Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Start here: learn something new

Beginning a new writing project has often been compared to taking off on a journey, or a hike, maybe, for short projects. When we start there's some trepidation. We don't know what lies ahead-- a surprise snake across the path? someone's territorial dog? Will we, or our story, fall into a pit?

But there's also an enticing anticipation--what will we see? A bird we've never seen. An old Native American fish weir? What will surprise us? What will happen that we'll never forget? What new character will come walking into our story and demand to have a voice? How will we be able to give that character a voice? Sometimes starting requires learning something, something about our characters' lives or places.

Today's guest, Toni Buzzeo, had a first and successful career as a school librarian who loved kids and loved books. That combination sparked an interest in writing for children. And that's Toni's second successful career. She has published, or has under contract, nineteen books for children and nine books for teachers and librarians. (My private theory is that she never sleeps.)

Toni says about beginnings:

"I almost always begin a new project in the same way and you'll understand why when I tell you that I am a librarian. I begin with some kind of research--may take notes, and steep myself in reality while my imagination begins to weave a fictional web. These days, I do that in my writing cottage, a space devoted to creation of story. Sometimes I spend a long, long time, six months or more, sometimes just a week or two. But when I'm ready to write, I know it. The story starts to push forward, to demand that I put words on a page which will be shaped, reshaped and hopefully someday published. For a librarian like me that research phase is an exciting part of the journey!"

Toni's newest book Lighthouse Christmas, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, available on October 13, required considerable research on the Flying Santa program, a New England tradition, and research on details of family life in a lighthouse.

When I research it feels as if I'm arming myself with new knowledge and becoming stronger, more able to do what I want to do with a story, whether it's fiction or non-fiction.

No comments:

Post a Comment