Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Meet the author!

I met Shannon Hale the day before yesterday. My mom and I were going to be in Chapel Hill from Sunday to Tuesday, and about a week before, I saw that Shannon Hale was beginning a book tour, with a stop in Raleigh on Monday night.

I want to be a writer.

And Shannon Hale is my favorite author. Her first book, The Goose Girl, was the book that most made me want to be a writer.

So I was excited.

Oh, and I got a picture.

I'm writing my first book now, but I feel shy calling it that, as I don't know if it will be a book, or if I will be an author. So usually I call it "the story I'm working on". I'm about 6 chapters in, though I also have some later chapters/scenes written down as well, because they wouldn't leave me alone until I did. I don't know if that's a normal process for writers, or if they usually write things chronologically like a normal human would.

About halfway through chapter 5, I got stuck. The scenes in my head were a lot of conversation and a little bit of day-in-the-life, but on the page they seem boring after the excitement of previous chapters. Also, when I write dialog it feels a lot more choppy than watching it in my head as a screenplay. I try to add in small actions and mannerisms, but I find it's hard to weave smoothly into the dialog. It tends to either feel broken up, or just sound awkward.

I did, however, find that it's easier when I hand write it. Not that that makes it better quality, but I stress less about it. When I type, I proofread and tweak and rewrite things that aren't completely perfect yet as I go. But when I hand write, it's just a story on notebook paper, written in pen, with things crossed out and things added in, and some things crossed out and then written again in exactly the same words. It feels far less final than a typed story. It's just a rough draft, a work in progress with notes scattered around it. And I write in pen, so once it's written it's written, and if I think better of something I can add a note and then move on. It's much easier to move on and resist editing.

Some people may work better typing. I do well typing, if I already have a good idea of just what happens. But if not, the ease of editing and rewriting and cutting and pasting that typing offers is much too stressful for me to be productive. I get too hung up on details that really don't matter right now.

Anyway, all that's to say that this weekend I've been handwriting a lot of my story. And by a lot, I mean a chapter and a half. I wanted to ask Shannon about her writing process, but a lot of the people in line in front of me spent a long time chatting with her, and there were still many people in line behind me, so I didn't want to take up any more of their time.

I'd never been to a book talk and signing before. During the talk, she spoke a little bit about being a writer and people, almost exclusively kids, asked her questions about her books. Two little girls actually came dressed as The Princess in Black. Then during the signing, a lady went down the line asking people if they wanted Shannon to sign their books for a particular person, then put a sticky note on each book with whatever name they told her.

The lady in line in front of me had met Shannon ten years before, which Shannon remembered, since they'd talked for an hour that time. And the lady in front of that lady was the person who'd written the review that's on the back of Shannon's brand-spanking-new book. Based on their conversation, it's apparently unusual for a review to come out early enough to be on the first edition of a book.

And after those two ladies came me, a kid with no claim to fame.

When it was my turn, Shannon asked if Meredith (the name on the sticky notes) was me, and if the 2 books I had were new for me (I guess because one of them was a rerelease with the brand-new cover, so I had clearly just bought it that evening). I told her no, that The Goose Girl was the first book of hers I'd read, and that it was the book that most made me want to be a writer. She told me she was honored, and asked me if I was a writer, and I told her I'd had stories in my head for a long time and had finally started writing them down several months ago. "How does it feel?" she asked. "Scary," I said.

In my brand-new copy of Princess Academy, she wrote "For Meredith - who is a delight" and in my old copy of the Goose Girl, with the original cover, she wrote "For Meredith - who has stories to tell. Shout them out!"

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