I am part of Sassy Curmudgeon’s (the hilarious and lovely Una LaMarche) #mywritingprocess blog tour!
What am I working on?
NANTUCKET RED, the sequel to NANTUCKET BLUE, comes out on May 13th, so I’m getting ready for my book launch by writing blog posts (like this one!) and setting up a few events. I’m going to have a baby in June, so I can’t do a full on tour like I did last year, but my launch party, at Skylight Books in Los Angeles on May 14th , is going to be a blast. I bought adorable napkins with whales on them and everything! I am finishing up a round of edits for my middle grade debut, FORGET-ME-NOT SUMMER, out next spring from HarperCollins, and beginning an outline for the sequel to that book. I’m also doing a lot of dreaming/freaking out about having a baby, practicing prenatal yoga and then canceling out all of its benefits by eating a ton of ice cream.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I have to agree with Una that a writer’s voice is what makes one person’s work different from others in its genre. So then the question becomes what makes my voice unique? I think the answer is simply that it originates from some essential part of who I am. Yesterday, in the middle of a lunge, my prenatal yoga teacher looked at me, laughed, and asked what on earth I was thinking about. “You’re always making the funniest expressions!” she said, adding, “I’m all, ‘what conversation is she having in that head of hers?’” Since she was crediting me with having a witty inner dialogue, I was too embarrassed to tell her that I was thinking about the mac and cheese I was going have for lunch. But the truth is that I do have an active inner life; I try to observe the world around me with sensitivity and allow myself to respond to it. I think my writer’s voice, along with my odd facial expressions, comes from this place, which is by its very nature unique to me.
Why do I write what I do?
It’s where I belong! I was trying to be a professional writer for at least ten years before I was able to earn any recognition or money doing it. I wrote poetry in college and was rejected from the MFA programs to which I applied. I wrote short stories for adults a little later, but couldn’t seem to get them published anywhere. (Admittedly, this was a short-lived phase.) I wrote screenplays for a couple of years and that didn’t lead anywhere, though it taught me a great deal about structure and story. I wrote a novel for adults and couldn’t sell it. Then my lovely agent introduced me to YA and everything fell into place. I love YA. I love middle grade, too. I’m not going to limit myself and say these are the only genres in which I will write, but right now writing for kids and young adults feels right to me.
How does my writing process work?
Here’s how it usually goes. At the beginning, there’s a lot of resistance, even though I know I want to do it. It’s kind of like taking that first swim of the summer. I know the water’s going to be cold, and it’s temping to just stay on my towel and lie in the sun all day (or putter around on the internet), but I have to gather my courage and jump in if I want to ride the waves. Once I’m “in”, I start with an outline. It’s usually about 6-8 pages. Here’s where I try to locate the story - the main conflict, the secondary conflict, and the character arcs. Then I move that outline to a color-coded sticky note collage. Here’s where get loose, adding poems, song lyrics, memories, and free associations, allowing myself to veer off course and deviate from the structure. Then, (hopefully) armed with insights and creative nuggets, I revisit the outline. After that I start a first a draft, often with the phrase “as fast as you can, as bad as it has to be,” on repeat in my mind. I meet with Kayla and Vanessa, my writing group, once a week, turning in chapters as I go. Once I have that first draft, I write a second one, and then maybe a third. Then I write an email to my agent exclaiming that I have my first draft. Usually my (very smart) agent has (very smart) notes. And once I’ve taken those notes into consideration, the manuscript goes to my editor and a whole other wonderful process begins. But that’s a different blog post!
“One reason that people have artist’s block is that they do not respect the law of dormancy in nature. Trees don’t produce fruit all year long, constantly. They have a point where they go dormant. And when you are in a dormant period creatively, if you can arrange your life to do the technical tasks that don’t take creativity, you are essentially preparing for the spring when it will all blossom again.”—
Marshall Vandruff, one of the best teachers I have ever had, on artist’s block. Said during a webinar done on Visualarium to advertise his upcoming online course on animal anatomy (source links to webinar) (via pale-afternoon)
“Don’t write your books for people who won’t like them. Give yourself wholly to the kind of book you want to write and don’t try to please readers who like something different. Otherwise, you’ll end up with the worst of both worlds. I write lyrical, introspective, experiential books concerned with consciousness and perception. If a reader wants to know what my protagonist’s insurance policies are, he’ll be better off curling up with a nice cup of chamomile tea and an actuarial table. Similarly, don’t write your books for bad readers. Your books will suffer from bad readers no matter what, so write them for brilliant, big-brained and big-hearted people who will love you for feeding their minds with feasts of beauty.”—Paul Harding, 5 Writing Tips (author of Pulitzer Prize Winner, Tinker)
“Your job is to see people as they really are, and to do this, you have to know who you are in the most compassionate possible sense. Then you can recognize others.”—Anne Lamott on writing (via explore-blog)
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Where did you get the inspiration to create Nantucket Blue?
I always knew I wanted to be a writer, though I also wanted to be an actress for a while, too. I was inspired to write Nantucket Blue when I was working through a difficult friendship break-up as an adult. I was writing to try to understand my feelings. Also, I love the summertime, especially in New England! It was such a joy to transport myself there as I was writing.