Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Special Guest: Laurel Snyder

Today I am pleased to welcome author Laurel Snyder, whose book Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains came out two days ago. She also has a picture book coming out in a few months, so this is a really good year!!

I asked Laurel a few questions:

-- You have two books coming out in the next few months -- congratulations!! Can you tell us about them?

I know! I'm about to die of excitement!

Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains is a kind of fairy-tale novel, about a snippity milkmaid named Lucy and a clumsy prince named Wynston who are best friends. When Wynston is forced to begin the process of Queening (looking for a bride) Lucy takes exception, and runs away, to look for her mom (she's one of those semi-orphans that fairy tales are full of). The book is a little bit about class (Lucy is too "common" to marry) and about honesty, but mostly it's a romp, full of silly little songs.

Inside the Slidy Diner is a picture book with the most sumptuous art (by Jaime Zollars) you've ever seen -- all collaged thrift-store ephemera (just your kinda thing!). It's about a lonely little girl named Edie, who lives in a very creepy diner, full of bugs and strange dishes like "lumps and dumplins." She lives there because once, long ago, she stole a lemon drop.

(I am very intrigued by both descriptions, and can't wait to see more of the Slidy Diner art! And the lemon drop thing -- love that!)

--What has your journey to publication been like? How did you start writing for children -- is that what you always wanted to do?


It is! Only I forgot for a little while and pretended to write just for grownups. I went off to grad school and learned to use big words to say simple things, and that was nice, but while I was there I started writing books for kids too. At last my mentor, Marvin Bell, convinced me to get serious about Scratchy Mountains and finish it, send it out.

My publication path has been crazy lucky. I basically had both of these books pulled from slush, but in the case of the novel they first rejected it, and then I sent a revision, and they asked me to revise on spec. And THEN I sold it.

And weirder-- in the case of the picture book, an editor lost it in her email, and then emailed me a year later when she stumbled on it cleaning out her inbox. I got this astounding email that basically just said, "I never really read this until now. Is it still available?"

Um. Yes!!!!!

-- You're a mom -- how have you made time for your writing? Do you have any advice for other moms of young children who want to write? Any secrets?

I *am* a mom! And it is wonderful and it is crazy and I never ever get to write any more. I'm very very lucky I didn't sell anything for so long, so I had a backlog of things to send out. That's been a surprisingly nice thing, because it keeps me feeling like I *am* working when really I'm covered in peanut butter and duplos and babies. Mose is two and a half, and Lewis is one, and I'm taking them on the road with me this fall, to some festivals and bookstores. That should be a laugh!

I guess the biggest piece of advice I have for other mom-writers is the same advice I give myself, which I have trouble taking. That you cannot judge the worth of the time you spend working in dollars. I tend NOT to make time for my writing because, in essence, it doesn't pay for itself. But for me, writing is something I really need to do. To feel productive, intelligent, adult. When I don't write I go a little crazy, because I feel like a schlub. This is NOT to say that being a mom is not a full time job. I have a friend who makes it into high art. But I'm not that mom. Loving my kids is the most important work I do, but writing is what makes me feel like me. So really -- we should all make time for it. At the very least, babysitters are (a little bit) cheaper than therapists. If only Blue Cross would cover them!


-- What's the process of writing a novel like for you? In the spirit of my "Not for Robots" site, is writing hard for you?

No. Is that awful? It's very easy to write. But I think that's because I have so little time for it now, it's become a luxury to sit down at the computer. I know that until I had kids it was hard to start. Hard to force myself to sit down.

(Oh no, Laurel! That makes you a robot, and I have this policy against robots. . . Ah, well, I'll make an exception this time!)

--Do you have any advice for other writers on how to finish their projects? Any words of inspiration?


This sounds awful, but IMHO the trick is to set the bar low and revise intensely. Once you have a draft, you'll come back to it, right? Because you've invested too much to quit. So the trick is to get a draft. That can happen with a low bar. It doesn't have to be great, it just has to be. And that can be accomplished by simply writing 100 words a day, or whatever you can do. 100 mediocre words a day will be a novel in two years. 1000 mediocre words a day will be a novel in a few months! You can take it from mediocre to good on the second pass, and from good to awesome of the third. Hopefully. For my next book, Any Which Wall, I had to trash over a hundred pages, just rip the second half clear off and start over!

-- You've got both a picture book and a novel coming out -- what's coming up next?

Oh! I was just talking about it! Any Which Wall is a kind of homage to Edward Eager, a book about four kids during summer vacation in Iowa. They find a magical wall in a cornfield and have all sorts of adventures, with pirates, and in Camelot, and the Wild West... LeUyen Pham is doing some really wonderful art for it!

-- What do you read? And, would you like to recommend any favorite middle-grade or YA novels that you think adults would enjoy?

My favorite books are all old books -- Lewis, Nesbit, Eager, Dahl, Susan Cooper, Ruth M Arthur, so I'm running to catch up now. I like Ellen Potter a ton, and my current favorite book of the year is The Girl Who Could Fly. It's amazing.

-- How long have you been blogging? Why do you do it?

I actually began blogging without a blogging template, using Dreamweaver. That was in 1999 I think. It was during a very bleak time, and I didn't understand how public the web was yet. So I wrote things I shouldn't have, specifically a chronicle of my exes. Thank god it's gone now. But I love it, blogging. It's so different from writing poems and stories. I blog without revising. I let go a bit. I dont worry about it, and for me that's a liberating thing, often a kind of pre-writing.

You can read Laurel's blog HERE, and visit her website HERE. Thank you, Laurel!

6 comments:

Laurel said...

I know! I feel awful about becoming a robot. But never fear, I'm sure my angst and struggle will return as soon as I have time to write again!

Laini Taylor said...

Laurel, I don't wish you angst and struggle! It's just sour grapes. I'm so jealous of people who write easily.

Alysa said...

wow, those books look really fun! I'll be on the lookout!

tone almhjell said...

Yes, I love the diner, too! What DO they put in their stew?

Erin said...

Oh my goodness, I can't WAIT for Any Which Wall!!

Fab interview :)

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