Ask the Author: Liza Wiemer
What would you like readers to know about you?
My professional side:
Liza Wiemer is an award-winning educator with twenty-five years of teaching experience. Her second young adult novel, The Assignment, will be published by Delacorte Press on August 25, 2020. Hello?, her debut contemporary YA novel, was named a Goodreads Best Young Adult Novel of the Month. In addition, Liza has had two adult nonfiction books published and several short stories included in the New York Times bestselling Small Miracles series. A graduate of UW-Madison, Liza is the mother of two adult sons and lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
My personal side:
Writing doesn’t come easy to me. I’ve worked hard and put in long hours to improve. For most of my life, I struggled because I was a perfectionist. About eight years ago, I gave that up. Here’s why: I turned in a manuscript to my then-agent, SK. I was nervous so I began rereading my work. Again. I found mistakes here and there and became more and more upset. Halfway through the manuscript, I found a glaring typo. I left the “r” out of shirt pocket. Thinking about it now, it makes me smile and laugh, but at the time, I was embarrassed and frustrated that I hadn’t found the mistake. After all, I had reread the manuscript several times. I even had read it out loud! I called my best friend and told her how upset I was about it. She laughed. “Liza,” she said, “It’s only one word in 65,000 words. It’s not a big deal.” That wasn’t enough for me. I wrote my agent, pointing out and apologizing for the error. He didn’t even respond.
That experience helped me to see how I’d allowed my quest for perfection—which is not ever attainable by us mere mortals—had become a roadblock in my life. So, for all the perfectionists out there, embrace your “shit” pockets. Strive to do your best. Our best is attainable, and we get to begin again every new day!
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
Senior year. When an assignment given by a favorite teacher instructs a group of students to argue for the Final Solution, a euphemism used to describe the Nazi plan of genocide of the Jewish people, Logan March and Cade Crawford are horrified. Their teacher cannot seriously expect anyone to complete an assignment that fuels intolerance and discrimination. Logan and Cade decide they must take a stand.
As the school administration addresses the teens’ refusal to participate in the appalling debate, the student body, their parents, and the larger community are forced to face the issue as well. The situation explodes, and acrimony and anger result. What does it take for tolerance, justice, and love to prevail?
In the vein of the classic The Wave, this riveting novel explores discrimination and antisemitism and reveals their dangerous impact. Inspired by a true incident, The Assignment will remind readers that they have choices—and those choices can make a difference.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
My inspiration for writing The Assignment came from my tremendous respect for two brave teens who refused to do an assignment similar to the one in my novel. I am still in awe of their courage. It’s not easy to speak up, especially when your peers, teachers community, and people online speak out against you. Although it may seem like a creative and impactful lesson, asking students to pretend their Nazis and debate the merits of mass murder—history or not—crosses a moral line. I show how good intentions can create discourse. Hopefully, this will evoke introspection and discussion. The Holocaust is a challenging subject to teach and must be done in a thoughtful, respectful way that doesn’t fuel hate and intolerance.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
There are two snowball scenes that I absolutely love!
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
No one in particular inspired me to become an author. I discovered the power of stories and the joy in getting swept up by them when I was I was in fifth grade. My teacher’s encouragement gave me the confidence I needed to become a reader. I still have the first book I ever purchased with my own money: Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
A novel starts with an idea. For most people, that’s exciting. But then the real work hits. You begin to write. You get stuck. You compare your work. You get a harsh critique. You might say to yourself that you’re not good enough or that you don’t have the time. Some people might give up. Don’t. Becoming an author takes hard work and perseverance. I have had moments where I felt like I’d given my all, and despite it, my manuscripts went nowhere. I have three finished manuscripts sitting in my computer. It’s very possible 10 plus years of work will never see the light of day. Being a writer makes you vulnerable. I don’t know anyone who enjoys that vulnerability. Know this: The world is filled with infinite wonderful possibilities. Each of us can and will have a moment in the spotlight. Celebrate other people’s accomplishments, learn from others, and do the hard work. “Perseverance is the act of true role models and heroes.” — I made that up when I was writing my first published YA novel, Hello?. It got me through many difficult times. Perhaps that mantra will help you get through yours.
For signed copies: Boswell Book Company