Sketching is an old habit of mine. Even when I leave a story behind for a while, the characters refuse to stay put. They find the back door, walk right in and visit. They are not to be forgotten. This Tuesday, a new project is officially launched. More on that soon. And while I explore the territory, I welcome visitors from the past.
Part of the process for me is sketching.
Many thanks to Anne Ylvisaker who invited me to take part in this My Writing Process Blog Tour. Anne and I communicate almost daily about our writing lives, so it seems quite natural to join her on a blog tour about writing.
Anne posted last week, I’ll answer the tour’s four questions today, and then, I’ll tag three authors to share their process next week. The tour is designed to give you a glimpse into the how each of us works. The blogosphere is rich with tour participants, authors and illustrators sharing their creative process. I hope you’ll take this unique opportunity to explore their posts and learn more about how your favorite writers work.
1) What am I working on?
For the last few months, I have been working on new picture book stories. Using large newsprint pads, I have been exploring each story and playfully shaping them.
Last week I received a detailed editorial letter about my middle grade novel. I’ll be using the editor’s comments and suggestions to guide me through a revision. It's an exciting time for me. In order to keep my focus strong during the revision process, I moved my picture projects to my drawing area.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I think my work differs others in its genre because it comes from me. My voice. My sensibilities. My experiences. My crafting of the story. Perhaps that’s why I love the Martha Graham quote that Ursula Nordstrom, Harper’s legendary editor, used to remind herself and others, of the unique power of our creative force. Nordstrom carried the quote around with her, and I do, too.
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one you in all of time this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep that channel open.”
Martha Graham, quoted in Agnes deMille, DANCE TO THE PIPER, Little, Brown 1952
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write what I do because I love telling stories. It’s how I see the world and how I structure my day. My life.
4) How does your writing process work?
My writing process is constantly evolving. Sometimes it leans more in one direction than another. Sometimes, I realize a path, once creative and rich, is now a long road to nowhere. Then I wander around a bit, looking for new openings in the brush.
There are some parts of my process that never change.
I keep notecards, notebooks, and pens with me always. I am inspired by nature, an overheard conversation, and childhood stories suddenly remembered. Because I am eager and hungry for all kinds of stories, I listen to others when they tell theirs. Many have made me the guardian of their stories. Everywhere I go, I jot down ideas, even whole paragraphs. All my stories, from CHICKEN MAN (first published in 1991) to A HAT FOR MRS. GOLDMAN (Swartz and Wade 2016) started this way.
When a story seed is taking root, I can’t leave it alone. I think about it all the time. I feel lightness and joy. On a long thinking about the story walk, I sometimes startle myself by busting out loud, “Yes!”
I am superstitious, so when I work, I put on my Ivan earrings. Last year, at the ALA Newbery - Caldecott dinner, in honor of THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, the 2013 Newbery Award winner, and my new favorite middle grade, Sharron McElmeel gave these Silverback Gorilla earrings to everyone at her table. They remind me of the power of a good story.
Thank you for stopping by The My Writing Process Blog Tour will continue on with three of my favorite writers – Bruce Black, Dori Butler, and Carol Gorman. Be sure to visit their website/blogs (bio and info below) on June 30.
Bruce Black is the author of Writing Yoga, a memoir and guide on how using a journal can deepen one's yoga (and writing) practice. A former children’s book editor, he has published stories in Cricket and Cobblestone magazines, and is the founder and editorial director of three blogs: Wordswimmer a blog about writing and children’s books; The Jewish Writing Project , a site that invites writers to explore memorable Jewish experiences’; and Writing Yoga with Bruce Black, a blog about writing and yoga. He lives in Sarasota, FL, where you can find him teaching writing workshops when he isn’t writing.
Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of more than 40 books for children, including the Edgar-award winning Buddy Files series and the soon-to-be-released Haunted Library series. She's a Midwestern girl who recently moved to the Seattle area.
Carol Gorman, author of 40 award-winning novels, has been the recipient of five state children’s choice book awards, as well as many other awards and honors given by teachers and librarians. Her books have sold to two book clubs and five foreign countries. A former middle-school, high-school, and college creative writing instructor, she travels around the country, speaking about her books and teaching writing workshops.
She lives in Iowa with her husband, mystery writer Ed Gorman.