There are multi-year college level courses to answer this question. But I’ll try to give you a brief answer. 1. First you need a good idea and some ability with language. 2. Then you need to dedicate time each day to writing and revising your idea until slowly it evolves into a marketable manuscript. 3. Finally you need a publisher who believes in your book as much as you do. The publisher does the work of actually publishing your book for you and distributing it. It’s hard work, it’s collaborative work, it’s joyous work, it’s heartbreaking work; it’s exhausting, consuming, and the odds against making any kind of profit are unimaginably high, but if you have a bit of grit, a love of language, a familiarity with story shapes, a story to tell, and a fair measure of luck, you might be fortunate enough to publish a book some day. Good luck!
The writing of LAVENDER fits your description perfectly. One day, many years ago, I sat down at my keyboard not knowing what to write, simply remaining open to whatever came to me. What came to me were thoughts of my aunt who has always been a very important part of my life. So I spent the morning writing about my aunt and my happy memories of her. In the afternoon I continued writing about my aunt. At the end of the day I had finished, more or less, writing LAVENDER. Here’s the really fascinating part…It turns out that as I sat down to write that morning, 500 miles away my aunt slipped on the ice in her driveway, breaking her leg in several places. She called and called for help but no one heard her. After dragging herself back into the house, she managed to phone for assistance and was taken to the hospital where she stayed for several days. Do you suppose at some unconscious level I heard my aunt calling from 500 miles away and wrote LAVENDER to comfort her?
I’m happy to report that my aunt fully recovered from this incident. And I suspect her favorite of all my books is LAVENDER. What do you think?
At last, MY THUMB arrives in bookstores. Written for those who derive comfort from a thumb, for those who love someone who derives (or once derived) comfort from a thumb, this book celebrates the unique bond between our darlings and their digits.
And just in from the medical community:
Compared to children with neither habit, those who sucked their thumbs and bit their nails were far less likely to develop sensitivities to common allergens, according to a report published Monday in Pediatrics.
This inquisitive lad is Asher, my great nephew, the inspiration for MY THUMB. Notice, the just-turned-seven-year-old has kicked the thumb-sucking habit.
On Mother’s Day weekend the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus performed their 20th anniversary concert. We’d been rehearsing since late Winter and all the music was written by our choral director, Rebecca (Becky) Graber. Above, I caught Becky and our sound engineer, Julian McBrowne, during a consultation. You can hear nearly the entire concert by following the link below. Let me know if you can spot me. Here’s a clue. I’m an alto. When the lower voices are singing alone, look carefully in that section for someone in orange.
Next across the finish line will be MY THUMB, due in bookstores this summer. In this rhyming picture book the joy of thumb-sucking knows no bounds…or very nearly so. Inspired by my great-nephew, who, to the best of my knowledge, is still dedicated to his thumb, this book is dedicated to our one and only Asher.
In the mid-1990s, after a snow storm on Mother’s Day, I decided I’d had enough of Vermont weather and began, with my husband, to explore other areas where the living might be a bit easier. One of our stops, Boone, North Carolina, held great promise. But in the end I realized, despite late season snows, Vermont really was my true home. Though I didn’t move to Boone, I wrote a book about it, a story about a boy and his father. That book, alas, was never completed, but a secondary character from the manuscript refused to remain in a file drawer. That character’s name was Justus Faulstich and she became the hero you know in JUST JUICE.
Most definitely. That’s one of the reasons I write. You might try writing when you’re feeling that way. Perhaps it will help you, too.
Absolutely not. No writer knows how their work will be viewed by the world. Such recognition comes like a lightening strike from out of the blue. It can stop your heart. It can also fill it with incalculable gratitude.
This photo of Lucille Burroughs was taken by Walker Evans during the Great Depression as part of the WPA project. When my editor began searching for a cover idea for OUT OF THE DUST, she stopped in a shop in New York City that featured photography. There she found a collection of Walker Evans’ images and selected this one, sending it to me with a post-it note attached, suggesting this would make a perfect cover. She had no idea how right she was. I, too, had been focused on this photograph while writing the book. It sat beside my computer along with several other images from the Agee/Walker book LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN.
It is not easy to understand life on the Aleutians without spending an extended period of time there. I was fortunate to have Ray Hudson as a consultant. Ray taught on the Aleutian Islands for 30 years; he knows the people and culture well. Even with extensive research I got many things wrong in my first drafts. I am ever grateful to Ray for helping me see where I’d misunderstood and misinterpreted my sources and how I might more accurately portray the people of the Aleutian Islands.
photograph of Ray Hudson from the Prairie Home Companion website