You may have seen this meme going around on various author and/or illustrator blogs where people answer questions about their writing process. I’ve been enjoying reading other people’s answers and learning from their thoughts about process, so when I was tagged by my talented author/illustrator friend, Jennifer K. Mann, I decided to add a post about my process here. Enjoy!
Jenn has been on a roll lately! Her first illustrated book, TURKEY TOT, written by George Shannon, just came out last October. TWO SPECKLED EGGS, her first author/illustrator debut, just came out in April. And she’s just finishing up the final art for I DEFINITELY WILL NEVER GET A STAR ON MRS BENSON’S BLACKBOARD, which will come out next year. You can read about Jenn’s writing and illustrating process here. Thanks for tagging me, Jenn! Let the Q&A begin…
1) What am I currently working on?
With three books coming out in the coming year, right now I’m mostly working on promotion. I never truly realized how much there is to do during this pre-launch phase! I’m not sure I can even tell you exactly what I spend my days doing lately, but it seems to mostly involve 1) reading and writing emails from my publishers or from people interested in one of the upcoming books; 2) writing blog posts, articles, and speaking proposals; and 3) trying to keep up with social media. There’s probably a lot more I should be doing. What I’m trying to squeeze in more time for is working on is a super-fun middle-grade proposal that I’m collaborating on with my multi-talented agent,Ammi-JoanPaquette. Then there are the two YA nonfiction proposals currently in the works, and four (4!) picture books (two nonfiction, two fiction) in desperate need of revisions that I’m eager to finish and get out on submission. Plus, sometimes I just want to play with a silly new picture book idea that has absolutely no place on this long list of to-do’s!
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This might be easier to answer if I actually had a genre (see above paragraph). Genre-wise, my writing is sort of all over the place. When I asked my agent if I should try to focus on a particular genre, her answer was, “I think that ship has already sailed.” Oops. Fortunately, this means I get to keep writing about whatever interests me. That might be inspirational, empowering nonfiction like BE A CHANGEMAKER and EMMANUEL’S DREAM, or it could be funny but sweet fiction picture books like MY DOG IS THE BEST. In any genre, though, I hope that each of my books has heart. Fiction or nonfiction, I want readers of all ages to feel something when they read my books. Even though I like to write across multiple genres, I have noticed there are a few common themes that tend to keep showing up. I love underdog stories and anything having to do with finding one’s power and place in the world. I also like to explore the idea of connections: What are the effects of a given relationship, and how might things be different if a specific connection had not been made? I also love humor and curiosity. Anything that makes me laugh or wonder becomes a great idea for a book.
3) Why do I write what I write?
I know it sounds cliché, but I write to try to make the world a better place. I want kids to be able to ask their questions and find answers; to live, laugh, and love unabashedly; and to know that the world needs them, no matter what challenges they may face. I think nonfiction can open up worlds of imagination, and fiction can show us what is really true.
4) How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?
I’ve actually found that my process is different depending on whether I’m working on fiction or nonfiction. For nonfiction, I crave structure. I usually start a nonfiction project by reading tons of background information to get a good feel for the subject. Then, I start thinking about theme. What fascinates me about the topic? What point am I trying to make? What do I want readers to remember? What emotion am I trying to convey? After I have all of that in mind, I try to come up with the best structure to meet those needs. I like to have a fairly detailed outline in place before I start any of the actual writing. The structure and outline can and do change as I continue to do more detailed research and write, but they serve as a road map so I know where I’m going. For fiction, my process is just the opposite! I typically sit down with just a rough idea and quickly write out a first draft without thinking about it too much. From there, I revise and revise until I finally discover the theme and appropriate structure for the story. This usually takes me a lot longer, even if it’s a much shorter book!
I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say about their processes. Enjoy the rest of the tour, and come back soon for more news!