing, Amy, and congratulations! Visit her website: www.amysusanbrown.com

A message about supporting literacy in Florida:

If every member of FWA went to Smile.Amazon.com, chose Florida Writers Foundation, Inc. as their charity and, instead of logging into Amazon.com, logged into Smile.Amazon.com, FWF would receive 0.5% of the purchase funds. Every time.

We could significantly fund the literacy efforts of our organization. No money out of your pockets…just some invested time to set this up.

How easy for us to make a difference. To see all of our work, please read the pages of our website www.floridawritersfoundation.com. You’ll be proud.

Tom Swartz, President, FWF

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Blogger at St. Pete Running Company

Award-winning author Bria Burton lives in St. Petersburg with her wonderful husband and two wild pets. They will soon welcome a baby boy (their first) in November 2017. Her fiction has appeared in over twenty anthologies and magazines. Her novelette, The Running Girls, is a 2017 Royal Palm Literary Award Finalist. Her novella, Little Angel Helper, won a 2016 RPLA. She has earned two First Place RPLAs for unpublished manuscripts. While she writes, her dog and cat do their best to distract her, which is why they star in her family-friendly short story collection, Lance & Ringo Tails. She's a blogger and customer service manager at St. Pete Running Company. As a member of the Florida Writers Association, she leads the St. Pete chapter and serves on the statewide FWA Board. She's also a member of the Alvarium Experiment, a by-invitation-only consortium of outstanding authors who created The Prometheus Saga, Return to Earth, and The Masters Reimagined anthologies. Website www.briaburton.com

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