I’m tagging Joan Donaldson, who will post next week. See her bio at the end of this post.
Here’s a little about me:
What am I working on now?
I just finished writing a picture book called The Library that Grew and Grew, a story inspired by the library where I work, which began in 1922 with a few shelves set up in a ladies’ dress shop. Later, it moved into an old house and finally a new building. A few people told me the town helped with the move to our current library by lining the street and passing books hand to hand. Further research determined this not to be true (the townspeople moved the books in boxes in their cars), but the visual image was too fun to let go. Though I originally hoped to write this story as non-fiction, my fictional version turned out to be a lot more fun.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Voice, style and subject matter are what make writers unique. Voice and style seem closely tied to the place we call home, the place we grew up or feel most closely associated with, the place that feeds our memories. Settings, dialogue and emotion are what pull at my heart. I find humor and dark truths equally engaging. For my novels, I tend to become interested in researching obscure topics, such as the jazz of John Coltrane or the 1972 Watergate scandal, so my subject matter is definitely different. I love jazz and improvisation and like to play with words in my picture books, especially words that sound real but are made up, such as “snick-snack” and “jabber-talker” from Woody Guthrie’s song, One Day Old. I also like setting word phrases askew, like this line from my story on jazz—“I was born a granddaddy long time ago.”
Why do I write what I do?
John Coltrane was known for his long, convoluted improvisations. Even his bandleader, Miles Davis, didn’t always understand what was going on in those improvs. “Man, why such long solos?” he once asked. Coltrane couldn’t explain the maze of notes he heard in his mind, how the music sometimes led him on wild goose chases and other times fit together perfectly. “Once I get started, I don’t know how to stop,” he told Davis. “You take the sax out of your mouth,” Davis said. “That’s how you stop.”
Why do I write what I do? Once I get started, I don’t know how to stop.
How does my writing process work?
I read or hear something I can’t forget, and begin researching the topic. Research is engrossing, of course. So, I do lots of research and take lots of notes. I then try to find an emotional resonance or thread that runs through my notes and figure out what strikes me most about these stories. In the case of Coltrane—courage, dedication, and genius—and then I begin to play with characters and what-ifs. A story emerges. Eventually. Long walks help.
Tune in next week to read about Joan Donaldson.
Joan is the author of five books, has served on the faculty of the Mayborn Conference in Texas, is frequently featured on National Public Radio affiliate WMUK with “audio postcards from the farm,” and in her spare time, is an organic blueberry farmer and a quilter. She says she sleeps beneath a quilt at night, but I’m not sure she sleeps at all! I nominated her this year for the Michigan Author Award. Join her at: http://www.joandonaldson.com/blog