Name: Jessica Leader
’10 Book Title: NICE AND MEAN
Publisher: Simon and Schuster/Aladdin M!X
Favorite bits of writing advice: Conflict on every page!
Favorite part of writing: When I’m on a roll with a character. This usually happens when someone is being snarky or feeling sorry for herself. Oh dear.
Least favorite: Probably changes every day, but right now, it’s figuring out how to begin.
Outline or let it fly: The advice to outline jump-started a revision that lead me to my sale, so I’m pretty much an outline gal these days.
5 Things About Me
1) The coincidence of names. Since seventh grade, I’ve had two close friends who are also named Jess, and together, we are known as The Three Jesses. My mom, pseudo-stepmother and longtime bud are all named Susie, though with three different spellings. As if that weren’t enough to keep straight, my best friend and I call each other Betty. And yes, Paul Simon fans, I also have someone I can call Al.
2) I taught middle-school English for 6 years. My favorite thing a student ever said was, “Ms. Leader is mad cool. But don’t get on her bad side.”
3) After growing up in NYC and living there until I was 29, I now live in Louisville, Kentucky. Yes, I miss New York. Every single day. What we do for love...
4) And speaking of love—last spring, after 7 years of dating, my girlfriend and I got engaged! Look, sometimes you just need a little while to be sure about these things.
5) I never win at Apples to Apples, and I feel that this is very unjust.
NICE AND MEAN synopsis
It’s easy to get pigeon-holed at New York City’s Jane Jacobs Middle School. But there is a way out: getting a video into the arts assembly, which transformed last year’s winners from outcasts into superstars. Alpha-girl Marina knows that a killer video will help people see past her nickname, “Marina the Hun.” And if her video can take down her so-called best friend and rival? Even better. Sachi, tired of being just another honor-roll Indian girl with pencils to lend, will do anything to get into video class, even lie to her strict parents.
The vastly different girls are assigned to be partners, and their hopes of fame plummet when they realize they barely speak the same language. They decide to divide and conquer: Marina films a fashion-news show, and Sachi conducts interviews to learn what she longs to know: What makes something popular?
The collaboration barely gets underway when the girls’ deception explodes in their faces. Shunned by family and friends, and thrown out of video, the girls surprise themselves by turning to each other to salvage their project. In the process, they explore the differences between dorkitude, niceness, and popularity, and how to get what you want without destroying your life.