the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog


Posted by Tami Brown on Wed, Jun 01, 2016 @ 06:06 AM

Today we're welcoming Bat Poet (Class of January 2011) Kelly Barson to the LaunchPad with her new novel CHARLOTTE CUTS IT OUT.  Honestly, how cute is that cover!


Lydia and I were in eighth grade when we came up with our Grand Plan to go to cosmetology school and get jobs to build our clientele while we earned business degrees. Then we’d open our own salon . . .

Now Charlotte and Lydia are juniors, in a Cosmetology Arts program where they’ll get on-the-job training and college credits at the same time. The Grand Plan is right on schedule.  Which means it’s time for Step Two: Win the Winter Style Showcase, where Cos Arts and Fashion Design teams team up to dazzle the judges with their skills.  Charlotte is sure that she and Lydia have it locked up—so sure, in fact, that she makes a life-changing bet with her mother, who wants her to give up cos for college.
And that’s when things start going off the rails.
As the clock ticks down to the night of the Showcase, Charlotte has her hands full. Design divas. Models who refuse to be styled. Unexpectedly stiff competition. And then, worst of all, Lydia—her BFF and Partner in Cos—turns out to have a slightly different Grand Plan . .
Like 45 Pounds (More or Less), K.A. Barson’s Charlotte Cuts it Out is a funny, relatable story set in the heart of the Midwest, just right for girls who have big dreams of their own.

Welcome Kelly! Who was your favorite character to write and why?

I loved writing Charlotte. She is a mash-up between me and my daughter with sprinklings of Elle from Legally Blonde and Cher from Clueless. I love that she's smart, even though she seems shallow, that she cares and tries hard, even if she doesn't always get it right. She is pretty self-centered, but doesn't realize it right away. Overall, she was fun to inhabit. 

What was the spark that ignited this book?
My daughter was a high school cos student, so the background is based on her school experience. That was the spark. The rest of the story is purely fiction. 

Do you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack?

Silence, always. I write in a tiny office where there is only room for me and my dogs. Once my office door opens, they find their spots and get to work. Their work looks more like napping, but isn't that the best way to summon your muse? 

What was it like watching the illustrations/cover come together?

I love my cover! The cover designers did a fabulous job! When I first saw the design I loved it, but Viking wanted to tweak it. Since the story is based on my daughter's experience as a high school cos student, they asked for her input. She gave them a page of notes, and they incorporated every one of her suggestions. Now I love it even more. 

I LOVE that cover, too! It's so fresh and sassy. What unusual swag do you wish you could make for this book?

I'd love to have custom nail polish--in Iridescent Iris--which is Charlotte's favorite. I've looked into it, but it's very expensive. 

Gosh, I bet but how cool would that be! Who were your advisors at VCFA? 

Marion Dane Bauer, Martine, Leavitt, Sarah Ellis, and Rita Williams-Garcia. Every one of them is an amazing writer and person, and exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. 

What is your favorite VCFA memory? 

Third res. I'd just hit that res wall. I was tired and a bit teary. Next up on the pink schedule: awards announcement. I thought about skipping it. No, I thought. I want to be there to clap for the winners. The alumni gift award is awarded by students nominating and faculty choosing. Margaret read some of the comments from the ballots, which were all really nice. Then she read my name as the winner of the award and of those compliments. It meant the world to me because I had absolutely NO idea it was coming. I'm usually not a fan of surprises, but this one was wonderful. 

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student? 

Don't go in with a plan. Since I'm like Charlotte from my book, I knew exactly who I "wanted" to work with each semester. I had a plan. And like Charlotte, I was better off when I let go and trusted. Unlike Charlotte, (thank God) I didn't have to face disaster before learning my lesson. I ended up scrapping my plan early on, and wound up with exactly who I needed. 

Be open to everything and everyone. A faculty member who writes a different genre from you still has a ton to teach you. A writing or reading assignment that you don't want to do might be exactly what you need to do. Do it. Try everything. Talk to everyone. Don't hold on and don't hold back. VCFA is the best community for doing just that. If you fail, they're a safe place to fall. But if you succeed, they're the wind that keeps you in flight. (That was cheesy. Sorry, not sorry.)

Fabulous advice. And CHARLOTTE CUTS IT OUT looks fabulous, too. Congratulations, Kelly!

CHARLOTTE CUTS IT OUT is published by Viking/Penguin Random House and it's available at bookstores everywhere right now! You can learn more about Kelly and her writing at


Topics: young adult, 2016 release, YA contemporary, Viking Children's, Kelly Barson,

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