Wow. I’ve really gotten side-tracked. We’re putting our condo on the market today and the past few weeks have been nothing but making home repairs; new carpet, paint, de-junking, rearranging. It’s been a workout to say the least, but hopefully it will pay off. We’re feeling the squeeze with the five of us in our little two bedroom condo, so we’re hoping to get something a little bigger by summer. Who knows? I might even have my own writing space. Fingers crossed, say a little prayer for me.

But far more exciting than housework was last Friday night. I sat five feet way from Rebecca Stead and her Editor, Wendy Lamb, while they talked about the process of WHEN YOU REACH ME. It was awesome. Ms. Stead and Ms. Lamb were both sharp and engaging, yet down to earth and personable, and I absorbed a lot out of the short hour. It really made me feel better about some things I’m struggling with in my own work.

For one, Ms. Stead told us that her first book, FIRST LIGHT, took her four years to write, partly because it was her first book, and partly because she had two little kids at home and only had nap-time for writing. “School time is significantly longer than nap time,” she said, and I might add more predictable. So I don’t feel so bad that I’ve recently hit my two-year mark for my WIP. I only have nap time, and often the naps of kid 2, don’t align with kid 3. Sometimes kid 2 doesn’t nap at all.

Second, Ms. Stead and Ms. Lamb talked about the writing and editorial process with WHEN YOU REACH ME. I was encouraged to hear that even after a few drafts Rebecca didn’t have it all figured out. There were still pieces missing in the picture and she didn’t get all the answer right away. BUT, she did say that she was determined to find the answers. “I didn’t want to just fudge it and then later have someone come to me and tell me how these things couldn’t really go together. I needed it to make sense for me, because I really just didn’t want to have that conversation down the road.”

And she did figure it out, over breakfast with her dad. I thought that was cool.

Someone asked her if she was an outliner or if she just went with it. “I don’t really know what I am,” she said, then explained that she usually has a general idea of where she wants to go, but there is a lot of black space. She doesn’t always know how she’s going to get from A to Z or even A to B.

It was neat to see the editor and author talking together and how that relationship worked. Wendy Lamb seems like a fabulous editor who has worked on some truly great books. The one things she told herself when she started with WHEN YOU REACH ME is “Light touch.” She didn’t line edit a thing, only made suggestions for some key passages and clues that would strengthen the overall structure of the story. Other books, even Ms. Stead’s FIRST LIGHT, Ms. Lamb said she’s had to take a hammer and really pound it out, but not WHEN YOU REACH ME.

They had readers of all ages, and every time they finished a new draft they found new readers, so they could gauge the reaction of someone reading it for the first time. “But you just never know,” Ms. Lamb said. You work hard and you believe in what you’re working on, but you just never know how it’s all going to turn out in the end. Like life.

Just before I left, Rebecca Stead signed my book, “Wishing you many good writing naps ahead.”

Thanks. When it comes to wishes for me, I’ll take all I can get.


3 comments

  1. Awesome post, Liesl! And I’m totally down there in the writing-during-naptime-(maybe) trenches with you:)

  2. Hi again, Liesl! Just wanted to let you know I gave you an award on my blog. Head on over there to check it out.

  3. I haven’t read this. Need to put it on the list…

    And I am so with you there on the nap thing. . .

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