Hey, This Story Wants To Be Something Else!

Okay!  So I’ve been tussling with Because Of The Red Fox in your traditional novel form.   And I’ve been making sketches — seeing whole flows of pages and a whole different ordering of the story — in manga form.  It’s quite possible that this story wants to be something else right now!  Maybe it will turn back into a novel, or maybe I’ll find that a 10 volume manga series (what it seems to want to be right now) is its true form.  Or maybe some combination of both:  a graphic novel followed by a novelization.  Who knows!

Here’s what I’m going to do this week:  outline that manga series, and make some sketches.  Next Friday I’ll share some of what I’ve come up with.

In the meantime, I’ll post a little here about the workshop I went to yesterday.  Children’s historical fiction writer Karen Cushman spoke to a group of teens and parents about writing novels and about how to bring historical fiction to life.  Karen Cushman has written 9 novels (7 are out in the world), including a Newbery Honor and a Newbery Award winner for most distinguished children’s books.  She even brought her Newbery medal for us to see.

Now, when I was growing up I read voraciously, and several of my very favorite books ended up being Newbery Award winners.  I had this dream of writing an amazing magical fiction series like Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence, and winning a Newbery Award for one of them, as she did, and becoming an acclaimed writer.

So here I am yesterday, listening to Karen Cushman talk about writing, seeing her manuscripts, and glimpsing that Newbery Award.  I think about my own novel and my struggles with it.  A big part of the tussle has been that for ages I’ve seen comic art as some of the story, perhaps even all of it — but it’s hard to let go of that dream of being a mainstream published children’s book writer with the possibility of winning that Newbery.  That probably seems a bit silly!  It both does and doesn’t to me.

It does — because I’ve won lots of awards over the years.  I find that they mark events or accomplishments that are important to me at the time, but they themselves are not important.  It’s nice to be recognized by others for one’s love of something and dedication to it, and for doing it well (most of my awards were for music), but in the end I don’t need those medals and certificates to remind me of my love for those things.  And indeed I’ve gotten rid of all those medals and certificates and trophies (I took pictures of them and let them go).

It doesn’t — because writing children’s novels has been a dream of mine since I was 7 years old!  Though at this point I must admit that I may have held on to it so long more because it was a long-held dream than because it really still is my dream.  When I was that young I also drew comics.  If graphic novels or manga had been part of my life then, would I have longed to be a writer/illustrator of that form?

In the end, these questions don’t matter.  Right now I have a story that wants to be in a form that others can enjoy too.  I have no deadlines for completing the story except for what I type right here to you.  I want the story to be fun.  And, no, it doesn’t have to win any medal.  If I end up creating it and publishing it in manga or graphic novel form it doesn’t mean that I can’t write novels later!

As a child I created my comics and newsletters and novels and stories just for the love of it, not because I was trying to get something published.   I imagine that whatever you like to create — stories, art, or anything else — it’s because it’s what you love to do.  In the end creating is just our own personal adventure with some art or project that wants to be here too.

What are you writing, drawing, building, creating — right now?

Leaf 6 done … for now

This is Shell here, presenting the amazing fact that Jane has just posted the rest of Leaf 6. It’s all bundled up in that chapter, not presented as a separate installment.

When I was spying on Jane this morning I could see that she wasn’t totally happy with how that chapter is. And I know she’s been spending a bit of time with a pile of notes and some pen scrawls about this and that regarding plot and characters and stuff. I guess things will probably change around with the story before it’s totally done.

Isn’t that weird? As the main character of the story I think it’s really weird to think that Jane might change things about what I do or say and all that! It makes me wonder what reality is really like? Is someone editing our stories every once in awhile, making what we say sound more fun, or cool or wise? Are we doing that ourselves?

Okay, those are just some odd thoughts I have right now. What weird thoughts do you have about things?

This is Shell, signing off for this week!

From Santa: Hot Breaking News! Leaf 6, Pt 1!

This is Santa, your eye-witness reporter, giving you all the news that’s all good all the time. Yes, you heard it here first, folks. The next installment of the enticing, and intriguing Because Of The Red Fox is now available for public viewing. And here with me today is author Jane Valencia, for a brief interview.

Santa: Tell me the truth, Ms. Valencia. Rumor has it that you’ve been struggling a lot with this chapter.

Jane: Wow, you just cut to the chase, don’t you. Well, yes, that’s absolutely true.

Santa: And why’s that? It looks like fun and frolic is in good order here. Annie and Shell and I have a good time. The chapter is loaded with chicken stuff, after all.

Jane: Well, see. That’s just it. You and Annie maybe crazy about chickens (I am too), but our readers may not be so totally over the top about chickens. Or even if they are, we have to make sure we tell a good story and keep it moving along.

Santa: Uh, just what are you saying? That we’re boring? That our obsession with chickens is boring?

Shell (offstage): You could say that!

Jane: That’s not what I mean at all. But there’s a balance to be had. I want to include some fun details and set some things up that will take place later in the story, but I don’t want the story to bog down.

Santa: Bog … down … but how can the details of our time there bog down the story? Everything we did and saw there is important!

Jane: Well, yes and no. I know you guys had an amazing and strange time at Magic Mouse. I just want to make sure that we keep the ‘amazing and strange’ in a straightforward and clear way (if that makes sense), and not muddle it by having an overdose of detail.

Santa: But it’s important to note down every chicken we saw at Magic Mouse. They reveal so much about–everything!

Jane: Maybe and maybe not. As the writer of the story I want to make sure that every detail moves the story along in some purposeful way. Some details are important to the plot, some are fun. But they all need to present something that’s a little bit new. My difficulty with this chapter has been in deciding what’s fun and purposeful, and what just bogs things down or just makes things confusing and over-the-top surreal.

Santa: That’s harsh.

Jane: I can see why you might be attached to everything I’ve written in this chapter (not included here). And it’s possible that it all may end up in the story anyway. But for me, even as the writer, I found myself getting bored as I read the chapter aloud. There were certain places where this happened. So I’ve just posted Leaf 6, Pt 1, because I’d reached a place where I got totally bored, and couldn’t figure out how to fix it right now.

Santa: [indistinct mumbling]

Jane: Please don’t be offended. I may not have been telling the story well enough. We’ll see. But it always helps to work on something, then take a break and do something else, then come back to it. And see what new ideas have come to mind. And reading aloud what you’ve written really helps to hear where things are working and where they aren’t.

Santa: Okay … well, we’ll just have to see what you come up with next week. You are going to finish the chapter next week, right?

Jane: Yup, one way or another. The purpose of my work on this book right now is to rewrite some scenes and storyline based on what I know from writing the whole first draft, tussle with some of the problems along the way, but just keep moving.

Santa: Sounds like a whole other interview we could have with you.

Jane: Yes, indeed.

Santa: Well, thank you for joining us today, Ms. Valencia. We’ll dive deep into the inner workings of this magnificent magical adventure tale in another interview. This is your eye-witness roving reporter, Samantha Wakefield-Brown, signing off.