Tag Archives: Editor

Laura E Williams– Writer

What made you want to write for children?

As a child I was an avid reader.  I read everything from comic books to Nancy Drew to books like Charlotte’s Web and The Outsiders.  I’m still an avid reader, and I still love children’s literature.  In fact, I think some of the best writing being published is coming from children’s book authors!  I do think of writing books for adults, but my ideas always seem to come to me as books for kids.  Maybe it’s because I work with kids as a high school English teacher.  Maybe it’s because I remember being a kid and how hard it was.  Whatever the reason, I am proud to be a children’s book author!
What were your first steps ?  

The very first step to becoming a writer is being a reader.  Next, writing a first draft helps a lot!  It’s also one of the hardest steps.  In fact, I much prefer REwriting to writing that first draft.  I actually LOVE rewriting – adore it, it’s the best!  But that first draft is killer!  Then, after the first draft and multiple rewrites, it’s time to submit the story to publishers.  That’s when the rejections start rolling in.  Finally an acceptance comes along, and all that hard work is suddenly worth it!  There is nothing like getting published after all that writing and rewriting – well, maybe a big scoop of mint chocolate chip icecream on a sugar cone is close, but not quite!

What was the first book you ever published?

My first picture book was THE LONG SILK STRAND, which was published by Boyds Mills Press in 1995.  My first middle grade novel was BEHIND THE BEDROOM WALL, published by Milkweed Editions.   Imagine a girl during WWII who loves Hitler who finds out her parents are hiding a Jewish family behind her bedroom wall!  This novel is still selling strong – and the musical version of it just premiered this past spring.

What kind of stories do you think children relate to most?

Children relate to stories that don’t preach or talk down to them.  No one wants to be hit over the head with a lesson or a moral.  At least I didn’t when I was a kid.  I wanted entertainment and escape from everything.  Children look for a main character they can relate to, like a character who could be a friend.

How can we find out more about your work?

A good way to find out about me is to Google my name: “Laura E. Williams”  When you Google a name, be sure to put it in parenthesis as I just did above.  You could also check out my website at www.readlauraewilliams.com. Hopefully it’ll be up and running by this summer!

What inspired you to write BIBIM BAP FOR DINNER?

Bibim Bap is a Korean dish that I learned about when I went to Korea several years ago.  I was actually born in Seoul Korea and adopted when I was 1 1/2 years old.  I don’t remember anything from when I was an infant.  But when one of my former students was there teaching English, I jumped at the chance to visit her.  In my time there, I grew to love Korean cuisine.  When Bebop Books asked for proposals for books, I thought about having a kid making a traditional Korean dish.  Bibim Bap is easy to make and fun to eat.


Melanie Zimmer– Puppeteer

Melanie Zimmer has worked as a storyteller for fourteen years and also performs puppetry as Dancing Bear Puppet Theater. She has worked across the country, performing in a variety of venues, live and for television audiences. She has performed with marionettes, rod puppets, hand puppets and shadow puppets and is the current president of PGUNY, the Puppetry Guild of Upstate New York, a local arm of the Puppeteers of America. As a storyteller, she has performed live and on television, performed symphony narration and spoken at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling.

Melanie Zimmer has created puppets using a variety of techniques including carved wood, jigged wood, polymer clay, sheet foam, fabric, and paper mache. She also is an experienced mask maker and has created masks using a variety of media.

What made you want to become a storyteller?

When I was young, I was quite shy and embarrassed to speak in public so when I was in college at the University of Texas in Austin, I decided to overcome that, I would practice public speaking. I joined Toastmasters, a public speaking organization, and that did help me. Years later, I heard a group of storytellers perform and I thought that storytelling was an even better medium of expression because there was so much more that could be done with that using gesture, facial expression and character voices. I joined a storytelling guild in Clinton, NY called The Pearl in the Egg. The group was named after a medieval storyteller. Little is known of her other than the name she called herself, but the group was very helpful. I was able to listen to other, more advanced storytellers and to tell stories myself. In the guild, you could bring a completed work to present, or a fragment that you were working on. After you told, you could ask the group to critique you. Much of the advice was very useful and helped me develop as a storyteller. The other advantage the guild offered was that it would find you work. There were a certain amount of work that came into the guild, and it was distributed among the storytellers who wanted jobs. Being in front of an audience of strangers was essential to developing my skill as a storyteller. Sometimes I would go to the Salt City Storytellers in Syracuse, NY. The group was so-named because salt used to be mined in the Syracuse area. That group was quite different from the Pearl in the Egg. Salt City did not offer you jobs or critique you, but they did have open mic once a month where you could perform or listen to other tellers. They also, at that time offered inexpensive workshops on issues of importance to storytellers. Salty Sam (William Lape) gave a workshop on telling for radio. Another woman gave a fabulous talk on types of fairies and so on.  The Pearl in the Egg also offered workshops, but only occasionally. Their workshops were not given by members, but by well-known storytellers who were hired for the day and so I was exposed to the wisdom of a number of great tellers through that. As I became a better storyteller, and bolder, I took on more work. During this time I was still working full time elsewhere. Eventually, I decided to begin working on puppet theater as well with a partner. We were called A Room in the Woods since my last name – “Zimmer” means “room” in German. Julie’s last name “Waldas” meant “Woods.” We also performed masked interactive Greek theater. Though the partnership did not last, I remained both a storyteller and a puppeteer forming Dancing Bear Puppet Theater after my partner left.

Was the journey difficult? 

Iam not sure if the journey was difficult or not. Perhaps it was and is both. I was helped by many kind people and great advisors. I was helped by my reading and research, and I was helped to start economically in a strange way. When I decided to become a full time performer, I had been an independent contractor selling non-fiction books to libraries (public and school libraries) across New York and Vermont. When I began selling books from my supplier, they promised I would always be paid when the order was sent in. However, within months, they changed their plan and paid only when the libraries paid them which was sometimes a year after the order was taken depending on their budget cycle. That left me with a horrible financial gap in the beginning, but later when I decided to start the puppet theater, it enabled me to stop selling books to build the theater, and still have an income from sales made six month to a year earlier.

One of the biggest obstacles I have is time. As a performer, I have to generate my own publicity, book my own shows, build the shows in the case of the puppet theater, load, unload, drive to the destination which may be very far away even in a different state, and perform. Sometimes it is hard to do it all. If I get busy performing, sometimes the other areas are ignored and then later I will see less work because of it. It is a bit like doing two or three jobs.

The other major obstacle has been my voice. Because I do extreme character voices, often by the end of a telling session or after several consecutive sessions, I would become hoarse. I worked very hard to overcome this studying with a speech pathologist, an expert on the Alexander Technique, and taking a college course on speaking voice. This situation has improved tremendously. It is very dangerous to abuse your voice and if you have vocal discomfort, you should seek training so that you do not permanently damage your voice. After all, a storyteller without a voice isn’t much of a storyteller.

What were some of your favorite stories growing up? 

Quite honestly, I have no recollection of anyone reading folk tales or anything else to me when I was young. I must have heard them somewhere because I knew the common fairy tales, Mother Goose rhymes and the like, but I don’t recall hearing or reading them. My first memory of reading is lying in bed between the age of five and six reading a pictorial dictionary. Strangely, I still do read dictionaries sometimes. Words and language have always interested me. It doesn’t surprise me that no one would read to me before bed. As a small child, I had horrible vivid nightmares such as being eaten by a lion, and other grotesque dreams. My father had been the same as a boy. He shared a room with his brother, and once awoke in the middle of the night convinced they were trapped in the hold of a ship. It was so real to him, he was actually able to convince his brother of this, and the two of them knocked a hole in the bedroom wall trying to escape. By the time I was in second or third grade my nightmares had ceased, or at least I did not remember them any more. I do remember seeing a monster when I was maybe between eight or ten, though. I had gone to bed and was just laying there in the dark. The bedroom door was open and the light from the hall illuminated the doorway.  I looked over, and there was a short creature standing there with its hand on the door knob. It didn’t stand much taller than the door knob, and it had a long tail. It stood upright, but instead of flesh, its body seemed composed of flashing, moving energy like it was made of electricity or some such thing. The movement was in jagged fashion, almost the way lightning moves and was bluish in color. I was horrified and just stared at it for the longest time and it watched me, still standing in the doorway. Finally, I was so scared, I ducked my head under the covers and curled up tight. I stayed like that for some time. When I dared look again, the creature was gone. I never saw it again. I never told my parents. Years later, though, when I was an adult, my mother confided in me that she had often seen strange creatures around her bedroom and bathroom at the house when we were living there. At least I wasn’t the only one seeing things.

I do remember in Junior High School when I would stay with my grandmother she would read to me after lunch from library books. In High School and Junior high I liked to read mysteries, science fiction and biographies. I do know my grandmother was a storyteller when she was young. She would tell the neighborhood children ghost stories, and scare them half to death, but she never told me any. My grandfather on my father’s side was an amateur historian specializing in Maine local history and the American Civil War. He would make up the most ridiculous things to tell us girls. I think storytelling was present in members of our family even though I might not remember having been read to or reading stories when I was young.

 Is there a difference between writing a story and telling a story?

I think there is absolutely a difference between telling a story and writing a story. Perhaps the most important thing I do in learning a story to tell is to not write it, or if I do, to write it after I have completed creating it. I have found that if you simply memorize writing on a page, two things happen. First, if you forget one little thing, you are suddenly lost, struggling for the next word or line. Secondly, if you are thinking about words on the page, you are not as likely or able to interact with the audience, such as have good eye contact with them, etc. For that reason,  I recommend if you are creating a story to be read, write it. Then the words are all important. However, if you are creating a story to be told, tell it, then write it afterward or record it electronically as you tell it if you think you will forget it and need to refresh yourself later. Storytelling involves words, but also the face, the eyes, the voice, the body. None of that can be written easily on the page. Also, there are big difference in the way things will be said. If you have a written story, you will likely see things like “Sally said…” “He said…” In telling a story, you probably would not say that. You can tell by your body and voice who is speaking. To say “he said” or “she said” would just be boring.

Traditionally there was a world of difference between on oral story and a written one. Societies that had no written language or societies in which few people wrote, told stories in a completely different way. Things were repeated again and again with small variations throughout the story in ways which would lose an audience’s interest today. The whole structure was different. I think telling a good story today is a compromise between the old way and the written way.

What is the difference between a fable, a parable, and a fairy tale?

I think I would like to expand this question to include also, folk lore and folk tale because it can be confusing. First, let’s look at the words “folk lore.” “Folk” means people, and “lore” is any kind of wisdom or knowledge. Folklore, then can be any kind of wisdom of knowledge that was or is passed down among the people it can be stories, it could be some sort of craft or medicinal knowledge. “Folk tales” are specifically tales or stories that were told by the people. This is different from a modern story. Each piece of modern literature is written by a person or perhaps a couple people, in some cases. Folk tales are not. They were passed down orally – mouth to mouth. No one person invented a folk tale. Sometimes you will see books containing a folk tale and it will say “ by” and then an author’s name, but this is, in fact, inaccurate. In actuality, it should read “retold by” because the “author” has not made up that story, but simply told it in his or her own way. A folk tale has been passed down generation to generation, changing over time, often existing with many variations, and often existing in many countries. There is no author. Many folk tales were collected and written down during the 1800’s and so we think of them as being static, as being what we see on the page, but that is only the version that was recorded. A fairy tale is something different in a sense. A fairy tale is often a magical story that involves, if not fairies, magical creature or events, typically in an unspecified time and place, and often has a transformation included in the story.  It may or may not be a folk tale. Some folk tales are fairy tales, some are not. Hans Christian Anderson wrote (he made up) fairy tales, as have other authors. The Brothers Grimm collected fairy tales that were folk tales, and did not make them up. To make this even more confusing, at the time of the Grimms, (they were German) there was no distinction yet between folk and fairy tales as there is today. The word they used which meant both was marchen Now for parable and fable. I am actually going to get out my dictionary for this one. I infrequently tell fables. According to my old Websters Dictionary a parable is a species of fable. A parable is a “story or allegorical relation or representation of something real in life or nature from which a moral is drawn for instruction.” The same dictionary describes a fable as “A feigned story or tale , intended to instruct or amuse: a fictitious narrative intended to instruct some useful truth or precept.”  Hmmm…I believe I would like to leave this distinction to someone wiser than myself.  I’m not certain how much more I can add to that discussion beyond the hint if you always use the word “fable” for either of the two, you’ll not be wrong.

 If you could be one character in a story who would you be and why?

If I could be one character in a story, I might like to be Baba Yaga, from Russian lore. She is the witch-like character who lives in a house that stands and rotates on chicken legs and is surrounded by a fence of skulls and bones in the woods. She rides in a mortar rowing with a pestle and sweeps away her tracks behind her with a broom. Yes, she is strange, but what I like about her is this. All the heros and heroines are always lacking something, and so venture forth on a journey to find that thing, be it wife, a husband, a kingdom, riches, a key to unlock a spell, whatever it may be. They go on a journey, at last obtain what they need, and it is over. They live happily ever after. Baba Yaga, however is just there. She is unchanging, and unconcerned with those things. She has an eternal quality about her and is surrounded by symbols of life (seeds) and death (bones and skulls.) She is powerful and deeply connected with nature. Recall her three riders, the red one – her dawn, the white one-her day, and the black one- her night. She is full of mystery and appears as some sort of primeval natural force. I like her for that.

If you could have coffee with one famous storyteller who would it be and why?

I might like to have tea (I’ve never been one for coffee) with either Jacob or Wilhelm Grimm. I am fascinated by their collection process – scouring old libraries for manuscripts and interviewing peasants for their folk tales. However, I am also interested in the other work of the Grimms. Jacob, the older of the two, did a great deal of work regarding the classification of languages, discovering the roots and origins of the languages that spread across Europe and beyond. Inside an unabridged dictionary, you might well find a language tree showing the relationship of all the Indo-European languages. We owe this tree to Jacob Grimm. He and Wilhelm also created a German dictionary that was so great in scope, and took so long to compile, that it was not finished until almost a century after they began its work, in 1960 though the project was begun in the 1852. That would certainly be something to discuss over tea! (Though rumor has it the brothers passed on sometime during the entries for the letter “F” so I’m not sure if they’d have the full picture on the project.) Jacob and his younger brother Wilhelm, the sickly, and more social of the brothers translated the Elder and Younger Eddas. The brothers  taught themselves to read a dozen languages, and much of the knowledge we have today of the old Norse myths stems from their translation work of the Eddas.  Again, that would make for very interesting conversation. Another option might be to speak with a now unknown Celtic storyteller as I would be curious about how stories were studied, learned and told, and since the Celts had no written language, much of that process remains mysterious today.

What inspires you as a storyteller?

This has changed over time. Initially I was interested in the actual physical telling of the story – the sound of the characters, what they might be like. Now I am more interested in noticing the transition between the oral tradition and the written tradition, and also the world wide similarities among folk tales.

What advice would you give a storyteller faced with writer’s block?

Sometimes the best way to make progress is to step away from the work. My greatest inspirations come at times when I am not just sitting at a table with a pen in hand, but rather when driving, walking my dalmatian, Cuchulain, in the woods, lying in bed, or even soaking in the bathtub. ( I heard Agatha Christie, the mystery writer, used to write in the tub. I think she was really on to something.) The key is to be in a relaxed state where you can access your imagination. I also helps to have a great deal of knowledge about a variety of subjects so that you may draw on that, combine things in new ways and be original.

What stories are you working on presently?

I am working on a puppet show and it involves a leprechaun that comes to the New World, but I won’t tell you any more. It’s a secret! (Leprechauns are known to be secretive, you know.) Actually, the idea comes from a talk on leprechauns I gave years ago. When I was researching them, I was astounded at the number of people I personally met who claimed to have seen Leprechauns in the U.S. so I thought I would do a show on that premise. Apparently we have a large indigenous population of Leprechauns here, or maybe they emigrated at the time of the potato famine. Whatever the case, they certainly weren’t registering at Ellis Island. Interestingly, the people who testified to seeing Leprechauns here weren’t necessarily Irish or Irish descendants but were from a broad variety of backgrounds including Native American so keep your eyes peeled!

Finally, what advice would you give to someone wishing to pursue a career in storytelling?

First and foremost, tell stories. You will improve as you perform, and as you age too as your understanding of the stories will deepen. There may seem a great deal to learn at first, but really, it an illusion. When dealing with folk tales, eventually you will find that there is a tremendous repetition of plots among them. These storylines exist regardless of the location world wide with only slight variations and so like me, you will find a story from Norway will be almost identical to one told in China. (This is true of folk tales, not modern literary tales.) According to one classification system of folk tales, there may be as few as a hundred of these story possibilities, even when the plot seems relatively complex. Sometimes the elements are mixed and matched. Sometimes the story is almost the same entirely. And the story lines can skip from folk tale to myth, and remain relatively unchanged. What this means for you, is that learning a great body of material is entirely possible. Often when I am telling stories, kids will ask me how many stories I know, and I really don’t know how to answer as there are a limited number out there, with many variations. Once you get to a certain point, you find the stories are repeating, and so they become very easy to learn, since you already know the story. Someday, when someone asks you how many folk tales you know, perhaps you will be able to  quite honestly answer “all of them.”

Though I know this article is about storytelling, and storytelling is an interesting profession, I would like to encourage young people to go into puppetry. The truth is, there are few itinerate puppeteers left. Almost no young people are entering the profession and old puppeteers are dying off or retiring. If this continues, once the middle age puppeteers reach retirement, live puppet shows will become rare indeed, and many young people may never experience the excitement and wonder of that kind of live performance. In one sense, puppetry is a form of visual storytelling and the two profession share many techniques. Both puppetry and storytelling tell a story. Both require voice work. Puppetry is more labor intensive, but creates a worthwhile and unique experience that I believe is worth the extra effort, and it allows the artist to create mobile visual art as well as using the artist’s vocal expression. For those intending to go into puppetry, you may search out Puppeteers of America online for information and resources. (There are also Canadian members, in fact, the Great Lakes Regional Conference was held in Canada this year.) For those interested in storytelling who wish to join an organization there is LANES or the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling, and also NSA or the National Storytelling Association that has a yearly conference in Jonesborough,TN each October for those wanting to surround themselves with great storytelling.


Where can we find out more about your work?

My website is www.thepuppets.com.


Copyright 2005-2011, Jolene Owen. All rights reserved. This interview is free to copy, publish and circulate. You may reprint or publish it without permission in any format. Please credit: Jolene Owen as interviewer. The views expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the interviewer or the official position of the publishing company, its various departments and/or the Institute of Interactive Journalism. If you’d like to be interviewed, or would like to send our team an interview, or just send us lots of gifts and candy, contact us at: inspiring.interviews@gmail.com.  Please do not try to contact interviewees through the institute. We never release confidential information or fwd messages. No exceptions.

Lynn Flewelling– Writer

Lynn Flewelling was born in 1958 and grew up in Presque Isle, a small town in northern Maine, not far from the New Brunswick border, and often crossed over to visit relatives in southern Canada, and to vacation there. (She’s a quarter Canadian, on her dad’s side.) An “Anne of Green Gables” fan, she has very fond memories of Prince Edward Island. She also watched a lot of Canadian TV and knows Mr. Dressup, the Beachcombers, Junior Forest Rangers, and the Friendly Giant as well as she does US childhood icons.

She grew up playing in the woods, hunting, fishing, camping and daydreaming. Many scenes and people in her books are based on these early experiences. Later she went to university and earn a degree in English literature and teaching, studied veterinary medicine and did all sorts of different jobs, including house painter, teacher, and journalist, but what she really wanted was to be a writer.  But in her part of the world being a writer wasn’t considered a “realistic” goal and so she tried to be a teacher instead. But some dreams just don’t let go, so she wrote anyway and at last became a newspaper writer, and then a novelist.

Her first novel, Luck in the Shadows, was published in the US in 1995. Stalking Darkness and Traitor’s Moon soon followed in what has become the ongoing Nightrunner Series.  More recently she has completed the Tamir Triad: The Bone Doll’s Twin, Hidden Warrior, and The Oracle’s Queen.  In her books she likes to pose questions about identity, and what it means to be male and female, strong and weak, good and bad. The answers aren’t always easy, or happy.

Her books have found an audience worldwide and are currently in print in thirteen languages, including Russian and Japanese. She recently moved to southern California and is now working on two new Nightrunner books. She enjoys talking to young writers and all creative people.


What made you want to become a writer?

I was always a reader, but when I was in sixth grade a friend gave me Ray Bradbury’s book, The Illustrated Man, and I was blown away by his rich, evocative style. Something clicked in my mind and I suddenly thought “I want to do that!”  I was a kid who loved to play “let’s pretend” too. I guess writing is a way of doing that all the time.


Was the journey difficult? 

Writing wasn’t considered a realistic goal where I grew up. Writing was something other people in other places did. I should think in terms of a “real job”. And in the early ’70’s in northern man, a girl who was really good a writing was encouraged to be a teacher. I didn’t know any better so I tried that, but by the time I was done student teaching in college, I knew it wasn’t for me. I was already writing short stories by then.  I didn’t have much direction though, and still thought writing wasn’t a realistic way to make a living, so I tried other things, like ad copy-writing and veterinary school, but writing kept getting in the way and distracting me. After a while I just gave in and started doing it seriously, but still with no expectation of ever getting published. I had been working on the manuscript that would eventually become Luck in the Shadows and Stalking Darkness when by chance I took a writing workshop with a writer I really admired, Cathy Pelletier. She’s from northern Maine, too, and is simply amazing. I  was rather shy, since I write fantasy, which many literary writers look down their nose at, and she wrote more “serious” books. But she loved my work! It really changed my perspective and gave me the confidence to pursue publishing. I owe her a lot, and the only thing she ever asked of me in return was to pass on that kind of support to other young writers. I’ve always tried to do that.

When I finally finished what I thought was my first book (after about ten years of writing and rewriting) I had to learn how to sell a book, a whole separate skill in itself. That was a learning experience, and one I have since written articles about. Ultimately, I got good advice along the way, connected with a very good literary agent, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been a full time writer since 1995.

Any lessons learned on your writer’s journey?

Many, many lessons! You have to be confident in yourself, but you also have to be open to learning from those who know more than you do. You have to be willing to do the hard work it takes to become good at your craft, and you have to be able to weather criticism without being destroyed by it.


Where does that inner drive to write come from?

I  honestly don’t know. It’s just always been there and I’m lucky that I learned how to harness it and work with it. I have a natural drive to create, but unfortunately cannot draw or paint very well, and I’m too self conscious to be an actress

. Instead, I have to do it with words on a page.


How do you keep readers turning pages?

The short answer is, I tell a good story. You have to first create characters that readers care about. They don’t necessarily have to be nice people, but they have to be interesting, and they have to change and grow as the story goes on. There have to be events that challenge them. There has to be some sort of journey, literally or figuratively, for them to lead the reader along. By the end of the book, both reader and characters must be changed in some way.  There are just so many different ways of doing this! I use mystery, dramatic tension, humor, horror–lots of different devices, but all of them must serve to move the story forward and aide in the tale to be told. You can’t just throw things in for shock value. That’s a cheat and the reader will catch on and not like it.


How often will you revise and re-write your work?

Many, many, many, many times. That first draft is just that: a first draft. A place to begin. I hate first drafts myself. It’s hard, getting the plot hammered out. But once I’ve gotten the main structure of the story in place, the bones, it’s fun to go back and add on details, changes, foreshadowings, all the fun, fiddley bits that really make it come alive.


What are some creative ways you’ve learned to generate ideas?

I daydream. And when I get the first inspiration for a new project, I buy a pretty new notebook, a really nice one that “feels” right for the project, and write down every new idea that comes to me. Inspiration comes from living life. Everything that’s every happened to me, everything I’ve ever read or seen on TV or in a movie or out a train window– it all goes into the great subconscious brain we writer’s draw from. When I show up at the page to work, very often scenes come shooting out my fingertips that I never anticipated or planned. It just happens as you work and trust.


What are some practical solutions for writer’s block?

That’s a tough question. Some writers never get writers block. I do, and sometimes it can get pretty bad. There are so many reasons, and so many degrees that it would be impossible to give a short answer to that. But here are a few suggestions. Sometimes you’re trying to push the story in the wrong direction. Step back in ask yourself if the reason the scene won’t come is because it’s just wrong.   Sometimes the brain is tired and needs a rest. Go do something else. Take a walk. Go shopping. Watch a movie. Make something. Use a different part of the brain, one that doesn’t have to generate words. I find photography very refreshing.  The worst case, is when you’re fearful of doing it wrong. That takes work and understanding.   If possible, set small, attainable work goals. Show up at the page. Write a little bit, anything, and give yourself permission for it to be complete and utter crap, just so long as you show up to work.


Do you have a favorite book?

Oh, I  have lots, but the Sherlock Holmes stories are high on the list. I have read them many times, so the mysteries are not an element anymore, but I love the characters. There’s quite a bit of Sherlock Holmes in my hero, Seregil.


Do you have a favorite time of day when you like to write?

My brain often works best between 2 and 6 p.m.. I have no idea why.


What is one saying or proverb you live by?

“Respect the dignity of every human being.”


What advice would you give kids who wish to pursue a career in writing?

1. Read, read, read, and read some more! Novels, short stories, plays, especially the sort of literature you want to write. And as you do, ask yourself things like  “How is this writer capturing my interest?” or “Why don’t I like this story?”  Reading does many things. It shows you how writing works. I learned a lot about creating characters from people like Conan Doyle, Tolkien, Anne Rice, Robertson Davies, John Steinbeck, and Dostoyevsky. I learned about dramatic tension from Stephen King, Henry James, Joyce Carol Oates and Shirley Jackson. I learned about atmosphere from writers like Bram Stoker, Ray Bradbury, and William Faulkner. Those are just a few examples, but it gives you an idea of  how diverse my reading tastes are. That’s important.  You shouldn’t read just one kind of literature, any more than you should eat only one kind of food. Fish may be very  healthy, but you won’t live long eating only fish! Variety is the spice of life, and creative people thrive on variety and diversity and change. Life is our scrapbook and the more we experience, the more we have to draw on for our work.

2. Know your tools.   Grammar, spelling, parts of speech, vocabulary? Boring! Yeah, I know. But those are the tools of a writer’s trade and you have to know them so well that you can use them without even thinking about them. It’s just like playing a musical instrument or driving a car. It takes a lot of practice but after a while it becomes instinctive.

3. Write. Write without expectation, too. Your early work will most likely be terrible. Everyone’s is! But you don’t get better by waiting to be good. You have to write and write and write, practice, practice, practice, to improve. Don’t worry about publishing. Just worry about become a good writer and the rest will come in time.

4. Write what you love. Writing is hard work, especially for those of us who do it for a living, on deadline. If you don’t like what you’re doing, it’s misery. Explore what you love and do that. It might be short fiction, or essays, or ad copy, or science fiction, comics, or gritty political satire. Doesn’t matter. If you love it, do it!  Follow your bliss. I can’t promise you riches, but you’re more likely to find personal satisfaction.

Where can parents and kids find out more about your work?




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