Occasionally, I act in haste. I just want to get it done, check it off my list - whatever 'it" is. So I waited awhile before I posted this link to be sure it was the right thing to do. The post, by author Chuck Wendig , is full of insights for writers and I keep going back to it for a re-read. It's also full of pretty hefty "swears" as my children used to say. Not that I don't swear; a well placed four letter word can come in handy in the right circumstances but this post has lots. Still, the helpful insights are worth it. Particularly the one where he says to stop wanting one thing (e.g., to finish your novel) but spend more time and energy writing other things (short stories).
So, brace yourself and check out http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/01/03/25-things-writers-should-stop-doing/.
Just don't come screaming at me about the swears. You've been warned.
I've wanted to interview writers at all stages of their careers for this series because I find every viewpoint insightful. When I asked Ingrid Law (a writer at the top of her game) if she would be interested in participating in the discussion, her answer was a speedy, "yes." But because she hadn't been a formal mentor or a mentee, she wasn't sure if she was the right woman for the job. I am completely sure she is. Visit her at www.ingridlaw.com to learn more about her and her books.
Please share a brief bio of you and your work.
2009 Newbery honor recipient, Ingrid Law, is the New York Times Bestselling author of the middle grade novel Savvy, and its companion, Scumble. A fan of words and stories, small towns and big ideas, Ingrid lives in Colorado with a horde of imaginary pets and a very real and very interesting family. Currently, Ingrid is working on a new ‘savvy’ novel while trying her hardest to keep at least one plant alive.
Have you been a part of a formal mentoring program through SCBWI or any other organization?
Having always been a rather shy and private writer, I’ve never really been involved with any specific mentoring programs. Many, many years ago, I attended a four-day writing workshop at BYU. There, the attendees were split into small groups every morning in order to work closely with a published author. My group was fortunate enough to work with Tim Wynne-Jones. Except for the writing that came out of the exercises Tim had us do, I never showed him any of my work, even after he invited those of us in his group to do so. I was simply too nervous. Back then, just thinking about sharing my writing with someone who was already published made my heart feel like it was going to hammer its way out of my chest and fall thumping to the floor for everyone to see. I was certain it would kill me dead. Do I regret it now? I honestly don’t know.
Do you agree or disagree with distinguished author Margaret Atwood’s statement about writing: “Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you’re on your own?”
Hmm. Yes and no. I’ve found that writing is very solitary work that becomes very public once actual publication becomes involved. At the heart of it, when a writer sits down to get those first ideas and words out of her head and onto paper, she is very much on her own. Though even at that stage a trusted friend or colleague can help talk things out of the imagination and into being, if a person is open to it. Then, of course, once an editor gets involved, a writer starts getting pages and pages of feedback… yet still, when sitting down to absorb that feedback and then deciding what to do about it, we are still ultimately on our own.
In what ways have you been “helped a bit?”
I have a lovely agreement with another author right now. Not a mentor, per se . . . more like a peer “encourager.” The agreement is that I must send this other author no less than five hundred words every Friday, no matter what. Then I get an email back a few days later that says: “Hooray! Keep going!” Five hundred words doesn’t sound like much, I know, but it’s amazing how quickly a week can slip by without anything worthwhile getting written. But the best, most unexpected result I’m finding from this agreement is that it is helping me conquer my anxieties around sharing my work before it is polished and ‘perfect.’ It is also showing me that I can keep writing while I’m waiting for that “Keep going!” email to come. I don’t have to sit and fret and chew my nails, wondering what someone else thinks of the work I just shared… I just go back to writing. I’m hoping this experience will help me feel the same the next time I need to send writing to my editor (which is soon).
If you were a mentor, what strengths would you bring to a struggling author?
I would try to find ways to encourage the person I was mentoring to let go of their fears and write the thing inside of them that demands most to be written. This is a very difficult thing to do. And—as with so many things—is far easier said than done.
If you could be mentored by any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
Such vast possibilities! But ultimately I’d probably choose a poet, even though I write novels. Perhaps I’d want my mentor to be one of my favorite living poets... Mary Oliver or Billy Collins. Why? Because I am incessantly wordy, and poets like Oliver and Collins are able to create such vivid, potent moments in time with so few words. To move people with less than a page of text—that is genius.
Check out this book giveaway on Shutta Crum's website. It's for Katie Davis' new book, How to Promote Your Children's Book ( http://blog.shutta.com/2012/02/katie-davis-on-how-to-promote-your-childrens-book-and-a-book-giveaway/). Katie's approach to promotion is unique because it is focused on what she can offer to others versus what others can do for her. Even writers who are pre-published could benefit from her tips and secrets. Why not be ready when the first contract comes?
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye."
-- Miss Piggy
Let it be known I am not condoning violence. A giggle or two is acceptable, however.
Lisa Moser, author and mentor, shares her thoughts today. Lisa is Miranda Paul's 2012 SCBWI mentor from the great state of Wisconsin. I'm hoping to interview Miranda at the beginning and end of her mentorship to learn all about her experience. After reading Lisa's answers below, I am sure Miranda is in for a wonderful mentorship. Check out Lisa's thoughts on two important components of mentoring and her website: http://LisaMoserBooks.com.
Please share a brief bio of you and your work.
My name is Lisa Moser, and I am very grateful to have five books for children published right now with three more coming out in the next few years.
*Perfect Soup by Lisa Moser, illus. by Ben Mantle (Random House, 2010)
*Kisses on the Wind by Lisa Moser, illus. by Kathryn Brown (Candlewick Press, 2009)
*Squirrel’s World by Lisa Moser, illus. by Valeri Gorbachev (Candlewick Press, 2007)
*The Monster in the Backpack by Lisa Moser, illus. by Noah Z. Jones (Candlewick, 2006)
*Watermelon Wishes by Lisa Moser, illus. by Stacey Schuett (Clarion Books, 2006)
*Railroad Hank by Lisa Moser, illus. by Benji Davies (Random House)
*Squirrel’s Fun Day by Lisa Moser, illus. by Valeri Gorbachev (Candlewick Press)
*Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope by Lisa Moser (Random House)
A long, long time ago, I grew up in the small town of Fairfield Iowa. It was an idyllic childhood, filled with popsicle days and firefly nights. Fairfield had the first Carnegie library west of the Mississippi, and many days I would pedal my bicycle across town to fill my bike basket with great books.
I graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education and taught fifth grade in Worthington, Ohio. It should be noted that I was never beaten in a footrace by any of my students.
When my husband and I moved to Wisconsin, I became a stay-at-home mom and began the great adventure of becoming a children’s book author.
Why did you decide to become a mentor?
I feel so blessed to have received guidance from wonderful people in every stage of my writing journey. I wanted to give back in the same way I received.
How many writers have you officially mentored?
Well, if we use the word “officially,” I’d have to say that this is my first mentorship. However, I have worked with many writers for many years.
I’ve been in one particular writing group for about 15 years, but when my daughter was in pre-school, there were several other young moms who wanted to write for children, so I helped organize a second writing group. It was such a joy to be part of their writing process. I saw each member start from the very beginning of the learning curve, and now each and every one of them is a published author. How lucky was I to be a part of that!
I also give critiques at the Wisconsin SCBWI fall conference. While this interaction is brief, I do try to give the recipient everything I can in the written and personal conferences.
What strengths do you bring as a mentor?
I hope I bring kindness and honesty to the table. Both are vitally important.
Kindness allows authors to be vulnerable. They can bring glimmers of ideas and know that they are “safe.” Kindness allows authors to gain confidence in themselves and in their writing. Kindness allows for mistakes, failed attempts, trials and errors. For every published story, there is some kind of failure involved. At least that’s true for me. But failing isn’t so terrible, when it is met with kindness and encouragement. It’s just a step in the learning process.
Honesty, given in a loving environment, lets authors become better writers. They need to know what is not working and why. The competition for publication is stiff. The successful authors are the ones that can hear honest criticism of a story and use it to make their story stronger. Honesty leads to success.
Have you been a mentee? If so, what from that experience helps you be the best mentor you can be?
Yes. When we first moved to Wisconsin, I happened to be in the library and saw a flier for a class on writing for children given by the incredible author/illustrator, Gretchen Will Mayo. I signed up immediately and took classes from her for two or three years. During that time, Gretchen asked another student and me if we would join her personal writing group. We’ve been together ever since and were blessed to add several talented authors along the way. That writing group has helped me on every single story I’ve written. But they’re more than writing colleagues. They’re dear and cherished friends.
I think the valuable part of that experience is that my writing group has seen stories in every single stage. They don’t flinch and turn away if I bring a bad first draft. And first drafts are always bad. They find the areas of strength, and they find the areas that definitely need work. I’ve learned not to worry about being perfect, that writing is a journey. Through hard work and perseverance, nuggets of stories can be unearthed from bad first drafts and turned into something quite lovely and shiny.
If you could mentor any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
Oh, gosh. I am in such awe of other people’s talent. Maybe my wish would be to mentor anyone who needed the gifts I could offer.
If you could be mentored by any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
Beatrix Potter! I adore her work, and it has stood the test of time with love, dignity, and charm. But if we’re going down the path of imagination, let’s go all the way. I would love to be mentored by Beatrix Potter at her Hilltop home in the Lakes District of England. With a lovely packed picnic lunch, we’d traipse the country paths together. We’d stop in a field overlooking a charming village. Beatrix would paint and talk of writing, and I would sit under a tree and drink it all in. Then I would write, and write, and write some more.
One day, I will go to Hilltop Farm in England. Beatrix won’t be there, but all the things that inspired her will be, I hope.
Thank you, Lisa!
I want to thank you, too.
Last evening, I was treated to a sneak peek of Christina Wald's illustrations for our book, A Warm Winter Tail, and I am over the moon. She has captured the light, color, details and feel I had so hoped for. If you visit her blog at http://christinawald.blogspot.com/, you'll see a couple of images. I can't share them here yet, but as soon as I can, they will be here --poster sized!
This blog shares insights on the craft of writing children's books and the publishing industry, and supports creators and educators on their journeys.