Monday, April 5, 2010
Interview with Tracy Clark
Tracy you have accomplished so much in your writing career already, how inspiring! Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers and artist, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote?
My writing desk is literally covered in quotes! I’m a quote junkie because I think it’s important to surround myself with good thoughts to counteract the negative ones that sometimes creep in. If I had to choose a favorite that speaks to me as a writer, I’d say it is:
Feel the fear and do it anyway!
I love that quote because I think there is a lot about this business that taps directly into our fears. We put so much of ourselves into our work and then wonder: Am I good enough? How can I possibly succeed with so many amazing and talented people out there? What if I start submitting and nobody likes my work? These are all, thoughts I’ve had and these are the nice ones! Self-doubt can be paralyzing. I feel fear almost every time I sit down to write. But I do it anyway.
You have won many grants. Recently, you were the winner of the 2009 SCBWI WIP grant, congratulations. This is such an amazing accomplishment! Is there any advice or words of encouragement you’d like to offer others who are applying or thinking of applying for this grant?
Thank you! It is beyond exciting to be recognized in that way by the SCBWI. Their support of writers and illustrators is wonderful and so valuable to the children’s book industry as a whole. Winning that grant was such a boost to my confidence and has motivated me even more to persevere.
Initially, the grant application process intimidated me. However, it’s been demystified a bit since receiving three grants from the Nevada Arts Council as well as the Work in Progress Grant form SCBWI. My advice is to adhere strictly to the application guidelines, make sure the work you submit is as polished as can be, and don’t be afraid to show a little personality! Go for it! You’ve got to risk putting yourself out there to reap the benefits.
Ellen Hopkins was one of your mentors for the Nevada SCBWI mentor program. Could you fill us in on what it was like having a, New York Times Bestselling author as your mentor?
Intensely humbling and transformative! Ellen Hopkins is so gifted and brilliant, but people might not know how very down to earth she is also. She was tough at times, but always spot-on in rooting out my weaknesses. And there were many! Poor Ellen, I remember one email where she had to point out that I had switched pov three times…in the same paragraph! I was a mess. From her, I worked on basics, point of view, pacing, and story arc. Plus, she helped me curb my manic overuse of ellipsis…okay...I’m still working on that one.
Building off my experience with Ellen, I was lucky enough to be chosen a second time to participate in the Mentor Program. I just finished working with author, Susan Hart Lindquist on my YA, CHALK HOUSES. That is the novel that won the SCBWI WIP Grant (under the title The Circle Journal). My experience with Susan was very different. This time, I needed to work on finding the heart of my story, making sure I knew and didn’t lose sight of what my characters motivations, wants and needs were. Susan is so great at making a writer dig deeper. And deeper still.
From each mentor, I’ve learned very different things. My writing will never be the same as a result of that program and I’m seriously considering applying again this year. There are some mentors lined up that I would die to work with and learn from.
People might not know that our Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program is open to people outside of Nevada. We’ve had mentees from all over the U.S. and other countries! I can’t recommend it enough. http://www.nevadascbwi.org/Mentor.html
What’s your favorite music to listen to while you’re writing and why?
Okay, here’s the thing; I have to write in complete silence or at least have music with no lyrics. I have the attention span of a gnat and I’m so enamored with music lyrics, I’ll find myself slipping away from my work and into my music. Having said that, I do have a playlist for my books. The theme song for my main character, Talon, in CHALK HOUSES is Breathe, by Sia. If I need to slip into Talon’s head, all I have to do is play that song.
Had you always wanted to be a writer?
When I was in middle school, I wrote a story for a class assignment. My best friend’s mother read it and began to cry. I think I was bitten right then and there. To write something that elicited such a strong emotion from a reader was astonishing. It’s the driving force for me. I want to make people feel.
Was there ever a time you wanted to throw in the towel? If so, what kept you going?
Are you kidding me? Yes. Like, once a day! But I’m sufficiently hopeful (or insane) to believe I can do this if I want it bad enough. I also have an awesome support system of mentors, friends, family, and other writers who are honest and make me a better writer, while kindly encouraging me to never give up.
You have completed several manuscripts, which one would you like to have published first and why?
The first book I completed will probably never see the light of day unless I take what I’ve learned in the past three years and heavily revise it. CHALK HOUSES is such a personal book and so much of me has gone into it, it’s become my sentimental baby. I’d love to for it to be the one that sells first. But you never know, the book I’m finishing now has a pretty strong commercial hook and I’m really having fun writing it.
You are also a mother. What’s the best time for you to sit down and write?
It might not be politically correct to say this, but when my kids both went to school full time, I did a little happy dance because not only would I get to pee in private, but I knew I’d be able to devote time and energy to pursuing this dream of becoming a writer. I used to feel like a fraud, calling myself “a writer”. But as soon as the kids are dropped off, I get to work. I treat it as my day job, my really intense, low-paying day job, but I love it! I am a more fulfilled person for pursuing my passion.
Thank you Tracy for such a great interview! We look forward to reading your books that will be hitting book shelves soon!
If you want to find out more about Tracy you can visit her site at, www.tracyclark.org