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May 5, 2015

Badass Ladies You Should Know: I. W. Gregorio

Kate Hart

Mom of 2.
VP of Development for We Need Diverse Books™.
Former hockey player.
... Total badass.

It's safe to say I'm excited to feature I. W. Gregorio in this week's profile.


Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) led you there?

I. W.: My medical career, as you would imagine, has taken a pretty linear pathway through medical school and then residency. But in my chief year, I did decide to step off the academic hamster wheel and go into private practice, which was a big, big step. When I was hemming and hawing about whether I would be a disappointment to my mentors (and to myself) if I didn't pursue a fellowship, my husband asked me the question that changed everything. "What would you rather be writing? A paper for an academic journal, or a novel?"

And of course I chose fiction writing, though my medical background obviously informs and shapes my writing. My debut novel, None of the Above, was inspired by a patient I treated during residency, and I have ideas for a second novel that will have hints of my background, as well.

Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Portrait of the Artist
as a Young Badass
I. W.: Being pulled in so any directions. Right now, I feel like it's rare if I can sit down for an hour to do any single thing without being interrupted by a call or an urgent e-mail or a shout to wipe someone's butt (my daughter's, not my patient's!). And finding time--and energy--to write? That's by far the biggest challenge.

Kate: How do you stay inspired? Productive? 

I. W.: I think it's easiest for me to stay productive when I'm busy, when I'm in fight or flight mode and have to multi-task to survive. Obviously, deadlines help in terms of productivity. But my fellow writers probably inspire me the most. Their talent, their drive, and their grace in the face of the vagaries of the publishing world will forever motivate me.

With friends in South Africa
Kate: How do you deal with negativity?

I. W.: By taking a deep breath and remembering how lucky I am, how lucky we all are to live in the USA in the 21st century. I know people will want to eye-roll when I say this, but I think of the eight months I spent in South Africa during medical school, and of the AIDS orphans I met. I think of my own children, and it allows me to step back and think about what is important, what I'll fight for above everything else. And everything else washes away.

Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

I. W.: When my first YA novel didn't sell, it was pretty hard. I revised, and my agent didn't like it. I revised again, and she still didn't feel it. At that point, I felt stuck. I didn't have another book in the hopper - just a few pages, really, and there was a period when I stopped writing for a while because the selling had taken all the joy out of the craft. But I never stopped reading, and beta-ing for my writer friends, and eventually the itch returned. I got back into the saddle and wrote None of the Above.

At an AIS-DSD support group
meeting of intersex people and allies
Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?

I. W.: I don't think I truly understood sexism until I got to residency. It was easy being female in medical school, because half of my class were women, and we had a lot of amazing female physicians to look up to, including our dean of students and the head of our doctor-patient relationship seminar. Surgical residency, however, was a completely different ball of wax. I had entered a field that was completely male-dominated, and it became clear in the early years that I had to "be one of the boys" in order to fit in. There were definitely days where it was hard to be a woman, and where white males were clearly favored over equally qualified minority women. Things became hardest when I decided to have a baby during my chief year. For instance, my program director called my maternity leave a "maternity vacation," and at least one junior resident made microagressive jokes to another women in the program saying that they'd better not dare to have kids anytime soon.

As to how if informs my work - there are certainly a couple of really feminist characters in None of the Above, but I also like to think that just focusing on intersexuality challenges the gender binary, and makes people more aware that your sexual biology does not determine who you are, or what you can be.

The first We Need Diverse Books
panel at BookCon
Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

I. W.: Read and promote their work. As We Need Diverse Books has evolved, I've become more and more passionate about booktalking the books I loved.

Kate: What about supporting yourself? Any tips?

I. W.: I've been thinking about women in kidlit, particularly in light of recent books like Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, as well as articles about the Kleiner Perkins scandal that touches upon the double bind that women face when it comes to self praise: when they don't do it, they lose out on promotions and are seen as passive; when they do it, they're seen as self-serving, aggressive and unattractive.

Kelly Jensen and others have talked about this before, so it's nothing new, but it's definitely something that I've found challenging as I've navigated the debut experience. And the only solution I've found is to continue to be proud of my own work as tastefully as possible - but at the same time, to be vocal about other writer's amazing books as well.

Signing at NCTE
Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

I. W.: Don't be afraid to piss people off. Don't let guilt get in the way of doing what's right. And never be afraid to ask for help. As much as I think it's true that one person can spark a revolution, I also believe that revolutions are achieved and sustained by teams.


I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of the Above (Balzer & Bray / HarperCollins, April 7, 2015). She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and serves as its VP of Development. A recovering ice hockey player, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. Find her online at, and on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram at @iwgregorio.

Don't forget to watch the Badass Ladies You Should Know website for bonus features and a second "short answers" interview later this week!


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