Monday, October 10, 2011

Growing as a Writer

Week of October 9—An Interview with Picture Book Author Jean Reidy
Monday, October 10—Growing as a Writer

This is the first installment of a five-part interview with picture book author, Jean Reidy.

Be sure to check out Jean’s latest book, Light Up the Night. The book is illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine and published by Disney/Hyperion Books.

Rob Sanders: We’ve all heard that the best way for beginning authors to learn to write is to read, read, read. What is the second most helpful way you discovered to learn and grow as a writer?

Jean Reidy: You can't top READING can you, Rob? And it’s so important, that I find it difficult to mention a second that even deserves to be on the same list. But here goes.

I found my most trusted and toughest critique group. I have two—an online group and a face-to-face weekly group—as well as a few individuals with whom I swap manuscripts from time-to-time. I learned to listen carefully to what they have to say about my writing. Then—and this is the key—I learned to figure out what they're really trying to say. I'm not suggesting that my critique partners are unable to articulate criticism, but too often I jumped on their comments with quick fixes or—worse yet—overcorrections that don't touch the heart of the problem. I remember rewriting an entire first chapter to solve a problem that really only needed an extra sentence to remedy. Now, I ask a lot of questions. I learn more from discussions about what's working and what's not with a manuscript than I do from most workshops or craft books.

Recently, I've been involved in an interesting discussion with a group of writer friends. One member of the group, who is a published and highly successful author/illustrator, was recently awarded a prestigious mentorship. In addition to the congratulations came the question, “Why would she need a mentor? She's already successful.” Well, that discussion reminded me of something my wise and wonderful agent, Erin Murphy once said, “. . . even after reaching a point that others would call ‘successful,’ you need to stay open to learning and growing, instead of resting comfortably on your laurels. I really think that continuing to challenge yourself in your craft is the key to not getting stagnant and outmoded.” Truly, we should always be learning, shouldn’t we?
RS: Everyone always wants to know where writers get their ideas. I want to know where you find your inspiration.

JR: I can do this best with a simple list. Here goes:

Jean Reidy’s 5 Unusual Places to Find Inspiration
Artist and Illustrator Websites
The Timeout Corner
Beat Boxing
At Your Day Job

It’s Your Turn!
1. Visit Jean’s web site at!  

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