My interview with the Back to School Blog Tour at the Indy Author’s Connection site is live.
If you missed it, here’s what I said:
1) Who was your favorite teacher, and how did they influence your writing?
I had several favorites.
My 7th grade English teacher was, I believe, Mrs. Roeder, although I may be misspelling her name – it was a long time ago. She recognized that my reading and comprehension levels were way beyond the class, and she let me write my stories and poetry in class, as long as I gave it to her to read when I was finished. She encouraged me to submit various (bad) poetry to the school magazine, and some of it was even published, although most of that was pretty much doggerel – I never submitted the good stuff, it was too personal for me.
I forget my 10th grade English teacher – he started out the school year by having us write a list of everything we’d read (even magazines) over the summer. My list was 63 items long, because I’d just discovered Sherlock Holmes, and not only read everything I could by Conan Doyle, but everything about him, and about Victorian London and the history of the era. My teacher took me aside, and told me that when ever he assigned a book report, I could ignore the assignment, and could read anything I wanted in class.
I took creative writing in high school, as well, and got a lot of encouragement from my creative writing teacher. I never had the courage to submit anything, in those days, however – I was never sure that anyone would ever want to read the sorts of things I wanted to write. Of course, I’m still not sure that anyone would ever want to read the fairy tales I write, and I’m always touched and gratified whenever somebody that doesn’t know me buys a copy of Dragons and Dreams, or downloads The Snarls.
2) What advice would you give children for the beginning of school?
Two pieces of advice: read, read, read everything that interests you. Don’t let anyone tell you that the books you like to read aren’t worth reading – read and enjoy it!
The other piece of advice is to always be open to opportunities – don’t let anyone scare you or discourage you. I had my share of bad teachers (one of whom I had for 2 years, and who really didn’t like me for some reason and did everything she could to try to convince me that I was stupid.). Take risks, be creative. Don’t just use school to mark time, but take the opportunity to take as many unusual classes as you’re interested in. There’s no such thing as wasted information, only information you haven’t had a reason to use yet. You’ll never know when an odd piece of information, picked up casually on your way to something else, may come in handy. It always seems to for me!
3) Did you have any role models growing up? Who were they? Why did you admire them?
I think I’d have to say my parents. They never discouraged me from reading anything I wanted, even when they feared it might be too old for me. My mom especially was always there to answer questions I had about something I read, or to discuss my latest book. They never asked me “what use is it?” when I wanted to take classes like creative writing or shop or Latin – they always encouraged me to follow whatever enthusiasm I had at any given moment.
4) Do you do anything to help organize your writing or inspire a story?
When my kids were little, I would make up stories to tell them at night, when I’d get bored with the 17th time re-reading Goodnight Moon or whatever. Many of those stories are the roots of the stories in Dragons and Dreams. One of my stories (“Sunflower”) was inspired by a particularly much loved toy cat my daughter had. Inspiration is everywhere.
When I get a random idea, I sit and sketch it out – I used to keep a notebook for such things, now I have a computer file. It might be only a random title, or a paragraph notation of how a story might start or something in the middle of another story, but just a little something to help me remember an idea I had. I’ve got a whole list of story titles that I wish I’d written down a bit more on, because I can’t remember the story that went with the title!
5) What is the kernel of wisdom you have learned about writing?
Oh, this is hard to boil down into one thing! I guess the main thing about writing is to write, and write, and write some more. And read everything you can, and then write still more. Don’t worry about how good it is at first – first drafts are made to be revised and re-written. I’ve heard it said that you have to practice something like 10,000 hours at any one thing to be good at it, or to write over a million words before you start to be good. Don’t be discouraged by that, but also don’t be discouraged if you read something you’ve written and don’t like it. Don’t let anybody – anybody! not even yourself – discourage you.
6) What other projects or books are you working on right now?
Well, right now my day job is being particularly demanding, but I’ve been asked by one of my beta readers to write a sequel to “Sunflower” and so I’ve been working on that (it will be called “Pussy Willow”). I’ve got two longish fairy tales written out, one that is still being revised, and two more in sketches that I need to write out. I’m hoping to have my second collection of fairy tales pulled together by Christmas, but it all depends on how the day job goes. I’m a professional writer of non-fiction in my day job (see, I still get to write, even though it’s not always my fairy tales!) and I love what I do, but that’s the job that pays the bills, and so I have to give it first priority before I can sit down and work on the next collection. That collection will be called Heart of Rock and Other Stories.