A post to brighten this wet spring morning. The lovely Akiko White, recent winner of the SCBWI Tomie dePaola illustrator award, tagged me to join this fun Blog Tour on writing processes. Each week, authors post answers to four Writing Process questions, then tag three friends to play along the following week. You can read Akiko’s post here, and learn what she’s working on. I shall be interviewing Akiko in April in my Illustrator series!
Following are my responses, and at the bottom you’ll find the three wonderful writers who’ll post next week!
What am I working on?
I am working on two picture books at the moment. One is for very young children about who belongs to whom, the cat or the kids? This has rhyme and repetition and plays a lot with the rhythm of a cat. The second one is for slightly older children with a spunky female protagonist, who has a physical disability, which does not deter her! She meets the new class bully with a resourcefulness that turns both their lives around.
I am also working on a YA novel, or would be if ironically my MFA assignments weren’t taking up most of my writing time. Seriously, I plan for this story to be my MFA thesis. I am about 10,000 words in and in writerly love with my teen male protagonist. This is edgy contemporary fiction set in the south, with some native American influences, in a world of prejudice, meth addiction and abuse (and that isn’t just the kids). I am very excited about this character.
I also just began a foray into middle grade for my MFA children’s literature class with Emma Walton Hamilton. And don’t ya know it, but I think it has the makings of a humorous middle grade novel about a pink-phobic eleven-year old girl. We’ll have to see where this one takes me.
I am also in the unhurried process of submitting work to agents and publishers right now.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I think the difference is two-fold, the fact that I write for multiple age-groups and the multicultural/diversity element that I can’t keep out of my writing due to people I have met and having lived in so many cultures myself.
Why do I write what I do?
During my globetrotting years doing humanitarian work post-college, I hand-wrote monthly newsletters for friends and followers back in Europe and sent them out snail-mail. A letter from Mangochi, Malawi to London took 2-4 weeks! I thought that I would eventually transform these scribbles into travelogues a la Bryson or Theroux. But life transported me to a new setting and inspiration. Based on my teaching qualifications and a decent knowledge of children’s literature, I talked my way into a job setting up a bilingual K-12 school library at an international school in southern France. It became my dream job and I fell soundly in love with children’s books again. This, coupled with the hunger and sacrifice I had seen in developing nations for education and literacy, drive my passion for writing for children. Books were a lifeline for my childhood. Books and literacy open opportunities for many youngsters. Children of all cultures deserve stories that reflect their lives and challenge them to think beyond themselves.
How does my writing process work?
In general my process is character-driven. Plot reveals itself slowly and at times dimly for me, but the voice of my protagonist won’t let me go. I will often wake up with dialogue my character might say. This is true for picture books and YA. Setting is also almost a character for me, and this is a challenge for PB’s as you really leave most of that to the illustrator. With my YA work, I picture the scenes, and find keeping a pinterest board helpful for this. Here is a pinterest board for a YA novel that is waiting to be revised. In my ideal writing world, I have open days before me and few other commitments. If I am working on a novel-length story, I like to set myself a daily word target, say 1000 words, and I won’t eat or do anything else, until those words are completed. I do, of course, drink copious, unhealthy amounts of caffeine in the process. I try and write some fiction most days, as I feel my publishing goals require this sort of investment if I am to become the writer I want to be.
With picture books, I will often sift through many ideas until I feel I have one with enough uniqueness to it. Then, if in prose, it normally takes about 2-4 hours to get the first draft down. Rhyme takes a lot longer. This is NOT a draft I would show anyone, but is the skeleton form many revisions.
I am a pantser, who would like to learn how to plot. I allow the story to unfold, enjoying the unusual twists and encounters. I tend to write from home because I work best in silence. One of my dreams is to go on a writer’s retreat to some idyllic spot like a Maine lakeside cottage with loons or moose.
WHO’S UP NEXT MONDAY & TUESDAY – April 6th and 7th, 2014?
Clara Bowman-Jahn worked as a registered nurse for thirty two years finally trading that job for her true love, writing. Clara’s short stories have been published in three anthologies, Campaigner Challenges 2011, The ‘I’ Word and Charms Vol. 2. She is also the author of Annie’s Special Day a children’s picture book. Her second Picture book, a true story, called Edmund Pickle Chin, a Donkey Rescue Story, is coming out next summer also by eTreasurespublishing.
And on Tuesday,Erik Welbel. For the past three years Erik, now 12, has been a running a review blog called thiskidreviewsbooks. He is a bibliophile, has his black belt in TaeKwon-and has started to study Karate and Jujitsu, is a lego-builder extraordinaire and wrote his first children’s book this year – a middle grade novel called The Adventures of Tomato and Pea. He is a very active member of the children’s literature community and often participates in adult writing competitions.