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So, it turns out that my joy at nearly finishing was a bit premature. Not terribly premature (all is wrapped up now), but a last-minute flurry of fixes kept my eyes on Word, and off just about all things internet-related. Now that it’s officially complete (hooray!!), I can simply cheer on the author and turn my attention to other projects and things that inspire.

The photo above was taken yesterday, as I sunk my toes into the sand and soaked up some sunshine, giving my eyes a break from the computer and doing some editing on paper. Now I’m back here online, and looking forward to sharing more good things with you in the week ahead!

In the meantime, I wanted to share a really sweet moment of inspiration that happened in the middle of wrapping up this last edit. When my kids were young, I was very involved in a local mommy group. Although I don’t see most of the moms anymore, due to schedules and moves and all the “life” stuff that happens over the course of a decade, we still carry that connection and bond.

Late last week, one of those mommy connections reached out and said that her son was preparing a career report for school. He wanted to interview a writer, and asked if he could ask me a few questions. He’s elementary school aged, and… fair warning… brevity is not a strong suit of mine. I responded in a manner that I would speak with a kid about his age, but (of course), my answers were terribly long.

No matter, I still hope he got some insight and was able to share a glimpse of the writing life with his class!

There is nothing like having a kid reach out to ask you questions about what you do and why you do it! It’s a great reminder that our kids are paying attention, and imagining different career identities that might fit. I felt so honored that he and his mom thought to reach out to me.

So, I wanted to share with you that which I shared with him. Enjoy. 🙂

If you’re a writer or a creative, or if you do something else that is your calling and you love to do, please… share how you’d answer his question in the comments below!

Sometimes it takes me a few days to reply to comments, but I will read it and I will reply… and I very much appreciate your thoughts!

1.  Why did you choose to be an author?

I think writing chose me, more than I chose writing!

I always loved to read as a little kid. I probably read at least four chapter books a week all through elementary school. I always had my head in a book! I liked to write skits and plays and short stories, and I had an amazing babysitter who would make up fairy tales with me and we would act them out. My two favorite things were acting and reading, so making up stories felt natural!

Then I studied business and worked in a bunch of different places, like a college admissions office, and a pottery studio, and an airline, and a fish research facility. All sorts of different places with all sorts of different people. Working in different jobs helped me see and connect with lots of people, which helped me understand how to write characters and stories better. It’s very good for an author to have a lot of experiences, and to always observe the world for clues about how people interact and what makes them happy and sad in life.

All along the way, I kept reading. I wrote too as a grownup, but not really my own stories. I found that I was often asked to write for my jobs—things like training materials and press releases.

Then, when I became a mama, I was home with my babies, and writing a newsletter for the mommy group. One of the other mommies was a professional writer called a journalist (a newspaper reporter), and when her editor asked if she could recommend another writer to help out, she gave her my name! I was so happy because I always really wanted to write, but I didn’t know if I was brave enough. That gave me a lot of confidence, and I’ve been writing professionally ever since!

I’ve written for newspapers and websites, and I’ve written stories for children and adults that have been published. One of my favorites is a story called Kayla Wayman: Junior Time Traveler. It’s about a girl who gets lost on a time jump and has to find her way home. It’s a novel (chapter book) that was written by more than 20 authors!! My friend and I taught them all how to write a chapter in a book, and then we collected the chapters. I edited all of them, and we added some more chapters that were missing, and ended up with a really fun book for kids around your age! It’s about a fifth-grade reading level.

I also have several stories that I’m working on right now that haven’t been published yet, but I’m revising them. I like to write for both kids and grownups.

2.  What training do you need to become an author?

The best training you can have to be an author is simply to write a lot!

Some authors get an undergraduate degree in English or Communications, but many study other things and decide to become an author later in life.

Some authors decide to get a Master’s Degree (called an MFA) in Creative Writing, especially if they want to be a teacher in addition to being an author. An MFA can improve an author’s writing and help them connect to agents and editor who can help them publish their book, but it’s not required.

The only thing that an author really needs to do is WRITE and READ as often as possible… and be willing to accept criticism!

3. What do you do as an author?

There’s a lot that you do as an author!

First off, you’re always reading books and observing the world around you. That’s where a lot of story ideas come from. It’s also fun to get together with other authors and talk about writing ideas!

Then, you gather story ideas and either start writing the story, or start writing what is called an outline (a plan or a list for what will happen in the story).

An outline of Little Red Riding Hood might look like:
—little girl (red cape)
—big bad wolf
—grandma sick
—mom asks little girl to take food to grandma
—goes into forest
—wolf tries to distract little girl
—she says no
—girls gets distracted anyway looking at flowers
—meanwhile, wolf finds grandma’s house
—wolf eats grandma whole
—little girl gets to house
—grandma (really wolf) looks weird
—little girl notices wolf’s eyes and teeth aren’t right
—wolf tries to eat little girl
—hunter sees what is happening, saves the day
—grandma okay, little girl okay
—hunter hero
—wolf runs away

Some authors like to just write and see what happens. They would only know that there’s a girl and a wolf and a forest, and start to write and find out what the story will be.

Some like to start with an outline first so they know exactly who their characters are, where they are, and what they’re going to do during the story.

I’m somewhere in the middle. I like to have a basic plan of how the story will start and end, and think about my main character, but that’s about it!

Once you have your idea, you have to write and write and write and write until you’re done with a whole story.

When you’re done with what’s called a first draft, most authors put their story away for a little while. They might be tired of thinking about it, or they might love it too much to make any changes yet. That’s a good time to start on a new idea, or take a little time to relax.

After a couple of months, you pull your story back out, and read through it again, to see what you have to change. Once you make a second draft, you ask a couple people you trust to read your story and give feedback, or hire an editor. They tell you what was confusing, or what they didn’t understand, or how the story can be better. So, you think about it, and then you rewrite it again!!

When you rewrite, you don’t have to change the whole thing and start over again. You just keep what works, and add to the story or change it where it doesn’t sound very good or it’s confusing.

When you finally feel like you did enough rewriting, you decide if you want to publish your own book or try to get someone else to publish it for you!

If you publish it, you hire an editor and a book cover designer and maybe an illustrator and a formatter (person who separates it into pages) and a printer. You put it all together, and then you start to sell your book! It takes money to publish your own book, but some people really like to be able to sell it themselves. It’s the fastest way to share your book with the world too.

If you want to get someone else to publish it for you, first you write what’s called a query letter. That’s a one-page letter that tells an agent (person who helps you sell your book to a publisher): what your story is about, and why you’re the best person to write the book. If they like your letter and think they could help you get it published, then they ask for the manuscript (that’s what a book is called before it’s been published) and they read that. If they still like it, they will make an offer and tell you how they can help you get your book published. Then, they have to write a one-page letter about your book to send to publishing houses, and it’s the same process. It can take a very long time!! If a publisher loves your idea, then they will say how you should edit it again—maybe a few times, and they’ll start to figure out the book cover and illustrator and everything. Finally, they’ll announce a date it will be published, and start asking libraries and bookstores to order your book.

Sometimes, it can take an author five or more years from they day they write their story to the day that you can buy it in a store!!

Every children’s book author will tell you that their FAVORITE part of writing a book is actually going to read it to a group of kids!! It is so fun to visit schools and libraries and read the story and answer questions.

Also as an author, you are always trying to learn through workshops and classes, and talking with other authors.

Plus, you always have to keep writing stories!! Since it can take so long for one story to go from an idea in an author’s head to a book in a reader’s hands, it is a very good idea to always have a few more stories ready.

A couple of ways that authors can work while they are waiting for their book to come out is to teach kids and grownups how to write better, or work as an editor improving other authors’ stories. They can also write for websites or magazines, which publish stories (share them with readers) a lot faster.

ABOUT < OF LOVE + LIGHT >

Of Love + Light is a place for uplifting media, creative inspiration, art, nifty creative publications, and storytelling. I also offer editing, creativity coaching, and small business communications planning services. Founded by Alana Garrigues, Of Love + Light is your place to come, relax, feel inspired and loved, and share more of what’s good on this beautiful planet.

Of Love + Light has infinite possibilities, and YOU are a huge part of what this will look like. Want to talk? Send me an email!

“Ask an Author: Kid Interviews” was posted as part of the Daily Dose: Inspired series. 

Daily Dose: Inspired… Looking for a small something to get you inspired to take on the day? This is the place to come for a photo, a song, a pick-me-up quote, a little slice of happy. At least, these are the things that inspire me!