Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.


Monday, January 30, 2012

THE PLAYGROUND

Writing for kids entails a lot of research or memory. In my case, research, since my memory of how I acted or felt at such a young age is pretty murky. I love to watch kids, listen to how they talk to each other, see how they react. Sometimes I even miss out on adult conversation because I am paying close attention to the child drama on the playground. 


Playgrounds are tricky. They can be a battle field of good and evil. If you watch closely you will see these mini wars play out right in front of you. And believe me, it's not just the kids displaying good and bad behaviors. You can learn a lot about kids by watching their parents too. 


Break down of Playground personalities:



  • The Bully Kid: If you watch kids long enough you will see who the "large and in-charge" child is. He or she may not be the typical mean bully, physical and rough. He or she might be the assertive type. The one who says, "If you play with her, you're not my friend anymore!" Or "Get him!" Or "No boys allowed!" Or "Girls can't play tag."
  • The Poor Me Kid: This kid is the typical tattle tale. She or he may cry over every interaction, or may feel they are always being put last or ignored. They typically play alone on the playground because other kids seem to tire of their antics. 
  • Mr. Cool & Mrs. Cool: These kids get followed around a lot. I mean they can't seem to shake the others. They may even get annoyed, but there's something about them that draws other kids in. They glow with maturity or coolness, that it factor. 
  • The Loner: This kid wants to be alone, rather chooses it over group play. They feel confident in themselves from the get go and need no buddies to prove they are happy or cool. They may be too daring for other kids to follow or are interested in loner sports, gold, tennis. These kids are fine hanging out by themselves. 
  • The Peacemaker: This kid tries to get everyone to play nicely. He or she might apologize for someone else. They typically help the playground aide too, pointing out wrong doings on the playground. They are happiest when everyone is getting along. 
  • The Stressed Out: I've noticed one or two of these kids in playground groups. They worry. The monkey bars are too high. The slide is too fast. If you jump, you'll get hurt. These kids don't seem to like to get too dirty either. And they may even yell at their friends to slow down if they think they're running too fast.
  • The Fighter: Words don't come easy to this kid, but shoving and pushing do. Every offense is met with a scowl or slap. Kids after a while stop playing with this child, which only seems to make this kid all the more anxious. He or she may encroach on other's space. They seem to be a bit immature compared to their schoolmates. 
  • Mr. Sports & Mrs. Sports: These kids love and live for sports. They wear the clothes of their favorite teams. They know stats. They even know team schedules. They may be the fastest, hardest throwing, quickest, best hitter, etc...kid on any team. 

These are just a few of the personality types on the typical playground. You can see that corralling them into an enclosed area with wood chips, sand, blacktop, balls, trees, sticks, and multi-level metal play sets might cause some major drama. That's why you'll find me around the playground. 

No, I don't interfere. I listen. Last week I got a gem from one of my kid's friends. They were talking excitedly about their upcoming speech. My son was worried that he might forget something. His friend wasn't because, "Last night doctors opened up my skull and sewed my speech right onto my brain." 

I'm using that line someday, somewhere. 

My advice to you kidlit writers is this: 
  1. Plant yourself at your local playground. 
  2. Listen
  3. Take notes
  4. Draw the actions of the kids
  5. List the personality types: which one play well? which ones don't?
  6. I take pictures too - but that's because I'm on the yearbook staff - you may look suspicious doing this. 
  7. Jot down those great one liners
  8. Interact with the kids only when necessary
  9. Note how they play with things such as sticks, balls, sand, buckets 
  10. Note what words you hear over and over. Dude? Cool? Awesome?


Happy snooping! 

Write-On Angie

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Interview with Karen Lynn Williams: Author of many Children's books


Karen was one of my favorite teachers at Chatham University. She taught me the ins and outs of the picture book. She also opened my eyes and bookshelf to stories where people of color were main characters. 


Karen is a warm, gentle soul. The moment you meet her, you get a genuine smile. She loves people and does good everyday. Her word is honorable. Karen makes the world a better place, and children's books a more well-rounded genre.

Below are the questions I asked her:

1.          I counted 15 children's books on your website and 6 poetry, and other works. How many years have you been writing to accumulate such a great catalog?

I have always wanted to write.  I began writing as a child but gave up when I had not reached the goal of being the youngest published writer at the age of 12.

I began writing seriously when I was in the Peace Corps in Malawi, 1980-83.  Although I was teaching and had two children, I had a lot of down time with no distractions.  Writing became my cultural lifeline.

2.          What's the strangest thing a young fan has ever sent you in the mail?

My fan mail is pretty standard. It often comes in great clumps in large envelopes sent by the teacher after I have visited a school.  I do sometimes get a letter asking for one of my drawings and I have to explain that I am not the illustrator.  I wish I were though.

3.    How old were you when you lived abroad? How many countries have you lived in to date?

I was about 30 when I first went to Malawi to live.  I always wanted to travel and the first time I got on an airplane I was in high school.  I have traveled around most of Europe, parts of Africa and the Caribbean.  But it was always my intention to live in another culture, to feel at home there and learn about a new place. 

I lived in Malawi for almost four years, in Haiti for 3 years.  Currently I live on the Navajo reservation and in some ways that is like living in another country too.

4.    You live on a Navajo reservation now, how is that influencing your writing?

It takes time for me to feel comfortable in another culture before I can write from it.  There is so much here that is new and exciting for me and it all captures my imagination from the geology of land formations to the traditions of Navajo weaving.  Oddly, though the book I am currently working on, inspired by my life in the southwest, has grown out of my earlier interest in refugees which lead to two of my published books.  I am researching and writing a picture book about a young Mexican immigrant whose parents are undocumented.

5.    What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

 I usually get up around 7AM and have a cup of tea.  Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day.  But I try to limit it to a cup of low fat yogurt or home made granola…or both.

6.    You've taught writing to many students, who are you most proud of and why?

That’s a difficult question.  I have had so many students who have done wonderful things.  Many have gone on to publish or teach or both.  I find it most gratifying when a student takes a course I teach and I can tell that they have fallen in love with writing for children when originally the course was a requirement and they had never considered that option.

7.    Many of your characters are ethnic, yet you are white, does this ever surprise people? Any adversity over this? 

Before I had a website where people can see who I am, I could tell when I arrived at a school to speak that some people were floored that I was not a person of color.  

I used to worry about writing outside of my cultural and racial background but I have never had any criticism, only honest debate once in a while.

8. Describe your writing career in 5 words.

I am so very lucky!

9. What do you think about self-promotion for writers? To blog or not to blog – that is the question.

Hmmm.  This is a question I am battling with recently.  “They” say that blogging is a must for writers.  But writing a blog that is worth reading takes time…valuable writing time.  And I am not sure how many people actually read my blog.  On top of that, if editors(these are the people you really want to find your blog) are spending too much time perusing blogs, they are not editing.  

Do not get me started.  The publishing world has changed dramatically and is still changing very fast.  It is not the same world I came into with my typewriter and pen and paper and editors anxious to groom good writers.  As for blogging?  Like most things in life you need to find the balance.  In this case between blogging and not blogging.

10. You are very active: hiking, snowshoeing, teaching, traveling. How does staying active help your writing?

Well, since I blew out my knee jogging, years ago, I try to walk everyday.  I have a fear of immobility.  After the knew incident I was on crutches for 8 weeks and then had to build up the muscle tone I had lost.  It was very scary for an active person to suddenly not be able to go up and down stairs. But I find I need to walk 6-8 miles a day to make up for the 45 minute run I used to do (don’t ask how I came up with that equation).  

This takes commitment and it takes a lot of time away from my writing. The hiking, snow shoeing, and biking, cross country skiing are ways to get in my exercise without having to just walk.  I love being outdoors, though and I often think a lot about my writing while I am slogging along.  Unfortunately what sounds great in my head often does not translate so easily to the written page.

Traveling and teaching offer connections that enrich the writing life which can be lonely but again there is the drain on writing time.

11. How many other languages have your books been translated to?  

Korean, Chinese, Dutch.  Finally one of my books about Haiti, Painted Dreams will be printed in Creole.

12. Where is the furthest school you have visited? Why did you go? 

I visited the American School in Nairobi Kenya for a week.  They were interested in my books about Africa and they knew I would be willing to travel that distance.  I jumped at the chance and stayed on another five weeks to do research.  The book Beatrice’s Dream came out of that experience.

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13. Four Feet, Two Sandals is one of my 8-year-old son's favorite books. He has never wanted for shoes. He has never really seen poverty. Why do you think children respond to this story so strongly?

I believe children in our society are aware of what they have that others do not.  All children want to have friends and I think that readers respond to the unique friendship full of caring and sharing in Four Feet, Two Sandals.  

It is a difficult book about two girls who have had much loss in their lives, living in very harsh conditions.  I think even if a child has all he needs and wants, he can identify with having to say goodbye to a friend he will most likely never see again.

When I first read that book to a class of third graders, a boy in the front row had a tear running down his cheek.  It thought, “Oh my gosh, what have I done?”  But I realized that we should be raising compassionate children and this child identified with the girls in this book on some level and he clearly felt sympathy and compassion.  It is OK to feel bad about things that are very sad and wrong in this world.

14. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Read my books, recommend them, let me know your thoughts, read my website and blog.  Read, Read, Read.

15. Ever wanted to give up on this career called author? What kept you going?

Never wanted to give it up.  Only wish I was more disciplined and spent more time at it.   A writer NEEDS to write.  When I am not writing on a regular basis I feel out of sorts and anxious.  Sometimes other creative projects, like my weaving can fill that need too.

16. What is the feeling you feel when you start a new book?  

Scared.  Excited.

17. Will you be speaking at a bookstore or school soon? How can I help promote you?

My website is:  www.karenlynnwilliams.com

My most recent book is Beatrice’s Dream.

Lubuto Means Light was recently canceled when a new publisher took over the company…grrrr.

I will be speaking in New Willmington, PA at Schools and Westminster College in February.

Presenting at the Tucson Book Fair in March and speaking at schools there.

In 2012 I will be presenting at the  National Council of Teachers of English in Las Vegas.

That’s about it.  Thanks a lot.  Karen

Examining First Lines

I've had many great teachers with many great ideas to help writers. But the one that stuck with me the most may be the easiest to do. Go to a library or bookstore and research first lines. 


Sit your bottom down in front of the genre of books that you write, and start pulling them off the shelves. Record the first lines. Star the ones you love. Record the titles too and/or authors. Keep going until your hand hurts from writing, or your fingertips numb from typing. 


Novels take time and talent to write well. The first line of your novel is the lure, like a wiggling worm on a hook to a fish. The fish will first inspect the worm. Is it real or one of those cheap imitations? Does it move right or is it almost dead? What color is it? Does it make sense? If the fish takes the bait, you got yourself dinner. If a child devours your first line, you've got yourself a reader. 


If your first line presents no action, falls flat, contains too much backstory, and does not draw the reader in, then  your book won't sell. No matter how great the next chapter is, no matter your awesome plot, amazing characters, unbelievable ending - the first line will ruin it all, if it's not perfectly exciting! 


Here are some first lines of some books I pulled while researching for my book: REDWOOD BLOOD



  • "On a Thursday afternoon, just after tea, Charlie Bone saw smoke." 
  • "Alvin stood at the window and looked through the bars."
  • The magic in that country was so thick and tenacious that it settled over the land like chalk-dust and over floors and shelves like slightly sticky plaster-dust. 
  • Lessa woke, cold. 
  • I lay on my back, watching the little patches of blue sky that I could see through the jungle canopy.
  • In the 7th grade you grow backwards.
  • Hermux Tantamoq closed his eyes and listened.
  • The temperature in the room dropped fast, ice formed on the curtains, and crusted thickly around the lights in the ceiling.
  • The assassins dropped into the palace grounds at midnight, four feet shadows dark against the wall.
  • "Kolly, you are thirteen and growing everyday," Maa said to me. "It's time for you to have a husband."
  • There is not lake at camp Green Lake.
  • Maniac MaGee was not born in a dump.
  • A boy stood on the path of the mountain, overlooking the sea.
  • The day after my mother died, the priest and I wrapped her body in a grey shroud and carried her to the village church...her name had been Asta.
  • "I don't want to stay here. Please don't leave me here."
  • I got off to a bad start at camp cold lake.
  • "They're coming!" the servant cried from the path.
  • It isn't everyday you meet a tiger.
  • If Mistral, the dragon, and monkey could have had their way, they would have left San Francisco the next instant for the dragon kingdom, but Mr. Hu would not be hurried with his packing. 
  • I stopped when I smelled the magic, it was strong magic, old magic and it carried the faint scent of the sea.
  • A bamboo bowl flew through the air, aimed at the slave girls head.
  • In the green water, among the rushing bubbles, he is looking at me still.
Have you guessed any of the titles of these books? If not, and you'd like to know, comment and I will tell you. 

You can see that some of them are must reads, but some of them are so-so. What draws you to the ones you want to read more about? What don't you like about the others? 

Now look at your first line in your book. Are you wanting more, or does it leave you less excited than these? 

My novel is now in its last revision stage. I started it almost two years ago. I have been revising and playing around with each chapter since then. I have cut 7 chapters out of the beginning. I have changed the ending twice. I have started with a female MC, switched her to a male, and then switched him back to female. I have had children in my age range read it and give feedback. (They are my harshest readers, but I've had break throughs from their critiques.) I have had my critique group read chapters. I have had help from a professional editor. And with each read, each critique, each change, the novel has become stronger....and yet...the first line eludes me. 
_______________________________________________________
Here is my current first line:

A black present placed on my pillow surprised me. I didn't expect anything today, even though it was my birthday. 

**This does not work. I am not eager to read on....it's a downer.

Here are a few other ones I've been working on:

"The transformation begins and ends with the sun rising on the first and setting on the third day of your tenth year plus three." The writing looked vaguely familiar. 

I don't know if it was his face, the blood, the way he chomped his gum, or the dad comment, but I charged.

I peeked out of the bushes scared that Mom would be searching for me.

Where are you??? Fuchs is bloody Mrs Crowne bruised They r talking cops!!! The text made my hands shake. 

__________________________________________________
Which one makes you want to read more? It's back to the drawing board for me, but I'm getting closer...

My advice to you is to play around with your first lines. Look at paragraphs deeper in your first chapter and choose some that make you want to read more. By doing this, you may realize that you have started your book too soon. 

Another way of saying this is: Cut, Cut, Cut It's tough to do, but you will see that your manuscript tightens up the closer you start at your true beginning....the place that makes you want to read more.

Good luck, and please feel free to share your first lines.

Write~on
Angie

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Big Sur Writer's Workshop


The Andrea Brown Agency puts on the best writer's workshop I have ever attended. That's saying a lot because I started going to workshops and conferences 8 years ago when I thought I could write better than the author's of the picture books I was reading to my first born son. I've since learned that it's a lot harder than it seems.


This workshop is unique in that it requires writers to submit a first chapter, or picture book before they are invited to the workshop. This means that not only are the editors, agents, and publishers a great resource to help make your manuscript stronger, but all of your fellow writers are too.




The are many reasons to attend this workshop:

  • The beauty of Big Sur
  • Nature all around you - turkeys & deer guaranteed 
  • Quiet - no TV, no Radio
  • Time away from family and duties
  • Meeting other writers
  • Relaxing with people who understand you
  • Talking to people - because we writers rarely do
  • Meeting the amazing agents
  • Songs by Magnus
  • Learning from those in the industry
  • Getting critique 
  • Giving critique
  • Asking questions
  • Revising time
  • Trail hiking
  • Beach combing
  • Pitching your work
  • Making new friends
  • Making new connections
  • Confirming you are a worthy writer
  • Confirming writing is not for you
  • Learning something new about yourself
  • New enthusiasm for the next revision
  • Leaving with a goal
  • Leaving with an agent asking to see your work

The next workshop will be March 2 - 4, 2012. I highly recommend it. I met wonderful writers there, and we've become facebook and email friends. This community is small - and the attendees are limited. It's a great place to show your work, get encouragement, and connect with your future agent. 

If you go - let me know what you think, and good luck!

Check out the websites: 
http://www.andreabrownlit.com/  
http://www.henrymiller.org/AFW3.html




Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Interview with Jen Larson: Copywriter

I met Jen on the emergency prep team at our elementary school. She asked me to join it because she was bowing out after four years of service. She knew I was once a firefighter and thought I'd be good for the job. Gee, thanks Jen! Kidding. I love it, and loved getting to know her better. 

Since our time together at school, we've caught up at our local pool with the kids, and Jen always has her computer with her. Swimsuit, head covered by a fedora, wine glass on the table, fingers flying, that's how I picture her. 

Jen's a hard worker, but she doesn't forget about the fun. Her quirky sense of humor, and quick wit would surly resonate in a book. I look forward to reading her masterpiece...someday soon I hope.

Below are the questions I asked Jen.

1.    How did you win your first copywriting job?

Wow. I think my first paid copywriting job was writing a friend’s wedding announcement when I was in college or maybe high school. I later wrote her divorce announcement but that’s a different story.


2.    Do you typically know the budget you are working with before you start a project?

It’s tricky because I never want to lose an inspirational job because of a rate. I’ve been known to write some freebies but not since my boy’s tastes in shoes has surpassed mine price wise. Let’s just say I’m very reasonable because I feel so lucky to get to do this.

3.   What time restraints are you typically working under?

Crazy…never anything but crazy. They know that as a freelancer, I’m their bitch (sorry can I say that?) If I can’t do it yesterday they can find someone younger and prettier, no wait, cheaper and hungrier to do it.  That’s the bad part about freelancing.  

I have been in the basement of museums writing while my family is upstairs enjoying the exhibit. I’ve written from vacation, the bathroom, my car on my iphone, on a cocktail napkin (I occasionally have a cocktail) and the pool while my kids frolic without a care in the world mere feet from me. I know how important deadlines are in my industry, so I sip my wine and bear it.

4.    Do you have to do market research on competitors before you write?

Sometimes I have to simply because I’m completely unfamiliar with the content.  I had to write about laser hair removal systems and had no clue how they work.  I now know. I’m like a dolphin.

Other clients, like my fashion clients, include research that’s much more fun. You also don’t want to get to know the others too well because it’s always the goal to have a unique untainted voice.  That’s always my goal anyway…that and to leave readers feeling something, anything as long as it’s something.

5.    Give us 5 words that describe your typical workday.

Unshowered followed by these five…
Overwritten….edited….on time…wine.

6.    Do you work alongside graphic designers? Please describe that relationship.

I almost always work with an art director unless it’s a pure copy piece like a blog.  Most of the relationships are great and they are super appreciative to have someone to make them look better.  One of the longest relationships I’ve had (longer than my husband) is with my art-director friend Robert. 

We worked at an agency together, then Ann Taylor, and now Dior in France. He gets to take full credit (because I could care less over here) and I get fabulous frocks that he sends me from the fabulous fashion shoots he attends for ads that bear my words and his art. I get chloe and never have to get out of my sweats…there’s a joke there somewhere.

7.    What time do you wake and what do you eat for breakfast?

I wake whenever Eli (her son) gets in my face to start rifling questions at me…usually around 7 if I’m lucky. Breakfast is a smoothie and coffee with real half and half….why skimp when it’s only half bad right?

8.    Do you get publishing credit for pieces you've written for companies?

Only in my personal portfolio or my website.  Advertising really isn’t like that unless your work is entered in award shows or at Cannes, etc.  For me the credit is always the call back.  I have clients I’ve had for 10 years and that to me is my byline.  When I write my blogs though, there is definitely a face and a name to the copy. 

9.    What kind of contract, if any, must you sign? Are you able to work for two companies in the same industry?

There is no conflict of interest because I’m a contract writer. If I were a staff writer, I would not have the freedom to write for a competitive company.  Genius, right?  Yes, I sign all kinds of inane forms. Makes them feel good and they have those neat yellow tabs so the blond writer knows just where to sign.

10. How do you advertise yourself?

I have to say I’ve been lucky. After 15 years at an ad agency, I made contacts without even realizing it. It’s very incestuous and word of mouth is king.  I get calls from people I worked with 15 years ago who have moved on to new ventures and need a writer…then they tell two friends and so on and so on.  

In fact I just recently got two jobs writing websites from an old boyfriend.  Who knew?  I do have a website under construction though and that will be very helpful to be able to say, just click on my site rather than schlepping around my ancient portfolio. Trying to stay young and relevant is not easy when you present hard copies in a leather bound portfolio.  Gotta go digital.

11. You say you are interested in writing a book. How will your experience help you? Hinder you?

Copywriting really has nothing to do with the book I would want to write.  I think if you can write, you can write.  Copywriting is about writing engaging copy that sells and gives a voice and a nuance to a brand, etc.  My book would be something much more personal. Copywriting keeps my skill set polished, but a book would be a labor of love, not a job.

 A book that would interest me would be a forum where I could publish short snippets of my work on a certain topic. 

12. What is the genre you are most interested in?

Humor. Real life. Something colloquial and relevant that leaves the reader feeling like they’re not alone, they’re not crazy and being perfect is overrated. 

Maybe I could write a book called “Self Deprecation…a Field Guide”  Or another thought I have is a book called “Dude, this is exactly what you should say” It would be a user's guide for men to teach them how to give good lip service.  I can think of so many occasions where 5 little words could have changed the course of a fight or a conversation for the better. (I'm thinking 5 Little Words would be a great title, Jen.)

I would paint different scenarios and tell men exactly what a woman wants to hear to solve each predicament….”Wow, you must be exhausted.”  “You’re right” “I’m sorry”  “I wasn’t thinking”  “I don’t know how you do it all” etc.  They don’t need to mean it, but they do need to say it.  Once they learn this, the divorce rate will plummet I predict. Lol.

13. How can my audience help you advance your career in writing?

Spread the word. But only if you believe it.

14. How's live as a working mom? Is your husband supportive of your dream of writing a novel someday?

Scotti is very supportive of course.  He thinks I should’ve done something bookish years ago and is definitely a fan of mine. In my mind, the book is written. I can see the words, the cover, smell the pages.  But it’s not written. It’s still just a twinkle in my eye. Counting on a second wind someday when my life is less demanding.  When is that again?  I guess I’m not one of these women that surround me who truly can do it all.  I can only do some of it.  

15. Would you recommend a copywriting job to other writers?

It’s a very different business when I came up because today is all about new technology and the digital space. I came up going on shoots and writing headlines, TV commercials, radio commercials and going on fun productions in lots of different cities and countries. 

Today’s industry is smarter and so much more efficient but it’s exciting to see all the new ways to write with social media, etc. It’s a fun job, for sure, and for me there were not many other options. I knew I had to be a writer in some way shape or form.  It was the one thing that I loved, was good at, and could get paid well for. 

Also, it’s never the same job twice…unless you count revisions. Then it’s the same job over and over and over. 

16. Who is your favorite author right now? What is your favorite book?

I’m not able to put down the Hunger Games right now, hence the dark circles under my eyes. Actually I’m halfway through Catching Fire, book two and am mesmerized. Favorite author though is Ann Rand.  Hands down. And I like this girl named Ang Azur. Have you heard of her? (No. I'll have to check her out.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Interview with Dawn Lairamore: Author of Ivy's Ever After



I picked up Ivy's Ever After at a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) event because there was a dragon on the cover. I have always loved dragons. I can't resist them. Princesses, however, do not usually excite me. I've seen it all before, the princess in need of rescuing. But when I started reading, Ivy surprised me. She wasn't this tiny, helpless thing. She was strong, and challenged the old ways of thinking. I kept reading... Then I contacted the author, Dawn Lairamore. 


We were facebook friends from previously meeting at that SCBWI workshop. I told her how I loved her book and asked for an interview. She kindly agreed. Below are the questions I posed to author. 

1.   I saw you at the 2010 SCBWI conference. What do you think about meeting writers on facebook? At SCBWI events?

Angie, you have a great memory!  I was indeed at the SCBWI conference at Mills College in 2010.  It was a fabulous conference!  I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet other writers online and through SCBWI.  
In my opinion, one of the best things about writers--and especially children's writers--is what a wonderful sense of community they have.  You get a lot of encouragement and support and opportunities to promote your books, like being invited by very kind people to give interviews on their blogs ;-)   I think it's incredibly valuable to network with other writers, and how lucky are we that in this day and age there are so many fantastic and convenient ways in which to do that, online and through writers' organizations/groups.

2.    Ivy is a strong willed character. How is she like you?

I often get asked if Ivy is based on me when I was that age.  Truth be told, I think Ivy is more the 14-year-old I would have liked to have been (courageous, independent, sure of herself) than the 14-year-old I was (shy and kind of awkward).  
 
Ivy has her awkward moments, too, though.  She definitely marches to the beat of her own drum, and sometimes her lack of conformity brings trouble.  More than once, she questions whether she should behave more like a traditional princess and acutely feels the pressure to do so.   
I can definitely relate to feeling that way.  As a teenager, I absolutely felt the pressure to conform, to dress and behave a certain way, to hang with a certain crowd.  Perhaps that is why one of my favorite things about Ivy is her sense of individuality, and her willingness to fight to keep it.

3.    What draws you to write about dragons?

I've always had a fascination with dragons.  There is a lot of wonderful mythology surrounding them.  I used to dream about dragons sometimes when I was younger, especially flying around on a large golden one.

4.    Do you believe dragons were ever real?

It's interesting how dragons play a role in the myths and folklore of so many different cultures around the whole. One theory is that ancient societies discovered dinosaur bones and invented a mythological creature to explain where these gigantic bones came from.  So in that sense--yes, "dragons" once roamed the earth.

5.    Do you think the book would work if a prince was locked away and had to wait to be rescued by a princess?

I love stories that add a non-traditional twist, so sure, that might would for another story.  I rather like Ivy's story the way that it is.

6.    Describe your book in 5 words.

Hmmmmmm...five words would be hard.  How about a haiku instead?  I like haikus, and there are five-word phrases in that:

Princess and dragon
Team up against handsome prince
Adventure ensues.


7.    All the names your MC, Ivy, has are interesting: Ivory, Isadora, Imperia, Irene. Do any of them have significant meaning to you?

Not particularly.  I just thought a princess needed a properly long and formal name, and Princess Ivory Isadora Imperia Irene fit the bill.  Of course, trust my very improper princess to shorten her name to Ivy, which suits her infinitely better.  I think it makes one think of wild growth, of something untamed.  It seemed perfect for her personality and for someone who loves to spend time in nature as much as she does.

8.    Who do you like best: Ivy or Elridge?

Oh, that's a tough one!  I don't honestly think I could pick.  I am very, very fond of them both.  They are so very different, but both very special to me.

9.    What book best helped you in researching trolls, dragons, swamp spirits, and fairy godmothers?

I get asked about what I researched a lot, but the truth is I didn't actually do much  research for IVY'S EVER AFTER.  So much of it is based off the traditional fairy tales that most of us know and love.  There wasn't much need for additional research.  I looked up little things here and there, like diagrams of castles to make sure I was using correct terminology when it came to the different parts, but I didn't do much in the way of in depth research.

10. What one word best describes you?
 

The one word I'd like to describe me is "good-hearted." It's what I try to strive for.

11. What time do you wake up and what do you eat for breakfast?

It really varies.  This morning I was up at about 9 am.  Yesterday, it was about 7:30.  Breakfast varies, too.  Some mornings it's something quick and easy, like cereal or toast.  When I have the time for a more leisurely breakfast, I love two eggs over easy and homemade hash browns.

12. What is the weirdest bit about dragons you came across while researching for your book?

I did read something once about a type of medieval dragon that was fairly small and hid inside wells.  When someone came to draw water from the well, the dragon would pop out and snatch the unfortunate person.  I remember thinking that this little dragon sounded both very clever and really scary.  Thank goodness most of us use faucets these days.

13. You dedicated this book to Dad and Mom, why?

It was my way of saying thank you for all they've done for me over the years.  My dad, in particular, was instrumental in cultivating my love of reading.  He's a big reader himself, and he was always taking me to bookstores and libraries as a kid, always making sure there were books around the house.  He definitely passed his love of reading onto me.

14. I love the idea that the princess is strong, and can take on the evil prince. Why did this tale need to be told?

As much as I love fairy tales, there are a lot of outdated mentalities associated with them, such as the rather weak roles of females and the value placed on beauty and good looks.  I think modern audiences need stories that challenge such old-fashioned notions.

15. Who is most proud of you?

I'd like to think that all of my family and friends are proud.  I sure hope so.

16. Do you have a critique group? If so, how has it helped?

Not a traditional critique group, no.  I'm a loner for much of the writing process, as I feel I need to focus on telling the story the way I believe it needs to be told.  Soliciting feedback early in the process can be distracting for me.  I'm still feeling out the story myself, so I'm not ready for other people's opinions yet, especially if they cause me to question where I think the story needs to go.  
 
For this reason, I never let anyone read a manuscript until I have a complete first or second draft.  Once I have an entire story, I think feedback is incredibly valuable.  If the story is confusing at any point or needs polishing in a certain area or there are any other issues, I want to address that, so I think it is very useful to solicit feedback at that point.  That's when I start hitting up friends, family members, and writer buddies and offer to buy them lunch if they will read my latest manuscript and tell me what they think :)

17. Did you ever want to give up on this novel?
I never wanted to give up, but there were definitely times when I wanted to take a break--and did!  Sometimes taking time away from a manuscript is the best way to renew your enthusiasm for the project.  Writing a book is a lot of work.  It can overwhelm you if you're not careful.

18. What author would you most recommend to your audience?

There is no one author.  One of the greatest things about books is that there are so many wonderful stories and so many brilliant writers.  Read often and widely.

19. What made you believe in yourself as a writer?

Gosh, I still have days when I *don't* believe in myself as a writer.  But hearing readers, especially young readers, say that they've enjoyed something I've written is the most affirming and uplifting thing.

20. How can my blog readers help you to become and even bigger success?

I would love it if they visited my website, www.dawnbooks.com and shared the link around.
There you can read chapters from both IVY'S EVER AFTER, and the sequel, IVY AND THE MEANSTALK, as well as find out more about the books, learn some "behind the scene" info, watch the book trailer, etc.