I picked up the baton on talking about writing process from one of the writers who often goes on retreat with me in the fall: http://jacquelinebriggsmartin.blogspot.com/ She and I have a lot of the same themes going on in our work and lives. She writes…
“Right now I’m very happy to be planning for the release of my picture book biography of Alice Waters–Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious in September (Readers to Eaters).
Alice Waters and her “family” at Chez Panisse changed the way we in America think about food. She was determined to serve only the freshest, tastiest food at Chez Panisse and scoured the countryside around the restaurant finding such food. Chez Panisse became famous for its wonderful meals. Now we all look for tasty food grown in our own areas. Alice Waters also started the Edible Schoolyard program, which involves students in growing food and uses schoolyard gardens as opportunities for instruction. She believes the way we eat can change the world. I agree, so it was a great treat to write about her life.”
1. What am I writing about?
The way we think about food! Me too…me too. My work-in-progress isn’t nearly as far along as Jackie’s, though. It’s a middle grade novel set in Portland, Oregon, and you can’t write about Portland without thinking about locavores (up with tasty food grown in our own areas) and the way we eat.
I’m also puzzling out some ready-to-read books that keep Mr. Geo moving along on his journey through the states. Putting these short-but-informative nonfiction books together is a little like solving an elaborate, complicated, fascinating puzzle.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m with Jackie, here…there’s so much great nonfiction for kids these days–lively and fun to read–and I’m just happy to be PART of the genre. Whenever I’ve written a ready-to-read it’s been nonfiction. The favorite first and third graders in my life read the books in this picture when I was visiting at Christmas time and made up little quizzes for each other and me about the states. Then we got out the big puzzle of the states and put it together a bunch of times and made up more quizzes. Remember how delicious it was when you could read words for yourself AND stump someone else in a quiz?
(As we learned about state insects and state possums and state soils and state shells and so on, one of the quizees commented that state legislatures seem to have WAY too much time on their hands.)
3. Why do I write what I do?
I never know where a writing idea or inspiration is going to come from. Sometimes it’s offered to me. That was true with Mr. Geo. Sometimes it comes from something I read about in a newspaper or blog. Sometimes it’s in my own back yard. That would be true of the middle grade novel I’m working on!
I tell kids when I’m doing author visits that both ideas and details come from memory, real life observation, and research. (Notice the Africa-shaped decoration in my garden :>…Ethiopia finds its way into all my books no matter where they are set.)
4. How does your writing process work?
Creakily! It changes all the time and is never smooth. I bounce back and forth between ideas and details…between finding the voice and true innards of my characters + the places where they are walking around…and finding interesting things for them to do and pickles for them to get themselves out of. In other words…plot. I dream of writing straight through and then coming back to tweak and polish words and sentences. It never works that way for me, though. At some point, I have to feel the thrilldom of juicy words and sentences in order to believe in what I’m doing and keep going.
With Lanie, I had to write a detailed outline so the creators of the doll and her things could get going on their part of the process, which they couldn’t do until they knew a lot about the story.
With Anna, I revised for four years trying to find the heart of the story. It’s fascinating to me that the Safety Club wasn’t even in many of those early drafts. Now it’s hard to imagine Anna’s life without it.
My characters are always me…and my kids…and the kids around me while I’m writing…and sometimes my cats.And next up for answering these writerly questions will be fellow Portland author Rosanne Parry, just as soon as she finishes a week of wilderness and writing! www.rosanneparry.com