Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Writing Wisdom & Advice--Author Interview cont'd

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 Don't miss this invaluable final post in the interview with the author of Lizard Love, Wendy Townsend:

I asked Wendy why she became a writer and what were her influences, and I was stunned by her reply. What she wrote is so emotionally honest. I believe that what she says will inspire and encourage all of you to persevere in your writing journeys. In Wendy's own words:

Wendy: Hmmm. . . I hated to write all through high school and into college. I was a perfectionist and scratched out every word I wrote as soon as I saw it on paper. But I had something I really needed to say. Animals, especially maligned reptiles, were dear to me; I loved then and identified with them. I saw iguanas coming into the pet industry by the thousands and then dying horribly because there were no books on care. I rescued a LOT of iguanas. I typed up a two page care sheet and delivered it to pet shops. Then one day, I took an iguana to Dr. Frye (a veterinarian who wrote a lot of books). He read my care sheet and three years later, we had coauthored a book about iguana biology and husbandry. The writing (mine!) was terrible, but it did come from my heart; it was what I desperately needed to say. In the process of working on my part of the book, I learned that I did want to keep writing. I also learned that for me, a story was the best way to say what I needed to say. I stuck with it and wrote a lot of bad stuff. But sixteen years later, Lizard Love was published. I see it as a beginning, not a point of arrival!

Q: What advice can you give aspiring writers?

A: Advice? Well, to quote Harry Mazer: "The way you become a writer is to get a pen and paper and start writing." It really is like that, because if you stay with it, you follow a path that leads you to where you need to go. But, also, you have to be very conscious and aware--you can't just show up at the page and grind out words forever and expect to get published. You have to witness your process. You have to open your eyes and mind and heart. Ask yourself, 'what do I really want to say? What is the story I need to tell? How do I really feel?'

I've worked with aspiring writers and one thing I've seen a lot are writers who have a great idea for a story and are passionate about it. But the writers haven't yet realized that they are avoiding the real story, which usually has to do with something much more personal or deeply buried. The mantra at Vermont College is: "Find the emotional core."

Q: What is your next book about?
A: It's called The Sundown Rule and my editor has the complete draft. It's not a coming-of-age story and there are no lizards in it, but there are lots of animals! And I'm working on a third novel, definitely YA, about the Blue Iguana murders that took place in May '08 on Grand Cayman Island. That one's about coming to terms with cruelty to animals.

Wendy also recommends these books on craft: Writing Down the Bones and If You Want to Write.

Thank you again, Wendy, for sharing with us from your heart! Quick reminder: Be sure to leave a comment this week for a chance to win an autographed copy of Lizard Love.

Author Lindsay Barrett George wrote on FaceBook:
"Loved Loved your interview with Wendy! Write on!"

Librarian Carriann wrote in an e-mail: "You deserve chocolate for your blog!"

Thank you for joining the blog: Please welcome, Barbaranne and Kathleen!


  1. Great interview, Clara and Wendy--glad you shared. :-) Love the advice about finding the story's emotional core. That's very important. Wishing you great success with Lizard Love, The Sundown Rule and your new YA project!

  2. Thanks, Saoirse Redgrave, for posting a comment. Your name goes into the hat for a chance to win an autographed copy of Lizard Love.

    Saoirse Redgrave can be found on Twitter. Check out her profile page and click on the link to her blog. She's a writer too!