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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Interview with Caroline Starr Rose, author of May B.

We are thrilled to have Caroline Rose with us discussing her journey toward publication.  Author of the acclaimed YA book, May B., Caroline offers some helpful insights on mothering and writing.



How did/do you manage the demands of (young) children and writing and did this evolve as your boys became older? You assume that when your children enter school you will have a lot more time, but that often doesn't happen.  When your children were in pre-school did you have a child care arrangement or family close by? Alternatively did you only write in the evenings? 

When my guys were little, I committed to three writing sessions a week. Some would literally last ten minutes, others an hour or two. For several years I had a weekly babysitter who watched them while I dashed to the coffee shop to get some writing in. As you can imagine, my writing happened in fits and starts for quite some time, and I had to decide I was okay with that.

YA author Kiersten White recently posted about mothering and writing. She’s able to do much more than I ever could. That’s okay, too.

Now that my boys are in school, I do have more time. I think going back to teaching for those first two years they both were in school showed me how to squeeze more out of my day, but also showed me I want to live a less hectic, more balanced life. For me, it’s all about sustaining a career long term while working realistically within the season of life I’m facing.

What is your schedule like now that you are published?  Is it easier?  Perhaps being published only gives you a different set of obstacles? There is a pressure to keep performing well and meeting deadlines as it is such a privilege to be published, especially in these times of economic difficulties and book-buying habits are changing.

Honestly, it is easier now that I’m published. It’s beneficial to have deadlines my family is aware of and work I can truly call a job. In those pre-publication/apprenticeship years, my family supported my pursuit of publication but didn’t always understand the process. Twelve years of rejection starts to look like insanity even to the most devoted of spouses. I remember my husband asking a few years back, “Does this make you happy?” Right or wrong, there’s a level of legitimacy that comes from a book deal.

Once published, there is a one-book-a-year expectation/aspiration that can both invigorate and terrify (at least in my experience). The wonderful thing about the children’s market during this economic downturn is sales in this market continue to be strong. The theory is that while before the downturn parents would buy a book for their children and themselves, now those parents are forgoing their own books but still buying for their children. Add to this the really strong sales of several YA titles these last few years, and things look rather positive. Unfortunately, a number of established editors lost their jobs as publishing houses streamlined (many have re-invented themselves as agents), and houses are taking on fewer books as a precautionary measure, but ultimately, the state of the children’s market is good.

Ok, how about guilt? Most mothers suffer from this.  Did you have any guilt about the time you spent writing? It seems to be a common feeling amongst female writers that they love their time spent writing so much that it makes them feel bad for their family.  

There’s always guilt about mothering, isn’t there? Absolutely I’ve experienced writing-related guilt. I also think, though, that it has been incredibly beneficial for my boys to see me set high goals and not bow in the face of rejection. It’s also good for them to know I have “assignments” just as they do.

I won’t lie: the fact that they’re in school and are more free to entertain themselves during summer vacation takes a lot of pressure off. Still, I need to remember to be present when I’m with them. It’s easy to keep living in my head and not fully engage my family when I’m away from writing. It’s something, I think, I’ll always struggle with.


Briefly describe your journey as a writer before and after children. 

I started writing seriously in 1998 while teaching full time. My first boy was born in 2001, the second in 2003. Until they both were in school, I aimed for the three-times-a-week goal. It was reasonable, and any work beyond that felt like a bonus. Once they both were in school, I jumped into writing full time. Just a few months into the year, a teacher at their school abruptly left, and the principal asked me to take her job. It was in my exact areas of certification. As difficult as it was to write, teach, and mother, I loved those years. Writing-wise, I returned to the schedule I kept while teaching pre-children: drafting in the summer and revising during the school year (I had little creativity to work with by the end of the day). The contact with real, live children was great as far as inspiration went.

I left teaching (for the second time) after two years without any publishing leads but with the conviction it was time to try writing full time. Four months later, I signed with an agent. MAY B. was on submission for four months and sold at auction.


What is in the pipeline for you?

I have a picture book called OVER IN THE WETLANDS coming out in 2014 (also with Schwartz and Wade / Random House Children’s Books). It’s loosely based on the traditional rhyme, “Over in the Meadow,” and follows the animals of the Louisiana coast as they prepare for and withstand a hurricane.

I’m also working on a new historical verse novel and am toying with reviving some years-old manuscripts (though I’m not sure they’re publication worthy).


Finally, can you give one piece of advice on any aspect of writing that you think would be helpful to others. 

Plow to the end of the row. I heard this NPR interview in 2004. It has sustained me for years.

Thanks for the opportunity, ladies!

Thanks to you for sharing your experiences!  Carrie has a fantastic website and you can visit her at:  http://www.carolinestarrrose.com/Caroline_Starr_Rose/Home.html

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Pacing a Novel and Pacing Yourself

 
Have you ever read a book that seemed to go nowhere and then suddenly it picked up speed and blasted off three-quarters of the way through?  Having just finished such a novel, I have been thinking about pacing.  Pacing a novel is really tricky.  I’m not an expert on it by any means.  I think most writers find it incredibly challenging.  If not done correctly and well, pacing can make a novel slow to a grinding halt or speed up to the point of distraction.

I’ve been reading a lot about pacing recently and I think the very best advice I have found was the simplest.  That advice is:  pacing means constant change.  To me, that means that each chapter in a book should be its own distinct scene with enough of its own conflict to drive the main conflict forward.  That sounds so simple and nice, but it is one of the hardest things to do well when writing.

Pacing in writing brings me to the parallel of pacing as a parent.  Pacing has been on my mind since my youngest has recently decided at 16 months that she no longer will take naps during the day.  I will surely miss those four hours during the day to write!  So, I have to learn to pace myself differently now and be willing to alter my writing schedule to accept the constant change that youngsters require.  One thing parenthood has taught me is that, like it or not, change is the only constant.  So, I’m getting there with the pacing as a parent thing. 

Pacing a day with a small child is a lot like pacing a novel.  You don’t want to use all your great stuff early in the day, then you’ll be left with nothing at the end, you’ll be exhausted and children are the toughest critics when you’ve run out of tricks.

What are your thoughts on pacing?  When do you know you’ve done it well and when do you know it's not working?

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Interview with Janey Louise Jones, author of the Princess Poppy series

We are thrilled to be back from vacation and have Janey Louise Jones, author of the Princess Poppy series answering some questions about writing and mothering.
 
How did/do you manage the demands of (young) children and writing and did this evolve as your boys became older? You assume that when your children enter school you will have a lot more time, but that often doesn't happen.  When your children were in pre-school did you have a child care arrangement or family close by? Alternatively did you only write in the evenings? 

I chose to write picture books as I did not have time for long complex plots. I wrote in snatched moments mostly, although my mother did take the boys at points, or at least one or two of them which made a huge difference. Evenings and nap times were the best times in the pre-school days, then there was a phase, like most people, where I had school and pre-school children which is a very bitty stage as your have the school run but not the freedom associated with it. If I tried to write in naps, the problem was that I often had to abandon the writing at a critical stage when the children woke up, but I do think mothers get used to doing things piecemeal. And those stages pass too quickly and here I am with teenage children. 

What is your schedule like now that you are published?  Is it easier?  Perhaps being published only gives you a different set of obstacles? There is a pressure to keep performing well and meeting deadlines as it is such a privilege to be published, especially in these times of economic difficulties and book-buying habits are changing.
My schedule is still based round family life, and with older children weekends and holidays can be quite useful for writing as they tend to plan lots of their own activities now, or go away for a whole weekend with Duke of Edinburgh events and so on. I love the fact that if I work across a weekend, I can take it easier at other times. With writing, sometimes you have to write when the ideas come. If I get ideas and can;t get to my computer, then I jot down notes.
Ok, how about guilt? Most mothers suffer from this.  Did you have any guilt about the time you spent writing? It seems to be a common feeling amongst female writers that they love their time spent writing so much that it makes them feel bad for their family.  Do you think male writers feel guilt?
 
I possibly felt guilty if I snuck off to finish a line while they were playing, or if I let them watch a DVD so I could check my e-mails, but on the whole, I feel they have benefited from my career in terms of provision for them, exciting visits to festivals and access to lots of books. The flexibility of my career has meant that I have never missed anything important for them through business. But I should stress that authors of complex full length novels really do need a better routine than I have described here, or the plot would suffer. I'm not sure about male authors...I would guess that some prefer to focus on and finish one job at a time, so the routine I've had of bits and pieces of writing, cooking and childcare might not suit some.

Briefly describe your journey as a writer before and after children.  This would be interesting to any readers as I understand you initially published Princess Poppy yourself? 

I always wanted to be a writer and always wrote stories, but it was a big burst of ambition which came from wanting to stay at home with the children, yet be creative and provide for them, which led to Princess Poppy. I made ten books and tried them in local shops, then WHSmith ordered 20,000 and that was the day I knew it was all going to be okay. Having children has made me make better use of my time and plan well. I also feel that the content of my books is relevant because of my mothering.

What is in the pipeline for you?

I am working on a series for Usborne called Angel Academy, about a training school for young angels! 

And my new digital series SUPERFAIRIES can be found at www.magictown.com 

My main website is www.princesspoppy.com

Finally, can you give one piece of advice on any aspect of writing that you think would be helpful to others. 

Finish one story. Most people talk of giving up half way through. Just get it down then tinker, but don't have that feeling that you'll finish it another day! It is hard to get noticed nowadays, but publishers always need new stories so don't give up.