Me: I always love asking this (for authors who write for kids): Why have you chosen to write for kids?
Anne: I don’t think I consciously chose to write for kids so much as I found my voice when I discovered Isabelle, Harold, Tugs, and Ned, characters who happened to be children. Childhood is fascinating. The daily life of a child is intense and in the moment. There is a bottomless well of emotion and growth to explore.
Me: Oh! I love that writing for kids chose you! What did your path to publication look like?
Anne: I feel very lucky to have made a match with Candlewick Press through an SCBWI conference. While I was working on Dear Papa, my name was drawn in a lottery for one of eight individual meetings with an editor. I was paired with a Candlewick editor who was very encouraging and suggested I submit the completed manuscript. I experienced plenty of rejection before and during that year as well, with Dear Papa and earlier projects, but ultimately, thanks to that conference and editorial meeting, I found my home at Candlewick.
Me: Rejections and writing seem to go hand in hand. That's encouraging (in a weird way) for writers like me who are finding their way. What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Anne: The match-making! Thesaurus is one of my favorite Billy Collins poems. The last stanza goes like this:
I would rather see words out on their own, away
from their families and the warehouse of Roget,
wandering the world where they sometimes fall
in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever
next to each other on the same line inside a poem,
a small chapel where weddings like these,
between perfect strangers, can take place.
I love those moments when a unexpectedly perfect word match is made, when a whole sentence erupts that articulates precisely what I want to say, the sensation I want the reader to feel, a sentence that makes a character come alive. And then when the words keep volleying...those are the moments that keep me working.
Me: That's such an interesting way to think of writing--as word match-making. What part of the writing process is hardest or most frustrating for you?
Anne: The constant decision making is a challenge for me. Every sentence written is a choice made about character, plot, tone. Everything a character says or does shapes them. Every action sets in motion every following action. Once I am well underway it gets easier, but at the outset of a story particularly, I find myself saying but what if, or what if a lot. When I leave the page for the day I am decisioned out. I’m worthless at the grocery store after writing. Wheat or multigrain? Strawberries or raspberries? Vanilla or chocolate? At least that one’s easy. Chocolate.
Me: "Every sentence written is a choice made . . ." Powerful, Anne. Do you have a habit or ritual while writing?
Anne: I really don’t have any writing rituals. If anything, I guess I spend a lot of time looking out the window while I write. It’s a bit like playing the piano. If I look at my hands while I play I stumble all over the place. I suppose it has to do with letting go of the mechanical part of my brain and letting the wandering part take over. Now that I think about it, I spend a lot of time gazing out the window before writing, too. And taking thinking walks. Anything that allows me to slide away from daily life concerns and into my imagination.
Anne: Read. When I met my late mentor and friend Judy Delton, she overwhelmed me with reading assignments. She’d think of something late at night and call me to say, listen to this! Read this! She encouraged me to read a wide variety of authors and poets and subscribe to several literary periodicals. Reading good writing does for the act of writing what following the path of a trail groomer does for a cross country skier. The more I read, the better I glide.
Me: That's great advice. I wish I could have met your friend Judy. And just because I'm curious, are you a dog or a cat person?
Anne: We have cats, but I like dogs, too. I fall in love with certain animals because of their personality, whether they are cats or dogs. LeRoy, the dog in Little Klein, is the dog I would love to have because he is takes so seriously his role in the family. Leopold, the cat in The Luck of the Buttons and Button Down is a lot like our cat Perot, a regal wanderer, with a dash of the mischievous nature of our cat Leo.
Each writing path is so unique. Thank you for sharing yours, Anne. And if you haven't already, enter the giveaway for an ARC of Anne's just-released Button Down. Simply comment on the post below.