The writing process blog tour is here!

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!

Jennifer K. Mann
Jenn and some feath­ered friends

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!

Well, that’s all for me! Next up on the writ­ing process blog tour are two of cri­tique group part­ners, Dana Sul­li­van and Dan Richards.

Dana’s first book and author/illustrator debut, OZZIE AND THE ART CONTEST, came out in July, 2013. Since then he’s done the illus­tra­tions for sev­er­al DIGGER AND DAISY books and some BOB BOOKS, and his next author/illustrator pic­ture book, KAY KAY’S ALPHABET SAFARI, comes out in August. When he’s not writ­ing or illus­trat­ing, Dana also keeps busy teach­ing illus­tra­tion class­es, doing school vis­its, serv­ing as co-region­al advi­sor for SCBWI West­ern Wash­ing­ton, and leav­ing sticky notes for his love­ly wife. Make sure to read Dana’s post on his blog next Monday!
THE PROBLEM WITH NOT BEING SCARED OF MONSTERS coverDan’s first book, THE PROBLEM WITH NOT BEING SCARED OF MONSTERS, comes out in August as well, and his sec­ond pic­ture book, CAN ONE BALLOON MAKE AN ELEPHANT FLY?, is on its way also. 

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!

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