You know those history teachers who are basically storytellers in disguise? The ones who transport you to ancient Mayan civilizations or into the heart of Gettysburg? The ones who mesmerize you with the deviousness of political intrigue and the adventure of covered wagons? I never had one of those. For me, history became a series of date memorization and compare/contrast papers.
Just as I was finishing up a very fast first draft of #3 (see question 2 below), the wonderful Jenny Meyerhoff tagged me to be included in the Next Big Thing, a blog campaign started somewhere by someone in Australia. And that last phrase, I just realized, sounds like the old Telephone Game where the details of the message get lost or totally muddled. The fact does remain that I’ve been asked to answer the following questions about my next book and in doing so, it’s my responsibility to tag a few more willing souls.
I am sort of terrified.
It’s not in the palm-sweating, hyperventilating, adrenaline-pumping, blood’s-running-cold sort of way. It’s much more quiet and deep-seated than that.
I can never start at the beginning. If you ask how I come to write a book, I’ll can never start from absolute zero. At any given point at any given day, salient thoughts may swirl around and eventually lead to character or plot development or some sort of mood that paves the way for a new book, but I pay them little direct attention.
There’s this movie scene when the Ghostbusters must keep their minds utterly blank to avoid total disaster. Dan Ackroyd’s character fails. Ba-doom … ba-doom … ba-doom. Massive footsteps proceed the creature. Ba-doom … ba-doom … ba-doom. Here comes … what? I won’t spoil it, but believe me it’s coming, looming over, fraught with impending terror. Pretty much out of the clear blue.
Once again, I am scattered, at sea, wandering aimlessly through Writing World. It often (maybe, always?) happens when I am between projects without a clear agenda or firm deadline in sight. So many possibilities, so many shiny objects.
I was perfectly situated to write picture books. I loved kids. I loved kids’ books. I wrote advertising. I was set to write with an economy of words. And I did. Or I tried. Deep in my file cabinet I have at least a couple dozen picture book manuscripts, all, if not brilliant, then on the verge of brilliance. At least I thought so. Publishers? Not so much.