word craft


Summer Blog Series: Cathy Camper

From Avi: As I did last sum­mer, I’ve invit­ed 13 admired mid­dle grade authors to write for my blog for the next three months. I hope you’ll tune in each Tues­day to see who has answered these three ques­tions. You should have a list of ter­rif­ic books to read and share and read aloud by the end of the sum­mer … along with new authors to follow!

Your favorite book on writing:

This is not a book about the craft or the busi­ness of writ­ing, but there’s plen­ty of mate­r­i­al about that. 

As a young writer, I wor­ried about if I was a real writer. Was I writ­ing the right things, the cor­rect num­ber of words or pages a day? Becom­ing a Writer by Dorothea Brande is one of the only books I know that describes how writ­ers write, and one that ver­i­fied my expe­ri­ence. Brande talks about first sur­round­ing your­self with stim­u­lus for writ­ing, doing research, read­ing oth­er writer’s works, vis­it­ing locales for your book. Then she men­tions an incu­ba­tion peri­od — pur­pose­ly not focus­ing on the work, doing some­thing bland and method­i­cal instead, what she calls hav­ing “a floor to scrub.” Dur­ing this monot­o­nous activ­i­ty, ideas begin to pop up, seem­ing­ly from nowhere — and that is the time to sit down and write. Writ­ten in 1934, before left and right brain the­o­ries, and what we know now about the sub­con­scious, her book describes both how writ­ers use their con­scious and sub­con­scious brains, and the impor­tance of day­dream­ing and doing monot­o­nous action to nur­ture writing.

Reading aloud from my books:

Comics and graph­ic nov­els don’t often read well aloud because the text is too inter­twined with the illus­tra­tions. But when I first start­ed writ­ing Lowrid­ers in Space, I wasn’t sure if it would be a graph­ic nov­el or a pic­ture book, so I wrote a nar­ra­tion that would work for both, and that read well aloud. For a com­ic, of course it’s best to share the art too (use a pro­jec­tor if you’re read­ing in a class­room). But as a librar­i­an, I’ve observed many par­ents read­ing Lowrid­ers in Space to their kids, even preschool­ers, just like it was a pic­ture book. For younger kids, I also rec­om­mend Ten Ways to Hear Snow, because it’s fun to make all the dif­fer­ent snow nois­es, and to invent some of your own.

Where do you write most often?

Cathy’s most recent book cel­e­brates the beau­ty and diver­si­ty of life in the Arab dias­po­ra through­out the year.

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