I met Stephanie over in the Writers for Young Adults group at SheWrites. She graciously volunteered to share her writing journey. What gems of wisdom does this partner on the path have to give us? Let's find out:
What sort of books do you write?
What sort of books do you write?
I write young adult, but I have to confess they’re more tween than young adult. I write some middle grade, too. The Tween/YA are mostly about girl-power or stories about fitting into your own skin, learning how to create and enjoy who you are rather than who others think you should be. The middle grade, on the other hand, is most often boy focused. Those stories are often mysteries or overcoming.
What resources have you found most helpful on your writing path?
I am a voracious reader. Most of what I learned about writing is from my favorite authors. Then there’s The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman and Self-editing for fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.
What’s the most encouraging thing you’ve experienced along the way?
That’s really a long story, but I’ll try to make it as brief as I can. When I first decided to try my hand at writing, I started with picture books. Because the text is a limited word count I thought I could crank out one a month. So I got started. Honestly, they were TERRIBLE! Every possible thing to do wrong, I did. Then I tried my hand at middle grade. That was much better. Where I had no voice for picture book, middle grade was promising. From there I moved to YA and there I found my voice. I started attending workshops and conferences with SCBWI and submitting my work for critique. The first was an agents’ day where I was told I had voice—the ever elusive voice and I had it! After that, three different editors of substantial houses told my writing is very good. Well that cinched it right then and there I am a writer.
Favorite children’s books? Authors?
Oh gosh, that’s tough to say. It changes all the time. Right now the titles are Zahrah the Windseeker; House of Scorpion; Test; Bar Code Tattoo, Feed, Double Check
As you can see, I’m a huge fan of science fiction, character driven, action stories. I also like imaginative and different fantasy.
The authors are Joan Bauer, Nancy Farmer, M. T. Anderson, Suzanne Weyn, William Sleater, Nancy Werlin, Malcolm Rose, and Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
What keeps you going when you feel like giving up?
The only thing that keeps me going is I have to remind myself why I started writing in the first place and that’s because I love story. I love reading it, watching it, telling it, and writing it. The only reason I seek publication is to be able to tell ‘story’ to more people.
My writing has received some really great feedback from professionals in the publishing industry. I pull out those letters every time I receive a “No Thank You”. I hate the word rejection and refuse to use it in connection with my writing. In truth in this industry its meaning is nebulous. Oftentimes it is not a reflection on the writing, it’s more based on what they believe they can sell a lot of, too many books of that type out there, or not sure how to classify a book that determines a publisher’s/agent’s choice. After all publishing is a business that is focused on profit. As writers, we often forget this because we’re focused of the art of story
If you could choose to live any place on the planet, where would it be?
The planet? That’s hard. There are so many places I have visited and there are still so many more to explore. I guess it really doesn’t matter a ton as long as I can have access to books to read, movies to watch, and a computer so I can write.
Describe your fantasy writing space?
My fantasy writing place…someplace on the edge of a forest with views of water, sky, trees and animals. As long as the view is interesting and I have the tools to write, it really doesn’t matter.
What obstacles have you overcome in order to keep writing?
I haven’t had to overcome all that much. I was able to retire early because of a firefighter husband who pays the bills. That and family and friends that are very supportive of my following through on a dream. But thinking about it, I would say my greatest obstacle was changing my thinking to an understanding that publishing is about business rather than art.
What one word describes your writing process?
What do you appreciate the most about being part of the children’s writers’ community?
The children’s writers’ community is very open and accepting. There is not only no criticism of where my imagination takes me, they encourage me to go farther.
Best writing advice you’ve been given?
The best advice given me was to read as much as I can and to write as often as I can.
What do you like to keep in mind while drafting a story?
I always keep in mind who the main character is, what I admire about her/him, what their weaknesses are and then write the story around those to build their strengths.
How will you celebrate the publication of your first book?
I am throwing myself a huge barbeque and inviting as many of the people who helped me as I can. Then I will take a trip to some obscure place and dream up another story!
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