Posted by Marsha
Celebrator of life. Lover of stories. Mom, wife, feeder of three cats. Author of award-winning picture books a...
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on Monday, 26 May 2014 in StoryMagician

Oh, Stacy Nyikos, creative maven, I could not say no to you. Thus, I find myself writing about process on Memorial Day weekend! Truly, it’s not so bad, not at all like the Spanish Inquisition Stacy compared it to.


I feel as if I’m part of a family tree: a tagging, blog hopping family tree. Before Stacy came Annemarie O’Brien who I met years ago when I spoke at Reading The World. Stacy wrote the blog before me. Annemarie's blogcame before that.


I’ve only met Stacy and Anne in person a couple of times, but we’ve stayed connected as kindred writing spirits often do. I shall do my duty and answer the four writing process questions, but will I tag? Stay tuned.

What am I currently working on?

One of the best things I’ve done for myself as a writer is apply for Jane Yolen’s Picture Book Boot Camp. I was one of 9 lucky authors who spent a long March weekend at Jane’s home, learning from the master. We had the opportunity for Jane to look at and critique two of our stories. I shared an original tall tale, Slobberchops and a story of a book, Booker.

Jane Yolen


I just finished revising Slobberchops, mindful of Jane’s input, and my agent has sent it on its way. Booker is up for revision next.

Along with that, I’m revising a chapter book, Mugwart and Abigail. The manuscript’s been rejected a few times, but my writer’s group, the amazing Cliffhangers, won’t allow me to let it go. They are in love with my characters. So with their help, I shall improve that plot and try again.

I’m also in the gathering phase for a novel. I can stay in the gathering phase for a very long time so must be careful, otherwise, I will gather forever and never get to the kitchen (my desk) to cook up the dish.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

From comments by the media, editors, teachers, librarians, and kids, I believe my stories are known for two things. They have strong characters who readers fall in love with, and they are stories “with heart.” (If you'd like me to share how I write those strong characters, check out my Children's Book Academy course, Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books.)


My eleven published books and four forth-coming ones are very different from one another. They range from inspirational to laugh-out-loud funny. Indeed, my readers have told me they’re surprised when they learn I wrote all of the books. They’re so different they seem to be by different authors. But aren’t there many different authors, many different faces, inside each of us? I love exploring different subjects and different characters. Variety is the spice of life, after all.


One of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received was from Jane Yolen. After reading my two manuscripts, she said, “Your work is very different.” I thought she meant the two manuscripts were different from one another and responded thus. She replied, “No, that’s not what I mean. Your stories are different.” Isn’t that what we all long for? Stories that are unique. Stories that are different. Stories that are ours alone.

Why do I write what I write?

As opposed to a romance novel or a murder mystery? Well, I don’t read either of those, so doubt I’d be a good candidate for writing one.

I write books for children because I find the best of these books to show the essence of life in a simple, beautiful manner. Information and story is distilled into a pure form. They hold up a lantern in a sometimes dark world and say, “Look here. This way lies goodness and love and hope.”

How does my individual writing process work?

Process? We’re supposed to have a process?

My process usually involves wandering around in a fog for days or months or longer.

Confession time. I do not write every day. I do not even write every week, unless you count posting on Facebook and writing blogs about things like writing process. This “not writing” is not something I recommend, especially for writers. Do as I say, not as I do. Practicing your writing daily is likely the best way to become really good at it.

When I do get serious about writing or have a deadline, I very much enjoy sitting at my desk in my imaginary world. I write three to four hours a day during these periods.

During both my non-writing days and my on task writing days, I always am gathering. I gather phrases, words, ideas, things that could lead to a story or things I could use in a story. Usually, these are placed in Evernote (I love Evernote!) or Scrivener, less and less in Word.

I don’t outline. My characters lead me through my story. I follow them with faith. But there are two things I constantly do as I write. I visualize my story, to see my characters and the images that become the story.The second thing I do is read my story aloud, constantly, whether it’s a picture book, a chapter book, or a novel. I listen to the rhythm, the song of the story.

As I mentioned, Stacy compared writing about process and getting tagged to the Inquisition. Well, the Inquisition stops here. You will not see me tagging one more writer to write about process.

However, I will call you ALL to action. You have important work to do. You have a story to share, a novel to write, a truth to tell. Don’t worry too much about your process. As Nike says, “Just do it.”


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