Happy Monday! It’s hard to believe that there’s now only eleven, yes, ELEVEN days until our SCBWI MD/DE/WV From Dreaming to Doing conference! We still have many faculty interviews to share as well as some conference tips for you first timers. Have you missed any of our previous interviews? No worries, here are the links:
- Julie Dietzel-Glair, freelance writer and library consultant
- Mary Fan, author
- Katy Kelly, author
- Andrea Morrison, Literary agent with Writers House
- Leila Sales, Publishing Manager at Viking Children’s Books
- Laura Shovan, poet, author, editor, educator
- Thao Le, Literary agent
- Patricia Hruby Powell, author
- Alyssa Nassner, illustrator and designer
- Liz Kossnar, Associate Editor, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Susan Stockdale, author and illustrator
Today we have author Veronica Bartles in the cyber chair! Veronica has already joined us after becoming our new PAL (Published and Listed) coordinator … be sure to check out that interview … so I had to come up with some brand-new questions! But first, here’s the scoop on Veronica and her presentation description:
Veronica, author of TWELVE STEPS (YA), and THE PRINCESS AND THE FROGS (PB), has spent most of her life wondering “What If?” She believes there are many sides to every story, and she’s determined to discover every single one of them. Veronica believes every princess deserves a frog, because princes aren’t pets, and she’s an incurable optimist who loves gray, drizzly days because that’s when rainbows come out to play.
Her conference presentations:
Saturday, 10:05-10:55am Small Press, Large Press
Small press vs. Big 5 publishers … is there really a difference? And how do you know which choice is right for you? Veronica’s first book was published with a very small press and her second book was published by Harper Collins, so she’s seen both ends of the spectrum, and she’s seen pros and cons of both sides.
Saturday, 2:00-2:50pm Introverts, Extroverts, Ambiverts, Oh My! Personality Types in Publishing
(Panel with Katy Kelly, Veronica Bartles, Jessica Sinsheimer, Patricia Hruby Powell, Bruce Coville, and Liz Kossnar) – Monocacy Room. A panel of professionals of varied backgrounds and personality types discuss how to succeed in publishing and remain true to yourself.
And now, on to the interview!
First question, Veronica. What is your brainstorming process like?
I have 2 different brainstorming processes for coming up with story ideas.
Usually, I have a character that I just can’t stop thinking about, and I’ll spend weeks (or months) getting to know everything about that character until I know what they want most in life. Then, I ask myself: What is the worst possible thing that could happen to them? And that’s where my story begins.
But once a year, I like to really push my creativity into overdrive, and so I always participate in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm (formerly PiBoIdMo), where you are challenged to come up with a story idea each day for a month. With the pressure on to come up with ideas EVERY SINGLE DAY, I often get pretty desperate. I scour my old journals, analyze every item on my desk, play back every conversation I’ve participated in or listened to throughout the day, looking for something, anything to spark my creativity. Most of these ideas never turn into full stories, but I usually end up with one or two gems that catch me totally by surprise, and often I’ll end up with at least one idea that fixes a problem I’m having with a current WIP, so the forced idea-finding is an exercise I look forward to each year.
What is your writing schedule like?
I’ve always wanted to be one of those writers who sets aside designated writing time every single day, “office hours,” when everyone knows not to disturb her because she’s Working on Important Things. But I’ve also always had a teensy bit of a problem with authority, and my brain screams “You can’t tell me what to do!” every time I try to impose a schedule. So I have to trick my brain into creating by changing my writing time and location every day. And if I can’t fit in time with my story pencils and notebooks, I make sure I at least have 15 minutes of something creative every single day, whether it’s singing a song, creating a new cookie recipe, or having a conversation with my main character.
Describe your perfect writing day:
I wake up, with no need for an alarm clock, because I’ve had a supremely restful night and I have nowhere pressing to go. After a leisurely breakfast (where I have enough time to actually read one of the newspapers that’s stacking up by my front door), I curl up on a comfortable chair next to a big picture window overlooking the ocean and pull out my story pencils and notebook. The ideas flow freely, filling the notebooks with perfect words so fast that I don’t even have time to stop for lunch. But that’s okay, because my darling husband and adoring children are bringing me gourmet snacks and perfectly-chilled water throughout the day to keep my energy up. I write “The End” on a draft so perfect that it barely needs editing just before the sun begins to set, giving me just enough time to gather my family for a pre-dinner walk on the beach.
Ahhh… The stress-free life of a writer. 😉
I’m sorry, but this makes me crack up. If only it were that simple!! Okay, who are your favorite authors?
I am absolutely terrible at picking favorites, so I’m just going to pick some authors whose books I’ve read and enjoyed recently …
For picture books, I love Corey Rosen Schwartz, Tara Lazar, and David LaRochelle
For middle grade, I really enjoy anything by Anna Staniszewski or Caroline Starr Rose
For YA, I adore Rachel Harris, Brenda Drake, Kimberly Griffiths Little, Cindi Madsen … (How many favorites am I allowed???)
If one of your books were made into a movie:
Who would play the main characters?
I always say I’d really love to see brand-new, unknown actors cast for the roles, because it would be so awesome for some future mega-star to be always associated with my character as her breakout role. (Though, to be honest, this answer might be the tiniest bit influenced by the fact that I am really bad at remembering names/faces of celebrities, and I honestly can’t think of anyone to suggest for the movie version of any of my books.)
What songs would be on the soundtrack?
As difficult as it is for me to visualize a cast to play the characters in my books, I have no trouble hearing the soundtrack. In fact, I generally can’t write the book until I have the perfect soundtrack put together. For TWELVE STEPS, it was:
- “Sisters” – Rosemary & Betty Clooney
- “Stepsisters’ Lament” – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Original Broadway Cast)
- “Who I Am” – Nick Jonas
- “Still into You” – Paramore
- “Cover Girl” – Big Time Rush
- “Take a Hint” – Victorious cast
- “Everything Has Changed” – Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran
- “Help Me, Rhonda” – The Beach Boys
- “The Prince You Charmed” – Youngstown
- “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” – Susan Egan
- “Falling for You” – R5
- “You Snuck Your Way Right into My Heart” – Love Handel
For THE PRINCESS AND THE FROGS, I had one song that I listened to over and over again while writing and revising:
“Naughty” – from Matilda (Original Broadway Cast) – I loved the message that you don’t have to stick with the story you’re born into. You can change it to get the story you want. And Princess Cassandra definitely did that!
Are you in a critique group? If so, how has that helped your writing?
I have a fabulous critique group (people that I met through SCBWI), and they are the best thing that ever happened to my writing! Not only do they help me find the perfect words when I’m revising a manuscript and help me brainstorm ideas when I hit a writer’s block, but they are my go-to support group when I’m feeling discouraged. They keep me writing when I feel like I want to quit, and they cheer for my successes louder than anyone else.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing or editing?
When I’m not writing or editing, I love to curl up with a fabulous book (my TBR list is several miles long). Also, I love experimenting in the kitchen to create new recipes, mostly for supremely decadent desserts. I enjoy merging flavors you wouldn’t necessarily think to put together to create something surprisingly-delicious. (Luckily, there’s never any shortage of friends around to try out my recipes!)
Share with us something personal that others would be surprised to find out:
I have a brain tumor. The doctors describe it as “As benign as a brain tumor can be,” but it is definitely a nuisance sometimes, because it causes all kinds of signals to get crossed between my brain and the rest of my body. If my elbow suddenly starts hurting, it might mean I just stubbed my toe. One time, I tried to say “I love you,” and the words that came out of my mouth instead were, “I’m craving tater tots.” And that annoying cliché where a character is so overwhelmed that she “forgets to breathe?” Yep. That’s literally me. I sometimes have to stop everything I’m doing and focus only on breathing. “In… Out… In… Out…” because it’s not always automatic for me. 🙂 But as annoying as it can be sometimes, I like to think of it as a blessing in disguise. You wouldn’t believe how many character quirks and odd, little story elements I’ve gotten from some of the weird things my brain does!
Time for the lightning round!
Do you . . .
Outline or wing it? Wing it. Mostly.
Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped? Talk … to select people
Sell by proposal or completed draft? Completed draft
Prefer writing rough drafts or editing? Editing!
Dread marketing/blogging or love it? I love… certain aspects. 😉
Read Kindle or traditional books? Yes! All the books!
And finally, what’s your favorite:
Time to work? Varies by day
Music to listen to while writing? Depends on the WiP
Writing tool? My special story pencils
Pair of shoes? None! Barefoot forever!
Guiltiest pleasure? Going to the movies. All by myself.
Line from a movie? “I love you.” “I know.” (I love this so much that my husband drew this special picture for me to hang above my writing desk!) – image attached
Love that! And thanks, Veronica, for stopping by again! We’re looking forward to seeing you at the conference. 🙂
Happy writing and drawing, everyone!