Episode 14: Running across genres – nonfiction writer Rachel Toor pens debut YA novel

Though she hesitates to call herself a “writer” (she thinks it sounds self-important), author and columnist Rachel Toor has written her way into a new Young Adult novel and onto my list of writers I want to be when I grow up. You’ll remember I blogged about her wise but rude writing advice, and as soon as I hit publish, I emailed her to invite her to the show.

Not only does she write monthly and bi-monthly columns for The Chronicle of Higher Education and Running Times Magazine respectively, she’s published three nonfiction books. Her latest work and first novel, On the Road to Find Out, dropped in 2014 on Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

In this two-part interview, you’ll learn about Rachel’s career (she’s been a publishing house editor and an admissions counselor at an Ivy League school) and how authors lose some creative control at commercial houses versus university presses. Plus, she tells us what exactly fiction writers mean when they say they can’t wait to see what their characters do next.

Also, in the Writer’s Check In, I give you a tidbit about my experience with submitting to The Reject Pile, which was featured in episode 13.

Links mentioned in the show

Ann Patchett

John McPhee

“Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Writers” by Rachel Toor

“Now I’m a Needy Author” by Rachel Toor

Running Times Magazine

The Reject Pile

Listen below or download on iTunes.

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Rachel, with her running partner, Helen.

Rachel, with her running partner, Helen.

Rachel’s ambition, on graduating from Yale University, was to work on a dude ranch in Wyoming (never having been to a dude ranch—or to Wyoming). Moving to Missoula, Montana, for an MFA in creative writing is the closest she’s come. After a dozen years as an editor of scholarly books, at Oxford and Duke University Presses, she slid down the ladder of social mobility and did a stint in college admissions, quitting to write Admissions Confidential: An Insider’s Account of the Elite College Selection Process (St. Martin’s, 2001) in an attempt to demystify an arcane and brutalizing rite of passage. Since then she has published a memoir, The Pig and I (Penguin, 2005; Bison Books, 2009) and Personal Record: A Love Affair with Running (University of Nebraska Press, 2008). Rachel writes a monthly column in The Chronicle of Higher Education and a bi-monthly one in Running Times magazine, where she is a senior writer. Her work has appeared in various and diverse places, including The New York Times, The LA Times, Ploughshares, Glamour, Inside Higher Ed, Reader’s Digest, Runner’s World, Ascent, JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) and variety of other more academically-oriented publications. Her work also appears on the Athleta blog, where she was a sponsored athlete for 2012.

In June, 2014, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published her first novel, On the Road to Find Out.

Rachel is currently associate professor of Creative Writing at the Inland Northwest Center for Writers in Spokane, the graduate writing program of Eastern Washington University. She lives with her dog, Helen, who raced in her first half marathon in February. She was 4th dog (out of 42).