Kellie from Walden Pond Press has organized a wonderful blog tour to celebrate the release of Anne Ursu's new book BREADCRUMBS. To check out all of the different guest posts, interviews, giveaways and more, click here. Today Anne answers some questions for the readers here at Kid Lit Frenzy.
In looking at your website, I noticed that you wrote first for adults, and have now written 4 books (including Breadcrumbs) for Middle Graders. What do you like about writing for a younger audience or what is different about writing for a younger audience in your experience?
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit several authors' writing spaces. It was fun to see how they set up their space, and what they used as visuals or inspiration on the walls. If we were to come visit your writing space, what would we find?
I have a small desk in my bedroom that looks out on a gate covered with ivy that is Sleeping Beauty-level thick. I have a lovely antique hurricane lamp that I really need to clean. Next to the desk is a radiator on which can usually be found a manuscript I need to read, mail I need to attend to, and a cat that might be sleeping on top of, knocking over, or chewing on the manuscript/mail. Right now my desk also has a sculpture of Poseidon’s head made out of floral foam that my artist friend made for me this summer. It eyes me disdainfully. I am told it will rot slowly from the inside.
When did you have that "aha" moment that you were going to be a writer or that you really were a writer? Did you come upon it on your own or were you mentored along the way?
I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a kid. I completely lost myself in books and stories. I remember I always wanted to be a writer and something else—a teacher, a lawyer, a professor, a flight attendant (that’s when I was six). And then all the other things fell away, and I just wanted to be a writer. After college I worked at a bookstore, thinking it would give me time to write, not realizing all I would be good for at the end of a day of retail was collapsing on the couch and watching ER reruns. And then one day my parents announced they were going to support me for a year so I could write. Follow your dreams, they said. And I wrote my first book. I am a writer because of them.
Recently, my niece (age 10) shared with me a story she had written. What I noticed most about her writing was her lack of inhibitions with "writing". I realized at that moment that teachers (myself included) can stifle this often by focusing so much on the mechanics of writing. Sometimes we need to just "let them write". What advice would you give to teachers in regards to supporting or developing children as writers?
That’s a great question. I wonder if the answer is to give kids space to work where it’s all about the creativity. Maybe that’s a specific notebook they write in where mechanics just don’t count. Maybe you assign first drafts where nothing else matters but the story, and the polishing comes later—whatever you can do to free them from the idea that it needs to come out perfectly the first time. And maybe it just helps them to hear that most authors revise extensively, and the mechanics are the very last thing they worry about—the whole point is to get the story figured out first.
I was actually directly inspired by the fairy tale of “The Snow Queen.” I was really stuck in my writing, and a woman I teach with gave a lecture on setting in fairy tales and folktales. She said, “If you’re stuck, go read these stories.” I got about a fourth of the way through “The Snow Queen” and the friendship story grabbed me, and I saw a book lay itself out before me.
One of the things that impressed me with Breadcrumbs is how many real life themes you were able to successful weave into this fantastical story. Hazel and Jack are "real" children in that other children will be able to relate to their experiences. What was the most challenging aspect in blending the two (the contemporary story so to speak with the magical)?
It might sound odd, but it wasn’t something I thought too much about until I was done with the first draft. I realized then that the contemporary section was much longer than they traditionally are in fantasies like this. And in revision it became even longer still. But it had to be; the story required it. And so I had to remind myself that there really aren’t any rules, that what matters is that the story works, and if that meant the book was half contemporary Minneapolis and half weird-fairy-tale-woods world, then that’s what it would be. I teach writing, and sometimes in that environment we all get hung up on rules. I tell my students, “You can do anything you want, as long as it works.” I just had to remind myself that my job was not to follow some self-imposed structure, but to do what the story needed and, in Project Runway terms, to make it work. My real problem was that in the first draft Jack mattered only as he related to Hazel—as the best friend who changes overnight and then disappears and needs to be rescued. But he needed his own story too—there had to be a reason that he needed Hazel, and that he went off with the Snow Queen in the first place. Otherwise the rest of the story simply wouldn’t make sense. Once I figured this out, both worlds of the book had much more depth and the book worked out much better as a whole.
Last question...do you have any favorite snacks or writing routines you must follow when working on a book?
I consume an enormous amount of popcorn when I’m working—last year I moved on from the microwave cancer bags to the hot air popper. I also eat a lot of red grapes, and my veins run with coffee and Diet Dr. Pepper.
Thanks so much Anne for stopping by and answering some questions.
and here http://www.anneursu.com/handbill/
You can follow her on twitter: @anneursu
And she is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anneursuauthor
Don't forget to join Anne Ursu and Laurel Snyder for a Twitter Chat on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 8 p.m. EST. Use the hashtag #Magicisreal to join in. For more information on the chat, click here.
Now for the Giveaway:
Anne has agreed to Skype with a class, book club, group of homeschoolers, etc. for 30-40 minutes about Breadcrumbs. The Skype visit will include a short reading, and Question & Answer.
1. Please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (including your email, website, etc.), you must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.
2. The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time on October 1, 2011 to 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on October 7, 2011.
3. You do not need to be a follower of this blog to enter, but if you like what you see, feel free to subscribe.
4. You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
5. Comments are not required but always welcome.
6. If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail. If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.