Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Words of wisdom from Ingrid Law

Apologies for my silence! I was fortunate to get a grant from Penguin Young Readers Group to attend the American Library Association annual conference in New Orleans. It was an amazing week packed full of learning opportunities (literally: there were a couple of days when I had events scheduled from 8am-10pm), networking with about 13,000 other librarians from around the world, and even a bit of sightseeing in that truly incomparable city. I met many people who had lived through the trauma of Hurricane Katrina and was humbled by their stories. During this and coming weeks, I will be sharing some of the experiences I had at ALA.

To begin, I'll share some nuggets of wisdom from Newbery-winning author, Ingrid Law, whose delightful fantasies Savvy and Scumble have been very popular with our students. Among the many fantastic sessions I attended was one in which she was a panelist along with Jennifer Holm and Kirby Larson.

Ingrid shared the value of persistence and hard work when writing. Did you know that the first manuscript she sent out was rejected 45 times? Publishers told her that they loved her writing... but they didn't particularly like that novel. It would have been easy to give up, but she forged on, kept writing - and in 2009, Savvy was awarded a richly deserved Newbery Honor!

Want to know another secret? Ingrid revealed that one day she sat down, gave herself permission to write anything that came to mind without judgment (no self-censoring because her idea was too silly or strange or boring!) and what she wrote became the opening sentence of Savvy: "When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he'd caused it."

Ingrid said that she gives herself permission to write "badly" on days when she's not feeling too inspired because you can always go back and fix bad writing, but if you haven't written anything at all there's nothing to work with.

She also does a surprising amount of research for someone who writes fantasy books! Of course you know that writers of historical fiction bury themselves in research to prepare for their writing. But Ingrid carefully checks out every detail, including going on road trips to the same places the Beaumont family visits and ordering a Volkswagen Beetle bumper on eBay (read Scumble if you're curious about that one)!

It was fascinating to hear all of this directly from the author and I hope that it will help you appreciate all the behind-the-scenes work your favorite authors put in, as well as encouraging you in your own writing!

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