Monday, September 6, 2010

Inquiry XVIII: Laurie Adams

Today we are pleased to welcome Laurie Gifford Adams.

Laurie Adams was born in New York State, but currently resides in Connecticut where she works as a teacher and writes her stories. Author of Finding Atticus, Laurie Gifford Adams is a member of SCBWI, IWWG and RWA. She is currently working on a collaborative project about internet safety. She has a husband, a daughter, a son, a cat and a dog. When she is not writing she is reading, gardening horseback riding, walking or coaching.

Let's jump right in!

EEM: Did you always want to be a writer?

LA: I have always loved writing. I still have my earliest attempts at being published when I was 13 years old and sending horse stories to horse magazines. I received lots of form rejection letters, but what amazes me even now is that those rejections didn’t have a negative impact on my desire to write. I just kept at it.

EEM: When you began writing, was it instant success and riches or did you find you had to work other jobs in order to continue your dream of being a writer?

LA: Success? Riches? Well, to answer the latter first, if you’re expecting to get rich from writing, then you better readjust your expectations. The majority of people can’t even make a living writing, let alone get rich. If you’re writing because you are passionate about the experience, then you’ll be blessed with a different kind of “rich”. (That may sound trite, but for me, it’s true.)

EEM: What jobs have you held, current or in the past, to help sustain your writing career?

LA: I was a newspaper reporter for a few years, and I have written and published many freelance articles in magazines, but my main income is from teaching English in a public school.

EEM: What was your favorite thing about this job?

LA: As a writer, I have several favorite things about being a teacher. First off, once I got my masters, I no longer had to go to school during the summers so I was free to spend more hours writing. (However, I have discovered that I’m actually more productive during the school year because I’m on a tight schedule so I schedule in writing time. In the summer it’s easy to get distracted sometimes because I figure I have all the time in the world to get to those revisions or to start that next chapter.

My other favorite thing about this job is, because I’m writing middle grades/YA, I have a built in audience when I need to bounce ideas off others or when I need to research how teens would react to a situation or how they talk. It’s very convenient to just stand in the hallway and pretend I’m watching out for trouble in the halls when really what I’m doing is paying attention to how the kids interact with one another. Sneaky, I know, but so perfect!

EEM: Least Favorite?

LA: My least favorite part of teaching is the amount of time it takes me outside of school. Too often I have to grade papers or create a test or lesson for the next day when I’d rather be writing. There’s a whole lot of frustration connected to that when you have characters who are dying to be active.

EEM: Did your day job(s) allow you to write regularly? Or did you have to get creative to get those word counts in?

LA: I’ve worked on writing through a good many lunch periods at school because I couldn’t bear to be away from the story for the entire day. At night, because I also have two kids (who are now in their early 20’s) I’ve always had to specifically set aside time to write in between their activities and taking care of family life. It’s not easy to find that time and balance when you’re working full time and have the family, but if you dedicate a certain time that’s your writing time, then at least for me, as I see the clock getting closer to that time I find my mind starts to switch gears. Does it always work? No, sometimes there are too many distractions, but when I sit down to write, I make sure I’ve reserved myself at least a two hour block of uninterrupted time. It’s worked for me.

What other effects did it have on your writing?

LA: I’ll never forget several years ago after I’d been teaching about 6 or 7 years I was on my way to school one day and I had been able to eke out a little writing time before I left. I was so into the story and so upset that I had to leave my writing to go to school that I cried throughout the entire drive. That only happened to me once, but there have been many times over the years where I’ve been very frustrated to not be able to write when the creative juices are flowing.

EEM: Have you ever based a loved protagonist or an evil villain on one of your co-workers? Wished you had?

LA: I have never based a protagonist or villain on a co-worker, but I have based characters on kids I grew up with, my parents (as grandparents), my husband’s elderly uncle whom everyone loves after they meet him and, in FINDING ATTICUS, Atticus, the Golden Retriever is actually a combination of the Golden Retriever we had for fifteen years and our much beloved mixed breed dog that we have now. I do have one secondary character in FINDING ATTICUS who was named after a co-worker.

EEM: What are you working on now and is the process any easier than your first work?? If so, in what capacity (people noticing it, the writing itself, the confidence?)

LA: I am currently working on two projects. First, the project that is almost complete is an Internet safety book that I’m collaborating on with a cop. He approached me with the idea and after we spent several sessions brainstorming to see if we were compatible with our ideas, we decided to give it a go, and it’s worked very well. We are on our last round of edits and revisions now and hope to be done very soon.

The other book is a next in the series after FINDING ATTICUS. I love to write “issue” and “lesson” books, so this next book deals with an autistic child and bullying as the main conflicts.
As for the process, as soon as you start at the beginning with the next project, you’re starting from scratch with blank pages that need to be filled. As a result, I wouldn’t say the process gets easier; however, each time I complete a book, I bring away from it new learning as a writer, so I guess probably it’s a little easier because I use previous knowledge to start out one step ahead of the last book.

One very cool thing is that people are constantly asking me when I’m going to be finished with the next book. It’s a pretty cool feeling to know I have “fans” who are waiting. (It’s also a lot of pressure to know they’re waiting, so it’s a double edged sword, for sure.) Knowing people are waiting for it does make it more exciting to write, though. I just hope in the end the wait will be worth it for them.

EEM: Would you change anything if you could begin your writing journey over again?

LA: If I could begin my writing journey over again with the knowledge I have now, I would join writers groups sooner (because I’d find out about them) and I would take advantage of conferences and workshops. The more I write, the more I feel like I have to learn and that makes me want to take more classes. Networking is essential in this business. The more people you meet, the more information you’ll have for your writer’s toolbox. Maybe writing a book is a solitary job, but when you’re not at the keyboard, get involved with other writers. Once I figured that out, my confidence as a writer went up significantly.

EEM: Thank you for taking the time to answer these interview questions!

LA: Thank you for inviting me to participate. It’s always great to reflect on why I do keep at this despite the frustrations.

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