How Does a Story Grow?


The lovely Kyo Maclear, author of inventive picture books such as Virginia Wolf, Mr. Flux, Spork, Julia, Child and luminous adult fiction (Stray Love, The Letter Opener) tagged me to take part in this tour about the writer’s process. Here goes!

1) What am I working on?

Two things! I’m going through a round of edits on my first picture book, to be published by Tundra Books in the near future, and finishing up an outline for a new middle grade novel that is decidedly X-Files-ish.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Voice is what sets books apart. Finding the right voice for a story can be challenging, but when you get it right, the story just sings. My voice isn’t any better or worse than any other writers’, but it is completely my own. When I taught creative writing I would tell my students that there is no such thing as a new idea, but what makes each story special is how it is told. I could give the same general outline to ten people and they would give me ten very different stories.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I veer towards the 9-12 age group because it was an important reading age for me personally.The middle grade years  were the richest reading years of my life. I was the furthest thing from a book snob, I would read anything and everything. In some ways, I am writing for my 11 year old self. I often stop and ask myself, “Do I like this story now? Would I have liked it when I was 11?”  I also think this time period is crucial in developing  identity and outlook on life. I am a big believer that what you read as a kid shapes who you will become as an adult (this might be a direct quote from You’ve Got Mail…)

4) How does your writing process work?

Normally I ruminate on something small- a name, a sentence, an image- until it becomes part of a greater story. The rumination (or percolation process, as I like to think of it) can take a loooong time. I think about a story until I get to the point where I absolutely must write it down or bust. I tend not to write in order, instead I jump into the scenes that interest me the most. Then I fill in necessary scenes as they crop up. This can make for some painful editing  sessions, but it keeps me engaged and on my toes and allows for those lovely surprises that happen while writing.

Next week, three of my favourite writers will be tackling the same questions:

Susin Nielsen has many adoring fans, but I count myself among her BIGGEST fans. Her books make me laugh, gasp, cringe and cheer. I cannot wait to see what she does next.

Megan Crewe is another Canuck I admire. Her books have big, speculative premises (ghosts, pandemics, alien invasions) but at the core, her stories are about the everyday realities of life.



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