Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Primitive desktop . . .
Ampersand Literary, an online magazine for aspiring writers recently asked to interview me. The number one question on their list: When did you first become interested in writing?

Hmmm . . .  I don't remember the process of becoming interested. It's not like I had a plan. It's just something I've always done.

As an avid young reader, when I got really swept up in a book—like the Anne of Green Gables series so beloved by my mom—I'd amuse myself stealing, er, adapting my favorite moments from the book for characters I made up. That should have given me a clue.

When I read I Capture the Castle at about age 11, I was all afire to start a journal. At 12, I was corresponding with two European pen pals because I loved to write letters. At 15, I somehow qualified for a Press pass from Teen Set Magazine as a "campus reporter."

(Although nothing I submitted seems to have been accepted for publication —excellent training for my first couple of decades trying to get a book into print!)

But I had another passionate interest, as a child. I loved to draw.

Alias Hook, graphic novel-style.
For years, I kept an oversize, hardcover picture book, The Giant Book of Dogs, Cats, and Horses, under the sofa, with a bunch of blank sheets of typing paper and a pencil tucked inside. Whenever I was sitting there in front of the TV, I'd pull out the book and paper, and, using the book as a desktop, happily sketch away.

If I had any plan it all, it was probably to "be" an artist. Illustrated books were my favorites —the Alice in Wonderland books, the Oz books, Mary Poppins. But I never wanted to illustrate somebody else's stories; I always imagined writing and drawing my own.

I still have to draw all my characters—endlessly—before I can even begin to write about them. If graphic novels had been invented back in my misspent youth, maybe I would have started there.

Once in awhile, I diagram a scene from one of my books in comic book-style panels, so I can see it all laid out. It's fun for a couple of panels, but trying to construct an entire narrative in pictures would take way too much time away from writing the story.

For me, pictures are for illustrating the story. Actually telling the story takes words—glorious, aggravating, addictive words. And that's the part I still love most.

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