I connected online with Carrie (aka C G Watson) not just because she is another cool YA author, which she is, but because of a sense of simpatico, which I believe is totally transmissible online. It wasn’t just the cute cat pics either, but this creative shares similar passions and goals and an awareness of the impact of good books and mentoring. Read on to find out more.
[JM] Where are you from/have you lived, and how has that influenced your writing?
[CGW] I’ve lived exclusively in California my entire life, but I’ve traveled to lots of other places. One thing about only living in one kind of place is that it makes me want to know and write about other kinds of places. So I try to set my stories in a variety of locations.
[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an author?
[CGW] I’ve always been a writer in one form or another, but in 2005, I went to the page to work through some feelings of helplessness I was experiencing as a classroom teacher – watching a culture of meanness play out among my students and realizing I had almost no power to change it. In processing my concern through story-telling, I ended up creating an early draft of my debut novel, QUAD.
[JM] Do you have a favorite social media platform, and if so, why?
[CGW] I still crush on FB. I know! I do flirt with Twitter, but it intimidates me. I have a few followers but have literally only posted like five original tweets ever. Whereas FB, for me, is more like: “I live in my own little world, but that’s okay. They know me here.”
[JM] Please would you share your agent story with us?
[CGW] In 2008, I found myself without an agent, and by providence met Erin Murphy at an SCBWI sponsored event later that year. We were both panelists at the event, so we had a chance to get acquainted the night before. My first impression was that she was super-nice, and so real. Once she gave her presentation, she hit agent-crush status. I asked her if I could query her, and she said yes. The initial pages I sent her weren’t polished enough to make her sign me, but they did make her want to sign me. It took two years, but in the end, it was definitely worth the wait.
[JM] Thanks for the encouragement to persevere when we think we have found the right agent. I recently read your latest YA novel, ASCENDING THE BONEYARD, over a weekend because it was that good. As a non-gamer, I could follow the fast-paced gaming world plot with ease. Did this story come from personal experience or the experience of teens in your life?
[CGW] Why thank you! It actually morphed from a totally different initial concept, but one in which the main character was always Caleb Tosh and always a gamer. Once it became clear that the game played a major role in his journey, I had to enlist the help of gamer friends (including my then-14 year old daughter) to work those parts out. But as you probably discovered, this is not a gaming story. The video game, Boneyard, is a metaphor for struggle, for unhealthy coping mechanisms, for getting lost in the landscape of loss and grief. And those are things I drew from, both in my own experience with loss-related pain, and from being a high school teacher for the better part of 30 years – from asking about and listening to the way young people relate their stories of loss.
[JM] What was the first book you ever bought with your own money?
[CGW] Oh dear. Hmm. I confess to not having been an avid reader as a young person. I was definitely a “reluctant reader,” although there was no word for it at the time. My experience with reading was that if the text was too dense, it intimidated me, and if it wasn’t dense, it was probably too sanitized or boring to hold my interest. I think my first book purchase was M.E. Kerr’s Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack, about a girl whose mother is a drug crisis counselor who fails to see that her own daughter is in serious emotional crisis. Way ahead of it’s time.
[JM] Tell us a little about any writing groups or communities you are involved in.
[CGW] This may sound odd because it’s so rare, but my main writing community is populated by my agency-mates. We don’t operate like a classic critique group, although we do sometimes lean on each other for help in that way. It’s more of a support community for everything from publishing challenges and victories to personal life stuff. I’ve never known a more caring or embracing group of people. On a personal level, they’ve carried me though some profoundly tough times in my life.
[JM] I confess to a healthy envy of the EMLA community! What artwork do you have on the walls of your home?
[CGW] There is SO much artwork on the walls of my home! Inspirational quotes, one-of-a-kind pieces (including my daughter’s stained glass and mosaics), lots and lots of sugar skulls and Day of the Dead art. We have one wall of nothing but photos/art signed by our artistic heroes. Oh, and a Hamilton print that I hope to also get signed one day. But I’m most proud of my dad’s art. I have several of his pieces on display, like this statement he made on the Viet Nam war.
[JM] In following you online, I have been very impressed with all I have seen about the non-profit Never Counted Out that you have pioneered with YA author/filmmaker e.E. Charlton-Trujillo. How did you connect with e.E.? And please tell us about your goals/hopes for this non-profit.
[CGW] We connected on Facebook in 2008, but moved from periphery to social sphere in 2011. The mutual respect for one another’s work was immediate, and we always knew we’d eventually collaborate on something. That opportunity came in 2013 when e.E. went out on her Fat Angie “book tour,” which led to the creation of her documentary film At-Risk Summer, which led her to the realization that there are so many young people around the country whose powerful creative voices are stuck in neutral without creative mentors in their lives. Never Counted Out is the articulated vision of that awareness. Our goal is three-prong: get books into the hands of programs that serve at-risk youth (we ship out dozens of donated books each month and are always open to donations); connect at-risk youth around the country with creative mentors, writers, musicians, and artists who are willing to donate one hour a year of mentorship to a program in their community – we’ll facilitate the process by creating and curating a database of programs and artists; and offering creative mentorship camps for young people around the country to come and workshop with the best writers (and eventually other artists) in the field. The first of those camps will go live this December, in partnership with the Highlights Foundation.
[JM] What is your main writing fault/flaw?
[CGW] Okay, here it is. I’m not a good plotter – I prefer taking a more organic path. Unfortunately, free-range characters will often do something ridiculous, or will wander off and take the plot with them. That’s the problem with being a reluctant plotter. Too often, my story sees something shiny, like “Pretty butterfly!” and away it goes. It’s a constant battle.
Oh, I’m a pantser (reluctant plotter) too! Five Fun Ones to Finish
[JM] What’s your favorite park in the world? (national/state/urban…)
[CGW] Guell Park, Barcelona Spain. Funktastic! Designed by Antonio Gaudí, and just a straight-up visual mind-trip.
[JM] Cats or Dogs?
[CGW] Cats. Although our cat is actually part dog, so it’s like having the best of both worlds.
[JM] Fact most people don’t know about you?
[CGW] Back in the day, I was a brilliant water-skiier.
[JM] What was your first paid job (aside babysitting)?
[CGW] I worked at a Texaco in the middle of nowhere (but right off a major interstate) for a hot minute when I was 16. Serious ick.
[JM] Ick! Go to snack and/or drink to keep those creative juices flowing.
[CGW] Coffee! And Trader Joe’s Partially Popped Butterscotch and Sea Salt Popcorn. And Hot Tamales.
Carrie, thanks so much for sharing your world and hopes with us today. Wishing you every success with your present and next writing project and look forward to hearing more about December’s first Never Counted Out camp.
To connect with and find out more about C. G. check out the following links: