What am I working on?
Well, it’s too early to work on my tan, so I’ve been working on a few new picture book ideas involving comfy kangaroos, spectacular sneezes and crooning chickens to name a few. I’ve also been trying to broaden my horizons by diving into my first chapter book series. It’s about a _______ who discovers __________ and has to _____________. That may become my new, all-purpose “elevator pitch!” Sort of like Seinfeld’s “show about nothing” premise, I’ll fill in the details as I go.
I have noticed though, that it’s quite a shock to the system to move from PBs to Chapter Books. You train your mind to tell a complete story in about 500 words and suddenly you have ten times that amount to explore your character. But your internal censor keeps telling you “you don’t need to describe that!” or “how can you say that same thing in less words?” Quite frankly, it’s nice to actually use adjectives again. And I’m really enjoying playing more with dialogue – it turns out the voices in my head have a lot to say!
And since this is National Poetry Month, I’ve challenged myself to post a poem a day on this blog. (See above and below.) Much to my amazement, Children’s Poet Laureate, Kenn Nesbitt, has even stopped by to check out some of my poems and tweet them to this followers! How cool is that? If you’re not familiar with Kenn’s brilliantly funny poems, check out his site at Poetry4Kids and follow him on Twitter at @Poetry4kids.
How is my work different from others in my genre?
My work is different mainly because it isn’t work, it’s play. I love to play with words, phrases, idioms, etc. I love to tweak them and twist them and turn them on their head. For instance, my collection of poems, DON’T PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD! takes common phrases like TV Dinner, Salad Bowl, and Food Fight and reimagines them as literal events. So the common TV dinner turns into:
In my book, PIGGIES, I wonder why one piggy would go to market and one wouldn’t; why one would eat roast beef and one wouldn’t. The book becomes the answer to those questions. And in THE DEDUCTIVE DETECTIVE, I imagine a detective using deductive reasoning to solve a bakery theft. So of course the detective is actually a duck. By playing with words, I’m able to breathe a little life into the animal suspects as well. Each one gives a quip as they’re absolved of suspicion. For instance, in my favorite line of the book, the pig says, “I don’t even know why I entered this contest. Nothing good ever happens when I’m bakin’”
Why do I write what I do?
Because it’s fun. When I was in college, I took some creative writing and literature classes; and the message from the professors was that in order for writing to be great it must be dysfunctional, despondent, and demoralizing. Then one day I finally woke up and realized they were wrong. Writing should be fun and uplifting and inspiring. And if adults are too dense to understand that, then maybe kids will get it. So I’ve decided to abandon “great” writing for something more meaningful: the opportunity to bring a little joy into a child’s life.
How does my writing process work?
Only God knows. And I mean that! My writing usually starts with a bolt of inspiration. That often comes in the form of a dream, but it can come from a song lyric, a news story, an overheard conversation… Sometimes a story starts with a single word. I keep a notebook of story ideas that have come to me in this way. Once I’m excited enough by a premise to develop it into a story, I sit down at my computer and offer a prayer. The gist of the prayer is that I know I’ve been given a great idea, and I know it will make a great story – so I release my ego and pray that I don’t get in the way of the telling of that story. I ask God to write the story through me in a way that will bring the most joy to others. If there’s no hypocrisy in my pumpkin patch, I’m rewarded with a story I really like. The next step is to share it with my critique group. And again, I release my ego so that I can be receptive to suggestions to change my work for the better. And if I’m lucky enough to get a publishing offer, I once again release my ego in order to work with an editor and make even more changes to polish my story. So to me the writing process is really all about stripping away the ego. So in that regard, writing a good book is a lot like being a good person: the more you think of others and let go of yourself, the better!
What are other writers’ processes like?
I can’t wait to find out! I have invited Troy Howell, author of THE DRAGON OF CRIPPLE CREEK to share his insights next week! So go check him out!
Troy has posted his thoughts here. Go check it out!