My friend Janie Sullivan writes, teaches writing, and runs fun and rewarding writing contests through her Center for Writing Excellence. I met her when I discovered her short story contests and entered a few. She writes a great blog (http://janiewrites.com) , and asked me if I wanted to participate in a Blog Tour. Sounds fun, right? I get to answer a few questions that other writers have been answering in their blogs, and then pass the baton (okay, mixed metaphors--sheesh). So, I'll answer them this week, and then I'm tagging my friend Lisa Matthews for next week. Lisa writes great ghostly works, and you can read about her projects at http://bumpinthenightblog.wordpress.com when she joins the blog tour next Monday, Nov. 4th. All aboard!
What are you working on right now?
I have three major projects going right now. I just had my first picture book, Mad, Mad Annabelle Jane, released on Oct 1st. I have been having a lot of fun with book signings, a school visit (with two more schools on the books) a library story-time, and great response from friends and family who are helping me get the word out. I like to write in rhyme, probably because I spent years writing lyrics for children's musicals. This book is a rhyming story, and I have sequel, Itchy, Itchy Annabelle Jane, written and about to begin the editing process. I have learned a lot about working with a publisher, and the learning curve is steep at times. But I am very happy with my book, and I am in love with reading it aloud to anyone who will listen.
I also co-wrote a YA novel, Raina Rising, with my grown daughter, Sally Nava. I found that collaborating is inspiring and invigorating. The paperback will be on Amazon by the end of next week, as will the ebook. Together, Sally and I are Tessa Franklin. Raina Rising is the story of a Russian ballerina in a Soviet ballet school in the 1960s, and is the first in a series of three. Sally and I have begun book two, but have a ways to go!
My third project is a collaboration with a symphony composer, Thomas Pavlechko, who wrote a number of Halloween "scarols" (think Christmas carols in a minor key with Halloween words). Together we came up with a narrative poem, 'Twas All Hallows Eve, along the lines of Night Before Christmas that tie the scarols together into a story. We just finished producing it with a choir of professional singers, an orchestra and a professional dance company. A film student is making a documentary of it and we are hoping it will find it's way to TV right after Charlie Brown's Great Pumpkin. Who knows? If we don't put it out there, how can we find out?
How do these projects differ from other works in their genre?
I'm not sure that my picture book really differs. After I attended a Highlights for Children workshop and met Eileen Spinelli, my inner poet was revitalized. I love her books. If you get a chance, pick one up and just read it aloud. I hope to be in her class someday, but in the meantime, I'm happy just writing rhyming stories.
Raina Rising is not just a ballet novel. It deals with challenges that face young people as they decide what price they will pay for their dreams. And who they will sacrifice.
I have not seen anything like 'Twas All Hallows Eve. Thom and I are hopeful that the scarols will become so well known, and such a part of Halloween, that families sing them together.
Why do you write what you do?
I have heard before that children's writers have a child of a certain age still inside them. Some have more than one. I seem to have a five year old and a teenager in there rattling around. I also have written for adults, mostly devotionals for the Lutheran church, but the child inside is what gets excited and demands to find a voice in my laptop keys. I write because it is fun, and because words build up until I need to let them out.
How does your writing process work?
I am a project girl. I work on something until it is done, and usually the process itself involves committing to enough chair time to meet my goal. But I can't sit down and make myself write if my brain isn't ready. Or, at least, nothing that shouldn't be deleted! So I do a lot of thinking about the story until I have an idea, then I sit until I get it down. I love co-writing with Sally because we go for walks and talk about the characters and what will happen, and it plays like a movie in my head.
Any departing words of wisdom for other authors?
Write because you love it. Write because you want to see the words on paper or on the computer. If you are writing for a paycheck, I'm sure that changes some things. But it doesn't ruin it, because it is terribly rewarding for someone to say that they like what you've written enough to buy it. I feel very liberated by being fifty nine years old. I don't have to prove anything. I get to write, I don't have to write. But that is my story. I say, however writing fits into your story, do it your way. Make it work. Don't let someone else tell you what to say. Writing is self expression. I feel very fortunate to be writing today when there are so many routes to getting our work before the public. Go for it!
Thanks for reading, and be sure to look for Lisa's blog next Monday at http://bumpinthenightblog.wordpress.com/