GW English Alums on the Move: Amanda Panitch Publishes Damage Done

Amanda Panitch
GW English BA ’11

My Honor’s Thesis Played a Fundamental Role in the Development of My Writing” – GW English Grad Amanda Panitch, interviewed by Professor Margaret Soltan.

MS: Let’s start this interview with a link to your website, which announces the exciting news that a young adult novel of yours, Damage Done, has just been picked up by Random House.  Congratulations!  Tell us about its plot.

Damage Done will be available
July 21, 2015

AP: Thank you! In short, DAMAGE DONE is about Julia Vann, whose twin brother commits a school shooting that causes her to lose everything and everyone she loved – including him – and start anew. A year later, she’s finally starting to heal when her brother’s old psychologist shows up with an agenda of his own. Neither Julia nor the psychologist is telling the whole truth, and the story twists and turns from there. Bustle and Barnes & Noble have compared it to GONE GIRL and E. Lockhart’s WE WERE LIARS. DAMAGE DONE will officially hit shelves on July 21st, 2015.

Of course I remember working with you on your excellent honors thesis here at GW.  Could you talk a bit about your experience in the department?  Were there particular courses/professors you found valuable, especially in terms of your current job as an associate literary agent, and in your own writing?

My honors thesis (and you, Professor Soltan!) actually played a fundamental role in the development of my writing. In my thesis, I wrote about the trope of The Chosen One and the development of The Chosen One through time, drawing upon Joseph Campbell’s universal hero’s journey from THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. I used Campbell’s hero’s journey as a guideline when I was learning how to plot, and I still draw on it when I’m outlining. In addition to my work with you on the thesis, Professor Alcorn’s honors seminar was instrumental in helping me workshop and develop my theory and ideas.
Outside my thesis, I enjoyed my experience in the GW English Department. I especially enjoyed my classes on medieval literature with Professors Hsy and Dugan, and the Jewish Lit Live class with Professor Moskowitz. Professor Willis (in the Creative Writing Program) told me I could be a writer – her pep talk has returned to me many times as I’ve made my way through the brutal publishing world and helped keep me going. And I can’t talk about favorite professors and courses without naming Professor Cheryl Vann in the Honors Program, whose courses on world literature and history and culture not only strengthened my reading and writing skills but gave me so many sparks of inspiration (along with her last name, which I borrowed for my main character).

Was it difficult to go to New York City and try to make it in the literary world?  Did you consider other options?  What would you say to current GW students thinking of this path?

I came to New York to work in book publishing, most of which is located here – NYC is expensive, and if it weren’t for my job at the agency, I’d probably live somewhere else! I’d always wanted to write, but I knew better than to count on it as a career path (at least at first). So I got an internship and then a job at a literary agency and wrote on the side, though I actually didn’t tell any of my colleagues that I was a writer until I’d signed with an agent myself. 

I would advise current GW students who want to write not to depend entirely on that – often it takes several years of writing before it pays enough where you can live on it, if it ever does. Find a career you enjoy – for me, it was/is working in publishing – and write as you’re working. It was a huge comfort to me to know that, should the writing thing never actually work out, I still had a career I loved anyway, and that took a lot of the stress and the pressure off. 

Were you ever tempted to go on for a PhD in literature?  Why or why not?

I never thought seriously about getting my PhD – I didn’t think I wanted to work in academia. 

Do you have future writing projects in mind?  Could you describe some of them?

Yes! The deal with Random House was actually for two books, so I have DAMAGE DONE coming out this summer and then another young adult psychological thriller coming out in 2016. I’m currently working on a third.

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