amwriting, author interview, books, children's books, children's writing, creativity, Emma Pearl, imagination, Mending the Moon, Page Street Books, picture book author, Roald Dahl, story starters, Storystorm, wip, writing life

An Author’s Insights

On this the first week of 2023, I’m excited to share with you my interview with debut picture book author, Emma Pearl.

The questions I posed Emma, to a one, revolved around the kindling of the imaginative spark. I felt this focus was just the thing to accompany the sense of possibility and new opportunities that the new year brings.

Interview Q&A with author Emma Pearl

Emma, after finishing a project do you ever feel lost as to what project you’ll do next?

No, I don’t really find this a problem. I write for all ages and have far more ideas/projects/WIPs on the go than I could ever hope to complete in a lifetime! I’m usually drawn to the next one naturally when I finish something, but if I’m ever in doubt I just read through my endless files, lists and notes until something shouts ‘WRITE ME!’

I currently have a YA novel about to go out on submission in the new year so I’ve just finished final revisions on that. I’ve also just finished the first draft of my next novel – a YA with similar themes/synergy – so will be tidying that up before sending it to my agent. And I have a sequel for that one planned too, which may or may not be the next one I write. I’d like to get an MG novel out on submission next year too – I have one completed that needs a rewrite and several more that I’m keen to work on – I’ll be discussing with my agent which one to focus on.

I have quite a lot of picture book texts ready to submit and am waiting on my agent to look at them all (I intend to keep her quite busy next year!). I love writing PBs because they require such a different skill set to novels and completion can be achieved in a relatively short space of time, so I often work on them in between novels or when I get stuck in the middle of a novel.

It sounds like you are super busy!

Do you have any brainstorming techniques to get your ideas flowing?

I’ve gathered so many ideas over the years that I don’t actively need to look for them any more. But I do make sure to write them down when I get them – ideas usually come from reading other books, watching movies or conversations. There will be a nugget of something that I find fascinating and then ideas will spin off from that. Also, I constantly mine my childhood memories – what were the things that made me feel the biggest emotions? Even the most ordinary events, habits or people can be turned into amazing stories if you can identify and connect the emotions associated with them.

I also highly recommend taking part in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm in January (https://taralazar.com/storystorm/) – it’s really great for generating not only ideas for stories but also ideas for where to find inspiration. This post from author Brian Gehrlein has some brilliant brainstorming techniques too: https://www.pbspotlight.com/single-post/zombies-brains-brainstorming-oh-my

I agree, Storystorm is a great way to kick off the year with ideas and inspiration!

Emma, Do you have any routines that encourage your writing process?  

Not really. I write as often and as much as I can, which is most days, but there’s not a strict routine (life tends to get in the way of that!), and there’s a lot of time spent on things that are essential to my writing career (which is still very much fledgling) that are not writing per se – admin, marketing and promotion, networking, learning, mentoring, critiquing… etc. I am most productive in the mornings from about 9 to 12 so try to maximize writing time then whenever possible.

What have you found to be the best writing advice you ever received?

I’m not sure which one of these is the best, but all of the following have been invaluable:

– avoid filtering language, i.e. words that draw attention to any of the five senses. This is a quick and concise guide https://writeitsideways.com/are-these-filter-words-weakening-your-fiction/

Abie Longstaff’s picture book 101 free course https://twitter.com/AbieLongstaff/status/1397819681436733444 covers all the basics thoroughly and efficiently. I often find myself referring back to it.

– first drafts are supposed to be rubbish! I spent many years not getting anywhere with my writing because I was scared of writing rubbish. But a very important lesson was learning to write anyway. You can improve a badly written story but a blank page is worth nothing.

– there is no set of rules, no one way of doing anything, no set path to follow. There are a huge number of amazing resources available, and many of them are free. Find whatever works for you and don’t be distracted by anyone else… but also:

connect with other writers whenever possible, they will be your greatest comfort/support/cheerleaders/learning… etc.

Thank you Emma, for sharing your excellent suggestions and links to helpful resources!

There was one last question I asked Emma. It was in regards to her great uncle, Roald Dahl. 

Emma, I read that Roald Dahl dedicated The Twits to you and I wondered if it was your favorite book of his, or was there a different one that was your favorite?

Great question on the Roald Dahl books! Of course I loved The Twits. It was so very exciting to have a book dedicated to me – I was a real bookworm as a kid and it was just about the best thing ever. It’s a wonderful story of oppression, courage and just desserts, and I’ve loved monkeys ever since! But in all honesty, I think I loved reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory more. I read that countless times, over and over from a very young age (well before The Twits was published). I also loved Fantastic Mr Fox and Danny (I used to play in the gypsy caravan that inspired the story). But my favorite now, as an adult, is Matilda. I think I was 13 or 14 when that came out so it wasn’t part of my childhood as such. But I have a suspicion (that might be completely ill-founded) that there is the tiniest part of Matilda that was in some small way inspired by me. Roald was very close to all three of his sisters, one of whom was my grandmother, and I was the first grandchild to be born to any of them, so I was a little bit spoiled and doted on by them all! I was a huge bookworm and reading long before I started school (not War and Peace, mind you!). Also, a little later on I had a very scary teacher who bore a striking resemblance to Miss Trunchbull (my teacher was also an ex-Olympian shot-putter!). So even if just a tenuous link, I’ve always felt a connection with the character of Matilda, who is one of my favorite females in all of children’s literature and always fills me (and countless others) with inspiration.

I’ve attached a link to 10 year old Emma’s (she’s the little girl at the center of the photo) interview of Roald Dahl. It brought a smile to my face and I hope it does the same for you.

Bio/contact

Emma Pearl writes fiction for all ages and is represented by Sera Rivers at Speilburg Literary. Mending the Moon is her debut picture book, and Saving the Sun will be published by Page Street Kids in September 2023. Emma is a picture book mentor for WriteMentor (2021/22) and a freelance editorial consultant for picture books. She lives with her family in New Zealand.

emmapearlauthor.com

Twitter/IG: @emmspearl

Purchase links to Mending the Moon, Emma’s debut picture book:

Barnes and Noble

Bookshop.org US

Indiebound

Amazon US

Waterstones

Bookshop.org UK

Amazon UK

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amwriting, contemplation, nexts, putting things off, writing journey, writing life

A Lovely Gray, No School Day

There’s no better weather day, I think, during which to put things off.

For example, I have been putting off creating a blog post. I’ve thought of many possible ones, like the mischievous squirrel walnut mystery (it would take a post to explain it) Fall, the start of the school term, searching for balance as a writer and teacher, but I thought of all of you who might read or glance over this blog and figured most of you wouldn’t want to read any that.

Negative I know, but honest and as good a reason as I could come up with for putting-off my blog post some more.

The gray day as seen from my front window

But the funny thing about putting something off, is that often times what happens, is that you fill the space left open with something else that needs to get done, at least I do. Which is how, today being a lovely gray starting to drizzle kind of day and a school holiday during which I find myself on my own (can’t count the dog and cats- they’re snoring) its seems there couldn’t be a more perfect time to contemplate my post.

That in turn, allows me to put off dummying out the picture book manuscript I’ve been reworking. Said manuscript, like bread dough that’s been kneaded too much, has fallen frustratingly, pfflp, flat before and in my eyes.

To punt my manuscript need to do’s farther down the field, I think I’ll make some chocolate chip cookies, brew another cup of tea and watch The Last Unicorn.

In what ways do you put-off tasks, writing or otherwise? I can’t be the only one. Can I? Oh, I hope not.

creativity, imagination, learning, poetry, summer solstice, wip, work in progress

Summer Solstice

It’s official. The solstice is here. There’s only a few days left in the regular school term. It’s summertime in the northern hemisphere.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On this summer solstice day, I hope to use the extra sunlight to explore and make varied attempts at poetic word play.

To say that poetry is difficult is an understatement. It’s a wordy challenge to write it right. All those stresses and unstresses, not to mention those lines of metered feet.

I dabble at writing poetry, which is a vague way of saying I’m not very good at it. I don’t do it often enough, the reason being is that its not easy. I know I said that before, but it begs repeating.

Will anything come of my attempts today at poetic word play? Maybe. Maybe not.

But I’ll give it a shot and will hopefully learn from my attempts (thank goodness for erasers).

What are you doing with the extra sunlight of today, the longest astronomical day?

amwriting, authors, biography, books, children's books, fantasy, fiction, historical fiction, memoir, mystery, non-fiction, thriller, wip, writing journey

The Devil is in the Details

Photo by lilartsy on Pexels.com

The phrase the devil is in the details refers to the specifics of a plan which, while seeming insignificant, may contain hidden problems that threaten its overall feasibility.

The necessity for specifics is obvious when writing works of non-fiction, but it is also an integral part of fiction, especially for world building.

What does this mean for writers? What does it all come down to?

The need for research, research, and more research.

On the whole, efforts spent researching are a good thing. The only negatives being its effect on time.

Researching, in itself, is a time consuming effort. Once decided upon it has the potential for, the almost inevitable, off-topic traveling. Research can, particularly for the less vigilant like myself, cause the researcher to veer from an intended destination.

This is a list of some of the topics I’ve researched: the Garuda, Esala Perahera, Holi, dragons, dryads, the green man, Herne, spotted eagle rays, sharks, NASCAR, Mushussu, gravitational ripples, Mexican spotted owls, and the list goes on.

All of them led to side trips down narrow alleys of previously unknown topics that, in some way, served the story or my curiosity.

To me, one of the most interesting things about research is coming across the unexpected. The discovery might cause me to revise or alter a premise, in order to make a situation or condition feasible, but that’s what so cool. I love incorporating something new into my overall understanding of the world and those in it. There’s always more to learn.

What have you researched? Where has it led you?

Please share,I’m curious.

amwriting, children's writing, creativity, critique groups, Jane Yolen, poetry, What is a Poem?, wip, work in progress

Verse in Progress

I wrote a story in verse, and then tried the same story in prose. My critique partners suggest that the tale plucks the heartstrings more aptly in verse.

Back to my notebooks I go .. .

They are littered with words: stressed, unstressed, alliterative; some rhyming with a meter that’s consistently three beats and rising.

As much as I worked the words, they’ve worked me twice over.

I felt a little bit better with my efforts at verse when I read the insights of the poetic Jane Yolen.

If you’re like me, and you’re working with verse, take a moment to read.

What is a Poem?

by Jane Yolen

What is a poem?

Hard work.

A single great line.

What we see and hear the moment before sleep takes us.

The pause between heartbeats.

The first touch of the drumstick on the tight stretch

of drum

and the slight burring after.

A word discovered after an afternoon of trying.

An emotion caught in the hand, in the mouth.

Two words that bump up against one another

and create something new.

Hard work.

What is a poem?

Hard work.

Literature’s soul.

A touch of lemon swab on a parched mouth.

A son who smells of sweat instead of cigarettes.

A new word, like frass, which is what the caterpillar

leaves behind.

A story compressed to a paragraph,

a paragraph squeezed to a phrase,

a phrase pared to its essence.

Hard work.

What is a poem?

Hard work.

Emotion surprised.

Throwing a colored shadow.

A word that doubles back on itself, not

once but twice.

The exact crunch of carrots.

Precise joys.

A prayer that sounds like a curse until

it is said again.

Crows punctuating a field of snow.

Hard work.

What is a poem?
Hard work.

The space between a hummingbird’s wingbeats.

A child’s meddlefurs.

A whistle too high for a dog to hear.

One bloody word after another after another.

The graceful ellipse of memory.

The graceful collapse of memory.

The graceless lips of memory.

Hard work.

What is a poem?

Hard work.

Hard work.

Hard work.

Hard work.

Back to my notebooks I go . . .