Thanks to Debbie Nance, http://2weavers.wordpress.com/, my Writing and Illustration for Young Readers friend, for asking me to join. Love ya tons Debbie!
1. What am I working on right now?
Dressing the Naked Hand: The World's Greatest Guide to Puppets, Puppetry, and Puppeteering. A book for immature audiences--mostly.
As a longtime puppet collector (read as obsessive), and avid watcher of my co-worker and co-author, Mark Pulham's puppet shows, I soon found myself pulled into the world of making and performing with puppets.
It's over 200 full-color pages filled with all the how-to, tips, patterns, and instructions that I looked for (and had a hard time finding) when I was trying to learn puppet-making. There will be instructional video included that entertains as much as it teaches. Sample (rough draft) video can be found here -- this is a private youtube link -- enjoy :)
2. How does it differ from what I’ve written before?
Becoming a non-fiction writer is what first tempted me to consider joining the ranks of the wannabe writers. All those lectures I attended! Seymour Simon, Jim Arnosky. I'd not found Nic Bishop yet, but he inspires me too. Still, I didn't consider myself enough of an expert to write anything.
I did write and design for a scrapbook company for a few years, but soon the lure of writing Picture Books pulled me away from those endeavors. You can't be a librarian in one, if not the largest Children's Library, for 18+ years and not fall in love with picture books. Anyway, a few years later that passion spread into the fever-inducing excitement of writing Speculative YA. I had no idea that writing was more addicting than reading.
A few more years down the road, a local puppet creator, Joe Flores came to me with the idea for writing a book on how to not only make puppets, but performance instruction as well. I brushed off the idea. But he was insistent, firm in the belief I could do it.
I sketched up the ideas, put it all in a binder and took to my brilliant mentor and co-storytelling-fanatic/co-picturebook-conspirator, Rick Walton for his opinion. It just happened that the exuberant, energetic, and visionary Christopher Robbins, from Familius Publishing, happened to be the day's lecturer. Not too long after, we were signed, sealed, and manuscript delivered. (the illustration and photos--well, that's taking a bit longer.)
.3. Why do you write what you do?
Because I seriously think I'm crazy. As in where did all these people come from that inhabit my head?
From trouble-making JJ, the puppet who won't leave well enough alone; the unfortunate floating Oliver, the in-her-own-world bookworm Philippa, to the darkly dangerous nanite altered Hana, and Denton who happens to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time . . . yikes, and those characters are just the ones I've let out recently. There's still the world-hopping traveler Gabe, the adventures of the Pets and Petersons, and also Cooper Cordova who is forced to deal with the devastating loss of his sister, Rhea, to the war in Afghanistan in the MG novel Letters Home.
oh- oh- Don't forget the future-world mind-twister tragedy that starts with dead bodies falling from the sky. My character is there, and his dog, but alas, he is nameless as yet. He is calling for a name, I just can't give him the power of naming him quite yet.
Yikes. I get lost in the stories--can you tell? On with the answering: For me, each book begins when the characters start talking to me. They are pests. They are relentless. They honestly don't know how to shut up. And if I try to ignore them, refuse to write their words, they tend to circle, 'round and 'round they go. Harpies--the lot of them!
I do eventually give in. But, when I manage to transcribe their conversations, in the hope they will give me some peace--well, it never works. For some reason it only gives them permission to move the conversation forward.
Where do these conversations come from? Where is the control? The brakes? The muzzle! Anyone? Bueller. Bueller?
4. How does your writing process work?
In the beginning . . . --ha ha, couldn't resist (*peek at the excerpt from Dressing the Naked Hand I've included below for the inside joke)
In reality it starts in the middle of the night. Literally. Sometime between 2 and 4 in the a.m. They start talking. I eventually cave and jot down some notes in the dark. But they keep speaking. I write some more. In the dark. It makes for some interesting deciphering come morning ;)
The next day I try to write out the conversation I transcribed during the night. It's always a conversation. Sometimes it's the character talking directly to me. Other times it's a private conversation/argument/discussion between two or more of them.
When I get time to sit and actually write, all I do is connect the dialogue. It's kind of a 'zone out', sit in the scene, feel, smell, listen, taste and let the character/s take over thing.
Eventually I allow my edit brain out of its box to hack and cut, twist and shape the words. I love this part of writing. It doesn't scare me as much as when I allow the characters out to do the discovery writing.
5. Now I have a question for you:
As a librarian for children, I'm sensitive to the disappointment that inevitably follows when a child starts reading an author, falls in love with the characters, and then the silly author pulls a total switch and not only changes up the characters, but changes genre! I do this! It worries me. (I know, why worry if you aren't even published yet--silly writer. It's impossible not to think of it though--again, silly writer. Cart before the horse much?)
Should there not be some kind of warning? Some clue to inform the reader that one of these books is just not the same (woah, channeled Sesame Street there for a moment). What do you think of the authors that add in a middle name for their picture books vs. first and last only for a MG. Or, like famous bestseller Ally Condie vs. her first novels under Allyson Braithwaite Condie. Or, like **Barbara Mertz, no I mean Michaels, no, really I mean her historical mystery dynamo writing of a pseudonym Elizabeth Peters.
I do not have enough middle names. And how do you shorten Amy?
Do weigh in. I'd love to hear a discussion. And, I'd really like to have a bit of a plan in place before Dressing the Naked Hand comes out.
Hmmm, I have a good friend who insists on calling me Indy. I can handle that. Indy . . . Indie . . . Indi? Like Avi, and it puts me in the middle of the fiction bookshelves, not at the bottom, not at the very end like White does.
Thank you all for joining me in my ramblings. I can't wait to meet even more of you through the course of this blog tour!
Look for these authors to post next week:
Julie Olsen, picture book author/illustrator, mom, and crossfit junkie! http://jujubeeillustrations.
Stephanie Kelley, YA writer, insane reader, and former blogger who just couldn't stay away. http://stephik.
Bruce Luck, a retired teacher now writing children's stories. http://writetimeluck.
Check out what I love doing in my free time--Script and Text Analysis,
A scientific way to plotting for success. An empirically based system of Text Analysis.
Know what effects quality, audience appeal and acceptance by different maturity levels. Know your character's roles and the functions they carry. Know power dynamics and how they affect different audiences. Know what kind (genre) of work your manuscript is and how it's signature dynamics affect outcomes, character actions, the 'coloring' of your story, and what the reader will be feeling by the end. Benefit from over 30 years of study, proof, and statistics. Know why. Know how.
The last . . .
** I'm devastated by Barbara's recent passing. The world has lost another great. Barbara's spunky, bright and oh-so-wonderful Amelia Peabody will ever be one of my favorite characters.
* Excerpt from Dressing the Naked Hand
In the beginning there was shadow and there was light. And it came to pass that the shadow was separated from the light . . . the light of the evening fire. And early man discovered he could tell stories against illuminated cavern walls. And in that light, were the first puppets created, and they were called good, and man named them Hand Shadows.
In the following years were the great Shadow Puppets of Indonesia created. Where we find another harmonious partnership of human, Dalang, and puppet, Wayang also known as . . .
The views held in this work are not necessarily the views held by our editor, production staff or anyone involved in the publication thereof. We are not responsible for damages sustained as a result of misuse of patterns, misunderstanding of ideology and, or malfunctioning equipment. If your puppet does for some reason succeed in what is heretofore called the Pinocchio Paradigm, and succeeds in overtaking not only your workshop, your home, your family and friends--to the point of supplanting and altering your very persona--we will consider you forewarned and sufficiently alerted by way of this notice.
Allow me to explain myself:
I have an issue with putting boring history stuff in a how-to book. But how do you write a book on puppetry if you don't give a nod to all the history that has brought us to this point in time?
In the end, I decided that if my readers were going to actually take the time to read the introduction or history, I was going to reward them. Plus, I like characters. And what is a puppetry book if not a book chock full of character?