Monday, May 26, 2014

Blog Hop!

Today, cottager Anika Denise is posting a piece for a blog hop she was invited to join by Marcie Wessels, author of A Pirate's Lullaby: Mutiny at Bedtime (Doubleday 2015). Read Marcie's wonderful post on her writing process hereThanks, Marcie!

What am I working on?
Right now, I'm revising two picture book manuscripts: one about an unconventional chicken, the other about a middle child who celebrates all the reasons why (contrary to popular opinion) middle is the best. I'm also in the first draft stages of a middle grade fantasy novel involving a boardwalk, magic and time-travel, as well as a contemporary piece about a young biracial girl. So, I'm all over the map as far as what I'm working on—and I like it that way.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I'd say my picture books have a classic feel. I'm especially fond of bouncy read-alouds and frequently collaborate with my husband, Christopher Denise, an artist whose influences include Ernest Shepard, NC Wyeth, Edmund Dulac and Beatrix Potter—so I'd like to think our books have a timelessness that readers respond to. Baking Day At Grandma's, our forthcoming picture book, very much fits that description. We try to create inviting worlds readers want to jump right intowhether it's a cozy bear cabin in the woods, a bustling kitchen full of pigs, or the softly lit bedroom of a little girl and her imaginary yellow elephant.

From Baking Day At Grandma's (Philomel, 2014)
Copyright, 2014 Christopher Denise

I'm also deeply interested in writing books with diverse main characters. It was very important to me that Bella, in Bella And Stella Come Home, look like our children, who are multi-ethnic. 

From Bella and Stella Come Home (Philomel, 2010)
Copyright, 2010 Christopher Denise

Why do I write what I do?
I suppose I'm drawn to what I loved as a child. Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss had a hold on my heart and still do. When I read them today, it's my mother's voice I hear in my head. She was a brilliant reader. Her inflection drew me in. Our nightly ritual of reading books together honed my ear for rhythm, rhyme and dialogueall of which come fairly naturally to me as a writer. 

How does my individual writing process work?
I have three children ages 3, 9 and 12, and I work as an events-planner for my local bookstore, so my writing time is very limited, and very precious. I try—not always successfully—to write at least five days a week. I realized a few years ago that it's helpful for me to have several projects brewing, particularly on the picture book side. Picture books are extremely hard to write well, and out of hundreds of ideas, only a few will rise to the top. So, I spend a great deal of time exploring them. I often have as many as ten to fifteen picture book drafts in various stages of development. This helps keep things fresh and interesting, and increases my chances of hitting on an idea that will resonate with my agent, with editors, and with readers.

Novel-writing, on the other hand, requires a singular focus—which is probably why it has been such a slow process for me. I'm more accustomed to writing and revising as I go, and I've had to retrain my brain to get the messy first draft down without constantly stopping to edit. I'm learning to be brave, and quiet my inner perfectionist. I often begin without an outline and write a scene or two as a manner of finding my way into the piece. Then I back up and create a rough summary or synopsis, so that I can see the plot and story arc more clearly, and can jump ahead if I get stuck. 

And now, I shall lob it over to two writer pals of mine.
First is my fellow cottager and critique partner Kara LaReau

Kara LaReau is a former children's book editor and the author of several picture books, including No Slurping, No Burping: A Tale of table Manners; Ugly Fish; Mr. Prickles: A Quill-Fated Love Story; and Otto,The Boy Who Loved Cars. She lives in Providence, RI with her family.

The other is a talented author-illustrator I had the pleasure of meeting recently at the Cape Elizabeth Author FestivalAJ Smith.

AJ Smith is an author/illustrator specializing in silly stories and funny drawings for kids (and immature adults). He lives in Newburyport, MA with his family. His first trade picture book, Even Monsters was just released this Spring.

Take it away, Kara and AJ! I look forward to reading about your writing process next week!


1 comment:

  1. Be brave and quiet the inner perfectionist. Great advice, Anika!