Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Meet our 2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee Tara O'Dowd

by Patti Buff

Taking part in a mentor program is a wonderful opportunity to "up your game" by working intensively with a publishing professional. Joining us on the blog today is Tara O'Dowd, a writer from The Netherlands to talk about her work and why she chose to apply for a mentorship with Janet Fox.

2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee
Tara O'Dowd

Welcome Tara! We’d love to get to know you a little bit, so please tell us a bit about how you got into writing, how long you’ve been writing and what your preferred genre is to write? 

I’ve been writing since I was a child, sometimes inspired by history, by my beloved dog, or by my cousins. Three years ago when I moved from the US to the Netherlands, I went back to fiction for the first time in many years. Middle Grade feels like my sweet spot as far as age range goes, but I’m not ready to stick with one genre.

A college of images used for inspiration

Where do you like to write? What does a typical writing session look like for you? 

I write in my bed, with chocolate and coffee nearby, or on the train. I usually start with an idea of what I want to write or revise. I may stop in the middle to look at images online or to research. I end when I feel as though I can’t sit still any longer. Sometimes that’s after one hour, other times I can work for eight hours.

Zombie Tara and son as a result of a
scene in her book.

Can you tell us about the story you submitted to the mentorship program and the reason why you thought a mentor would be able to help you?

Think The Princess Diaries meets MacGyver. My son and I have spent hours trying to convince my daughter that being a princess would be horrible—the worst thing ever. This story is my counter-argument in favor of princesses. (It has nothing to do with makeovers, if you’re wondering.) When I learned about this program, I knew I wanted to apply, if any of the mentors seemed to suit me. I felt that I would be better able to see where I need to go with this story and my craft with the help of a thoughtful mentor.

What attracted you to Janet Fox, the mentor you chose? Out of the other three mentors available, what was it about her that made you think ‘that’s the mentor for me’?

I was excited as soon as I read Janet Fox’s bio, particularly by the description of her forthcoming book THE LAST TRUE KNIGHT, described as “a tale of alternative facts and gender identity set in a magical Elizabethan England.” That description covers a number of my obsessions, as well as sounding as though it could go on the same shelf with my story. So I read one of her books, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, and I knew she was the one.

And finally, what do you expect to achieve by the end of this mentorship? 

I’d like to be done with all the big picture work. I suspect that my story still contains too many sub-plots and too many characters, and at times deviates from its strongest points. I’m also hoping to be better at analyzing my work, both at the scene level and overall.

Thank you for joining us, Tara! We wish you lots of luck on your new adventure and we'll check in with you again next Spring.


  1. I love the sound of "The Princess Diaries meets MacGyver"! Best of luck!

  2. I'm delighted that you chose me, Tara, and I hope I can make your hilarious novel shine as bright as I'm certain it can!