“My Writing Process” blog tour: Laura Gehl (spoiler alert: there are post-it notes involved…)

by henandinkblots

I am excited to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour.  I love reading books about writing.  Two of my favorites are Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and, recently, Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (from which I learned that she…like I…began her writing career in the magazine world).  Reading blog posts about the writing process is just as fun, and a whole lot faster.

Author of the newly-released Pumpkin Time and agent extraordinaire Erzsi Deak invited me to do this blog tour.  If you haven’t read Erzsi’s post about her writing process, you can do so here.

What am I working on? I am working on all kinds of children’s projects, ranging from picture books to early readers to chapter books to middle grade novels.  One of the projects I am most excited about is a biography of astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, whom I’ve been lucky enough to interview in person.  If you know who Nancy Grace is, you will share my excitement.  If you don’t know anything about Nancy Grace, well, I hope you can buy my book in a few years.

 How does my work differ from others of its genre? I have read the same advice from several sources: develop a unique writer’s voice.  It is possible that I am failing at this in a big way.  I have books in rhyme, and I have books in prose.  I am working on fiction, and I am working on nonfiction.  I am shooting for serious, and I am shooting for funny (mostly funny).  With all of this variety, do I actually have a writer’s voice?  Or is it more like lots of voices screaming at once (Oh, wait…that’s my kids)?  I can think of one common denominator for all of my work: I write about likeable main characters, whether in fiction or nonfiction, picture book or middle grade, prose or rhyme.  No dark and twisted for me.  In fact, one of my challenges is making sure my likeable fictional characters have enough flaws to be realistic.

Why do I write what I do? I am a scientist as well as a writer.  I’m now trying to bring that scientist’s perspective into my books.  I am working on several nonfiction books plus several fiction books with scientific themes.  I vividly remember the sense of wonder that science gave me in my own childhood.  I would love to spark that sense of wonder in other kids.

How does my writing process work? There are a lot of post-it notes involved.  I am always scribbling on post-it notes.  My first two books (ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR, AND THEN ANOTHER SHEEP TURNED UP) began with the titles popping into my head, and I am working on several other ideas that began with titles.  In addition to writing down possible titles, I constantly write down funny things my kids say.  Right now, my oldest son loves to use the word “okayly.”  Not a word, you say?  Well, he is determined to use the word enough that it becomes generally acceptable.  This means that a character with the goal of adding new words to the dictionary is definitely on my mind.  Oh, and no discussion of my writing process would be complete without mentioning my two not-very-secret weapons: my amazing critique group…and dark chocolate.

Next up on the blog tour: I am thrilled to introduce three of my fabulous coopmates, who will be sharing their thoughts about the writing process.

Doug Cushman is the writer and/or illustrator of over 125 books for children, including several New York Times Children’s Book Best Sellers.  Doug has also been honored with a Reuben Award for Book Illustration from the National Cartoonists Society and a California Young Readers medal.  He enjoys cooking (and eating), painting, and playing the guitar (not that well).  Doug’s newest book is Pumpkin Time.  You can visit him online at http://www.doug-cushman.com.   Check-out his blog August 4th at http://www.pumpkin-time.com/ under what’s growing!

Jessica Lee Anderson is the author of Trudy (winner of the 2005 Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature), Border Crossing (Quick Picks Nomination, Cynsational Book of 2009), as well as Calli (2013 Rainbow List Final Nomination, 2011 YALSA’s Readers’ Choice Booklist Nomination). She’s published two nonfiction readers, as well as fiction and nonfiction for a variety of magazines including Highlights for Children. Jessica graduated from Hollins University with a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature, and instructed at the Institute of Children’s Literature for five years before teaching at St. Edward’s University. She is a member of The Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels and hopes to be more sweetheart than scoundrel. She lives near Austin, Texas with her husband, daughter, and two crazy dogs.  You can visit her website at http://www.jessicaleeanderson.com/ and check-out her My Writing Process blog right here at henandinkblots on August 4.

Susan Montanari’s first two picture books (MY DOG’S A CHICKEN and WHO’S THE GROSSEST OF THEM ALL) are coming soon from Schwartz and Wade at Random House.  
Susan has written numerous articles for local parenting magazines, and was a finalist in two categories for the 2010 Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children’s Literature in Connecticut: one for My Dog’s A Chicken, and the other for her YA novel, The Day Sasquatch Ate My Journal. Susan’s hobbies include gardening, scuba diving, natural science, legend tripping, and cryptozoology. She has three daughters and one son-in-law, and currently resides in Norwalk, Connecticut, with her husband, one daughter, and a cat named Tybee.  You can visit her on Facebook by clicking here. Check-out her My Writing Process blog right here at henandinkblots on August 4.