Sunday, January 23, 2011

Interview Alert!! Michelle McLean, author of ESSAYS AND TERM PAPERS!!

I have a very special treat for you today, folks. My Operation Awesome buddy, Michelle McLean, is hanging out on my blog! *fist pump*

Michelle's book, HOMEWORK HELPERS: ESSAYS AND TERM PAPERS, hit stores this week. As part of her uber-epic blog tour, I decided to ask her some burning and very important questions. 

I give you ze interview:

Hey, Michelle!! So happy you agreed to my randomness :D Please sum your book up in three sentences or less.

Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers is a fun, user-friendly guidebook that walks the reader through every step of the essay writing process. Unlike other books that are so full of technical jargon they confuse more than help, this book uses straightforward language, simple steps, and fun examples to guide students through a dozen different types of essays, including the SAT essay, as well as giving info and tips on researching, proofreading, and citing sources.

Most teens hear the word "homework" and pass out. Or roll their eyes. How does your book encourage them to smile instead? 

I try to focus on the “fun” aspects of a writing assignment. You might hate your topic, but there is almost always some aspect of that topic that you might find interesting. I try to guide my readers into finding that interesting aspect so they won’t be so bored with the whole process.

Also, I break the process down into really simple steps. One thing at a time. Depending on the time frame the student has to write an essay, it could be one step a day or one step a week. Even one step an hour if they only have a short period of time. Bottom line, no one wants to focus on an assignment they don’t want to do for hours on end. I show you how to write an essay a little bit at a time. It still gets done well, and even quickly if necessary, but taking it slowly makes it much less overwhelming and painful :) Like taking medicine. Do it quick and move on with your day :)

In terms of research, did you dive into other non-fiction books that benefited students? If so, which ones were the most helpful?

I actually started with my own college papers. I went through them to see which types of essays I had and made a list. I’ve written every type of essay out there at some point in my life. I saved a lot of them, and my mother saved even more lol I did search through a lot of college websites so I could make sure I had as many of the most commonly assigned essays as I could find. I went through my papers and wrote down the components of the essays, quadruple checking these against several writing books and college writing lab sites, and went from there.

In regards to the citations chapter and the SAT chapter, I went straight to the main source – books like the MLA handbook and the SAT website. I include a resource list in my book of good sites and books to check out for more information.

What is the best thing about writing non-fiction? The worst? 

I’ve always been a total information nut. I used to read encyclopedias for fun. I love to research. And I actually enjoy writing essays and papers…researching on a topic that interests me and recording what I’ve learned. For me, writing a non-fiction book is like writing a really long paper :) One of the best things about writing it is sharing it and hearing that it’s helped someone.

The worst – it does sometimes feel more like “work.” I worry more about it. I spend more time researching than actually writing because I have to make sure every word I put down is correct. With fiction, you can write anything. Non-fiction has to be accurate.

For those in the query trenches, how did you hook your amazing agent? *gets ready to take notes*

LOL there’s really no big secret to it….I wrote a query letter, sent it out to my top picks, got some requests and rejections, sent my proposal to those who wanted to see it, and got an offer :)

And now for a couple random (yet VERY important...) questions: 

Best book (either non-fiction or fiction) you read last year: Oh, this question is always so hard. LOL. Honestly, I read so many good books last year….The Hunger Games trilogy was a favorite. For non-fiction, I like reading biographies, mostly of historical women like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Lucrezia Borgia, Marie Antoinette… really is amazing what some of these women went through and managed to accomplish.

Favorite writing snack: Goldfish crackers :D

Which TV or movie actor would you pick to give you a shoulder massage after a long day of writing? Ooo, tough one too :D Umm, probably Alexander Skaarsgard on one shoulder and Julian McMahon on the other :D (*ahem* My name is Amparo Ortiz, and I approve this message *cough*).

Music while writing or not? LOL this actually isn’t such a simple question. Regarding non-fiction, yes, I often listen to all kinds of music while writing. For fiction, I usually listen to music before writing and often while editing but very rarely while writing. If I do, it’s classical or the movie scores channel on Pandora – nothing with lyrics and the volume is low.

Best writing advice you've ever received: Don’t give up. It’s a tough road, a tough business. Shake off the negatives and keep on going. The rewards far outweigh the pit falls.

Michelle McLean is a writer and the Chief Editorial Consultant for PixelMags, LLC. In addition to her non-fiction work, Michelle writes YA historical novels and other children’s books. If she's not editing, reading or chasing her kids, she can usually be found in a quiet corner working on her next book.

A big THANK YOU to Michelle for sharing her awesomeness with me!! You can check her and HOMEWORK HELPERS out on the following links:


  1. thanks for hosting me today, Amparo :D

  2. Super happy to have you! Congrats again on your launch this week!!

  3. Loved the randomness of this interview! You asked some great questions! Thanks to both of you.

  4. Writing ability is herd for the peoples. Many user-friendly guidebook are available that walks the reader through every step of the essay writing process.