WNDMG -Interview with THE COMEBACK Author E.L. Shen

We Need Diverse MG

Artwork by Aixa Perez-Prado

Today for We Need Diverse MG, we are delighted to share an interview with E.L. Shen, author of The Comeback, and editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Also: be sure you check out the book giveaway after the interview!

Welcome to Mixed-Up Files, Elizabeth!

Thank you so much for having me!

Interview with THE COMEBACK Author E. L. Shen

Please tell us about The Comeback. What inspired you to write Maxine’s story?

 In fourth grade, I watched the movie, Ice Princess, and desperately wanted to become a famous figure skater. While that did *not* happen, I did take lessons for several years and developed a love for the sport. I was particularly obsessed with it during the 2018 Olympics. Around the same time, I had a conversation with my friends about a comeback list I had created when I was in middle school – any time I was bullied, I wrote down the insults and my fake responses so I would be “prepared” for next time. One of my friends offhandedly mentioned that this would be an amazing book idea. So when I sat down to write Maxine’s story, I realized that my love for skating and my middle school antics would marry into a perfect middle-grade. Maxine’s determination and spunky personality flew off the page, and the rest is history.

Racism and Bullying in MG

What are some subjects you’ve addressed in The Comeback?

The idea that female competitors can be friends is a topic that I felt strongly about portraying in The Comeback. We tend to be close to people who have similar interests, which sometimes leads to rivalry and jealousy. In addition, female figure skaters are often stereotyped as catty. I wanted to dispel these rumors by showing Maxine and Hollie’s gradual friendship on and off the rink. I also addressed racism and bullying in The Comeback because it’s important for young marginalized readers to have a roadmap for support when they come across these kinds of problems.

What are the top three things readers can take away from this story?

  1. Winning is not always everything.
  2. When you feel most alone, know that there are people ready and willing to support you.
  3. While a delicious brownie and good music can’t solve every problem, they can help.

((For more on bullying themes in MG, read this WNDMG guest post))

Could you share your author/editor journey with us?

Yes! When I was little, I desperately wanted to be an author, but as I grew older, I fell more and more in love with editing, and helping other writers’ visions come to life. In college, I majored in creative writing and simultaneously did several publishing internships at HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan. Three years later, my career has blossomed at Macmillan and I am honored make a home for myself at FSG. The opportunity to write has always been my dream so I am lucky to do both.

Could you share with us your ideas and goals when it comes to the representation of diversity in the books you write and publish?

It has and will always be my goal to shine a light on the multifaceted marginalized child’s experience. BIPOC children are not a monolith. Queer children are not a monolith. The more we tell our – and our ancestors’ stories – the better. As an editor and an author, I want to dispel stereotypes, and show the beauty and humanity in all of our various histories and imaginations.

 

What are some common reasons for a manuscript to make it to acquisitions at Macmillan?

Excellent, vivid storytelling, a strong point of view, and steady, confident pacing. Pacing really is everything!

What exciting projects are you working on right now with your own writing as well as your editorial projects?

Ooh, so many!! On the editorial side, I have a number of wonderful picture books coming out, including Dear Librarian by Lydia Sigwarth, illustrated by Romina Galotta in June 2021. I also have your fabulous picture book, She Sang for India: How M.S. Subbulakshmi Used her Voice for Change out in Winter 2022. In the middle grade and young adult spaces, I’m excited about a nonfiction underdog story based on a bestselling adult book titled Spare Parts, a queer Black gothic debut from Ciera Burch, and a sweeping historical drama from Libba Bray.

On the author end of things, I’m working on what I like to call the Asian American Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. For now, that’s all I can say on that. 😉

E. L. Shen is a writer and editor living in Manhattan. Her debut middle grade novel, The Comeback (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2021) is a Junior Library Guild Selection, received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, and was praised for its “fast-paced prose, big emotions, and authentic dialogue” in The New York Times. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Barnard College of Columbia University, where she majored in English with a concentration in creative writing. She is represented by Marietta Zacker at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agencyelshenwrites.com 

Book Giveaway

Want to own your very own copy of The Comeback? Enter our giveaway by leaving a comment below! 

You may earn extra entries by blogging/tweeting/facebooking the interview and letting us know. The winner will be announced here on March 15, 2021 and will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (US only) to receive the book.

 

Suma Subramaniam on LinkedinSuma Subramaniam on Twitter
Suma Subramaniam
Suma Subramaniam is the contributing author of The Hero Next Door (Penguin Random House, July 2019). She is also the author of She Sang For India: How MS Subbulakshmi Used Her Voice For Change (Macmillan FSG, Winter 2022) and Namaste Is A Greeting (Candlewick, Fall 2022). She is the Director of the Internships Grants Committee at We Need Diverse Books and Mentorship Program Coordinator of SCBWI Western Washington. She hires tech professionals for a leading software company during the day and is a writer by night. Suma has an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and degrees in computer science and management.
11 Comments
  1. This looks so beautiful. I know tons of figure skating fans and even coaches who’d enjoy this book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve tweeted a link to this post: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/1369354296064671746, and shared an image on my Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com.mx/pin/336573772158591589.
    Thanks again, have a safe day everyone!

  2. Thank you for the interview! This book is on my wish list. I enjoy stories like this and the messages for readers are excellent life lessons. I shared on tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, and twitter:
    https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/645202314996613120/wndmg-interview-with-the-comeback-author-el
    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/570620215293653580
    https://www.facebook.com/danielle.hammelef/posts/10221452173627555
    https://twitter.com/dhammelef/status/1369347833225240583

  3. This sounds fabulous! Ice skating is always one of my favorite Olympic sports to watch~ can’t wait to read this!

  4. This sounds like a wonderful, sensitive book. I would love to share it with the kids in my life, and if I’m not the lucky winner I am adding it to my shopping list.

  5. The Comeback has been on my “to read” list on Goodreads for quite some time. I am anxious to add it to my classroom library for my students to read. I love the idea of people always being there to support you when you are alone being part of the story.

  6. What a love idea for a book. I love the theme that winning is not everything. I look forward to this book and sharing it with my favorite young readers. I shared the interview via tweeting.

  7. I love this story idea–and was fascinated with watching professional ice skaters as a child! I also love that it’s about winning is not everything. This is a lesson we need to carry with us throughout life, no matter how old we are. Congrats on your book release!

  8. I know many readers who will love this story!

  9. Here, here to brownies to comfort! I was a terrible figure skater but every friend I had dreamed of skating in the olympics…what a lovely premise for a story! It appears to have all the ingredients a middle grade reader would enjoy! Would love to add it to our little school library!

  10. This book sounds very intriguing! I’d love to read and share with students.