Friday, November 21, 2008

Writing for Kids

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about my kids and not about writing. I remember a college psych teacher once said, "Ask people what they are in one word, and see what they say." It was one of those moments where you think, Right, I already sort of knew this. I would answer that question by saying, "Mom" -- though I have plenty of friends with kids who say they don't think that way. They would answer, "writer" even though they have never published anything. It's strange the way that works -- I think of myself as a mom, then probably a writer even though I've been pretty well published.

I think I should probably talk more about writing since I've been getting increasingly frequent emails from people asking me questions about writing. I try to answer everyone, but here's why I don't talk so much about writing: I don't really know anything. I don't fully understand how the process works or what helps writing or what hinders it or why one novel falls flat and another hums along. I think writing may be a process that works when we are not totally aware of it, if that makes sense. I do know I don't spend a tremendous amount of time planning what I write, okay, fine, I don't spend ANY time planning; I just sort of keep the story in the back of my mind, then when the house is quiet, I write it all down. I spend a lot of time revising. Easily as much time as writing, and sometimes more. I think revision and rewrites are the heart of publishable work.

And that's it. I don't have any tricks and I think that's why people are emailing me: they think there is some shortcut, some magical method that will guarantee publication.

There isn't. Trust me.

I like the quote on this blog from Maugham: it matches how I feel exactly.

Right now I have a really tough editor. I'm revising a middle grade, geared for the 8 - 10 year old set. It's harder than I thought it would be (mostly because I took advice from people who read a lot of middle grade literature and I didn't just sit down and write it out like usual)She is a huge consumer of fairy literature, has no patience for long description, and can't stand boys in any of the major roles. It makes me slightly nervous when she picks up the legal pad to see my ideas. This is the look I get when I don't reach her standards:

Should be an interesting weekend.


Carrie Harris said...

Man, I don't know how I'd describe myself with only one word. Maybe woman. That way neither my kids, my husband, nor my writing would feel neglected. Because apparently my writing has feelings.

Anne Spollen said...

Woman works.

I have one friend who says "environmentalist" - that oughta keep a lot of folks at a safe distance.

Random thought: what word would the pregnant man choose?

Marcia said...

One time a job applicant was asked that question (okay, it's not really a question): "Describe yourself in one word." He said, "Concise." He got the job. I love that story.

What would would the pregnant man choose? Unique. I mean, he's really got claim to it.

Anne Spollen said...

Unique, yes, that's a nice way to put it.

I can't deal with that guy at all -I don't like to change grocery stores; I can't imagine changing genders (and to that extent)

But yes, s/he sure does have maybe the world's best claim to that word!

Mary Witzl said...

I couldn't possibly describe myself by only one word, but if I absolutely had to, I'd probably say "Loquacious," (then clamp my hands over my mouth). Still, if I had to choose between 'writer' and 'mom,' God knows what I'd say. Most likely 'miter' or 'wrom.'

TerriRainer said...

Well, since most of us "mom-types" are moms 24/7, it's hard to step away. I am a writer about 5% of the time, which is sad, I wish it was more, but with five kids (6 if you count the hubby), it is what it is!

:) Terri

Anne Spollen said...

miter;wrom, lol

I think I choose Mom because writing is the only time I'm probably not thinking about my kids, and I do that so much less than being Mom.

Terri, I don't know how you do what you do already!