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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Scrabble and Scratch of It All

A lot of writers I know bounce between two worlds.  I’m no different.
Most writers are introverts by nature, wouldn’t you say?  We make forays into the real world, look around with delight and excitement, but then retreat to our hidey-holes to work. 
It’s in our writing spaces that we spend huge amounts of time dreaming, digesting and then translating.  We change ideas into symbols.  Then we undo, destroy and rework lots of what we just did.  Scratch, scrabble, gnaw, pause, erase, pause, write, pause, erase again; we are creatures who dig into and chew our way through life.  We stop answering the phone.  We do everything but disappear into our pages.
For me at least, that’s one side of how I live.  The other side loves to be out there in the world and has lots to say about it.  The other side gets inspired by my contact with kids, by the way they see, and by hearing from readers of all ages.  And now that I’ve just finished my sixth mystery, I am traveling and talking quite a bit.  In order to do this right, I sharpen my thinking in various directions, shaping it to fit the audience.  If talking with kids only, I try to reveal how I made these books and to share the mess, worry and thrill of it all.  If speaking at a convention or book festival, I may also be focusing on common core issues, fiction versus nonfiction in our schools, literacy, libraries, and the balance between electronic media and books. 
Django hopes to go along
This process of gathering my thoughts for a talk is always both centering and energizing.  It forces me to roll the cat hair off my clothes, shove whatever I’ve been working on to one side and come up for fresh air, and I always enjoy my interaction with the professionals and kids that I meet.  Always.  I wonder, at these times, why I don’t say Yes to more.
And then suddenly I’m back home, jiggety-jig, and as soon as my suitcase is unpacked, zing!  I’m like a magnet in front of steel.  I’m back glued to my chair in the laundry room, typing or scribbling away.  And as I’m one who clearly loves to make books, almost everything I do in my workspace centers on that.  It’s as if the everyday world fades and vanishes when I step into my hidey-hole. 
It’s a bit rubber-band-like, this stretch-snap-stretch that defines my real world vs. my writing world. 
I think I like this blog business – I’m in the laundry room, but also here with you.  I’ll have to remember that this is possible.  But wait – hold on a moment while I scribble down an idea that just occurred, one to go in the next book!  Just a moment…


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